So we've talked about how to learn and execute choreography. Freestyling is another integral part of learning how to dance.
Freestyle dancing makes you more comfortable in your own body, gives you the opportunity to explore new ideas for movement, and lets you let go and have fun expressing yourself!
This guide will teach you how to freestyle dance, step-by-step.
(But remember, the important part is that you get up and do it yourself!)
What Is Freestyle Dancing?
Freestyle dancing is improvisation. It’s when you do moves on the spot that weren't choreographed ahead of time. You probably freestyle all the time already!
You don't have to be in a battle or cypher; full-out performing while you do Karaoke or dancing with a girl at the club (ayy) are versions of freestyling!
So don't take it so seriously, especially when you're just starting to learn how to freestyle.
It's about building an algorithm in your body that understands basics of movement, and combining that with your natural groove, style, and spontaneity in the moment.
That said, the first step of freestyle dancing is to...
1. Understand the music
When you freestyle, you're not following a set of moves that was made for that specific song. So, you gotta be able to catch onto the song quickly.
First, bob your head to the rhythm/tempo of the song. Get your body to find that groove, which will set a sort of pace for your freestyle.
Then, listen to the melody – this is the layer of the song that you “sing.” (*It doesn’t necessarily have to be lyrics).
The melody helps you with the mood of your freestyle. Dancing to this layer is a great way to switch up your freestyle from hitting the 1s and 2s in the song
Notice other patterns in the music that you can emphasize.
For example, is there a bass beat every even count? A snare at the end of every 8-count?
You can take mental note of these so you can later do something to “hit” that sound.
Basically, actively listen to the music, taking in each sound and the feeling.
Brush up on musicality here: How To Train Your Musicality As A Dancer
2. Train your fundamentals
Fundamental, or foundational styles, are the bread and butter of freestyle.
These dances emerged in clubs or other social settings where dancers used freestyle to express themselves.
(This is also why our first point about music is so important. The music that’s popular in an area or period of time influences how people think, feel, and dance.)
Over time, the techniques, grooves, and combos from these styles became the building blocks for a lot of the choreography we see today.
Those examples are Hip Hop, Street / Funk Styles, but "fundamentals" or "foundation" can also refer to any sort of building block for movement.
Studio styles like Ballet, Jazz, Tap, Contemporary, are also great dance styles that set the blueprint for your freestyle.
If you need a place to start, then take the Beginner Program on STEEZY Studio where Carlo Darang (Choreo Cookies, Building Block) teaches the very basics of movement (a great place to start for any style).
You can also learn Popping through Boogie Frantick's Beginner Popping Program,
Here are some free drills that you can do – but remember, you have to first learn the technique in the class, so that you practice the right way!
3. Groove it out
Most dance styles have a foundational groove. It's key to have that when you're drilling techniques and moves.
But let's talk about "groove" in a different sense – Hip Hop grooves! SO much of the Urban Choreography we see and do today came from these base movements.
You can learn them in Bianca’s Grooves classes on STEEZY Studio. No choreography, just straight groovin'.
4. Play with dynamics and textures
Nothing’s wrong with doing a little 2-step, but if you want your freestyle to be more dynamic, then experiment with different variations of your movement.
Dynamics refer to how you do a move, not the move itself. For example, you can do the same arm wave in an infinite amount of different ways.
Fast and strong? Or initiate from the shoulder? Milk and then hit at the end?
At STEEZY, we call these the “fast and slows, highs and lows.”
Mixing up different speeds, levels of power, placements, and other factors can transform your dancing from flat to fascinating.
Get execution ideas: What Are Textures In Dancing?
5. Play with combinations of moves
We all have our “default” moves. It’s what our body naturally wants to do to certain sounds. Do you find yourself repeating certain movements?
But you can make that move look more complex and interesting by fusing it with other movements.
For example, you got your basic two-step – Right, tap. Left, tap.
Now… Add arms! Maybe... a head tilt! Try a lean into your step! Groundbreaking.
Now your basic two-step is a whole new move! Experiment with different body parts to add more flavor to your base moves.
You never know what unique pictures or grooves you’ll come up with!
6. Use concepts to come up with moves
When you freestyle, you might keep reverting to the same "default" moves your body is used to.
If you find yourself doing this, try telling a story or depicting a concept with your freestyle. It will force you to think outside your own box.
This video explains how you can use “concept-based freestyling” to create new pictures and shapes and pathways.
7. Practice wherever, whenever!
The best part of FREEstyling... is that it’s FREE. Get it?? Eh?? Ok seriously. You don’t have to pay for a class or go anywhere fancy.
You can freestyle in your garage, your room, your car…
Get a group of your friends together and session… hiT DA CLUB and let your freak flag fly.
So do it anytime, all the time! And watch yourself grow more comfortable and creative freestyle dancing.
If you need an extra dose of confidence to get you going, then just watch this video!
In Section 8, we'll talk about how to keep your body in tip-top shape for dancing.