On several occasions, I’ve been caught walking across campus looking like a mad man on the run. Why? Because I’m plugged into my iPod going full out with facials and arm extensions, singing lyrics and dancing to a song that no one else can hear. Yeah, that’s me. The guy that people move out of the way for so they don’t get their coffee spilled. The guy people actively avoid to prevent getting bumped into. The guy who gets a text message from a friend saying, “Oh get it!!!! Jk you look crazy lol".
Chances are, we've all been this person at least once in our dance career. You just haven't lived if you haven't yet. But to me, these 4 reasons are reason enough for me to break into dance in a public space:
We're all familiar with casting: the process of performing the choreography to test your retention and proficiency of the choreo which could potentially determine your placement in the piece. Often this process is very stressful because you may have had trouble picking up the choreography, or you just forgot it because the night you learned it, you turned up a little too hard.
Regardless of the reason, my attempt to triage the situation entails putting in my earphones, walking to class on beat, and marking the arms. I might've hit a few innocent bystanders with my 45-degree blades, but I ain’t mad; I know that the sacrifice of my reputation and the whatever I've knocked down were necessary to kill it at casting, or to get the piece down right.
Casting is a big thing for dance teams. We should feel a responsibility to our team and to the choreographers to do as best as we can with the choreo, and of course, we don’t want to look foolish at practice. To me, it's fine to look as foolish as possible while practicing pieces in public because who cares? At the end of the day I know it's for the sake of self-improvement. We're all busy people with lives outside of rehearsal, so we have to get it down somehow before casting. Practice time is all the time; so I'm never afraid to show a little groove on my drive to work, or my walk to class.
I'm definitely no stranger to this feeling, and every time I feel compelled to practice a piece from a class I just took, I am always, without fail, at a random bus stop. Sometimes you just come a cross a workshop piece that’s got you feelin' some type of way, and you can’t help but practice it over and over, simply because it's that good. You’ve already committed the piece to memory. You practice it whenever you can to continually improve on it.
Back in January, I took Gina Hong’s G.O.O.D. Friday class at Focus Dance Center in Irvine, and I was just really feeling the groove she brought. When I got back to the Bay for school, I kept listening to the song (OMG Remix by Jeftuz) and could not help but mark the piece while I waiting for the bus to campus. I’m positive that I looked weird. The number of stares from people walking by increased exponentially as they most likely internally verified that I was strange, but I was too in-the-zone to care.
As dancers we understand, but are also amazed by each other's craft, and it can be tough to get all that amazingness out of our heads after events like classes or dance competitions. There’s this element of nostalgia that moves us to transport ourselves back to an experience that stimulated our dance neurons. So our natural instinct is to re-trigger those neurons, and dance it out whenever, wherever (even if 'wherever' is a bus stop).
If you’ve ever had to choreograph and/or teach a piece, you know that this creative process isn’t limited to the time that you allot just to come up with moves. You’ll never know where inspiration will hit you.
Choreographing will find its way into the times of day that aren’t exactly specified for dance, and I'm fine with that. There have been too many times I've been in Urban Outfitters just browsing and passively listening to the overhead music when some interesting song comes on, and I’ll make the temporary, playful commitment to choreograph to it. It’s the process of breaking down beats, analyzing the flow and trajectory of the vocals, and assessing the overall feel of the song that gets me inadvertently dancing in front of the mirror by the discount rack. It’s often not intentional, but I’m letting my creative juices flow and exploring my movement.
If we waited for studio or practice time to do these things, it wouldn't happen as often. Spontaneous expression feels the most authentic.
Dancers have this affinity to large, open spaces, probably because we’re so used to dancing in studios and open plazas of school campuses. Naturally, when my jazz/contemporary dancer friend walks into a grocery store, she’s leaping down the aisles, doing chainé turns in the produce section, and gracefully executing across-the-floors next to the dairy section. My friends and I will scout out open empty spaces for potential sessions.
So many of us call dance an “escape”, and in the midst of routine tasks like grocery shopping or going to the mall, what better way to abandon these boring processes than to take advantage of the open space, and just dance?
If the radio is playing your favorite song, or your iPod just skipped to one of DJ Mustard’s bangerz, or even if you decide to sing, dancers have the awesome ability to just burst into dance and to have a good time. I break out into dance anywhere because I feel like it, because it makes me happy, because it passes the time, and hopefully sometimes it makes me look cool. Heck, sometimes I dance in the mirror to make myself feel cooler when I’m in the dressing room trying on clothes. I’m not ashamed of dancing in public because I don’t really care what other people think of me in that moment. All I know is that I’m engaging in an activity that I love and enjoy, and that I can take with me anywhere I go.
Why do YOU dance in public? Share your reasons with us by commenting below!
Want to try and start freestyling in public spaces to train yourself? Check out our article on how to build your freestyle foundation!