No matter what partner style you dance – salsa, bachata, kizomba, zouk, West Coast Swing (WCS), lindy hop or boogie, partner dancing is great in many ways. I am not sure you can quit it once you’ve tried. Everyone agrees it is all about feeling and understanding your partner, sharing emotions together, socializing, being able to adjust to each other but at the same time express yourself. You might dance with a stranger, a person you have never talked to before, and yet they feel you and create something special with you, a real conversation without saying a word. Just dance. Real magic, indeed.
Having been dancing WCS as the main partner dance in my life, a few years ago I started solo styles like Hip-Hop, Contemporary and Jazz-funk. At first, I felt really strange dancing alone as if I missed something really important. There was no one to share feelings except me on my own.
But as time passed by and my body got used to other types of training, and I would say much harder ones, I realized that solo styles were more and more useful for the body and it changed my WCS styling in many perspectives.
So, here I tried to highlight the top 5 benefits of solo styles which really help boost your partner dancing.
Let’s start with the fact that you train alone.
You don’t have anybody else to focus on except you. It gives you an opportunity to understand your body better and concentrate on your own abilities. You have all the time to think on your lines, shapes, the quality of the movement, steps and turns. No one distracts you. Finally, you have the right to be egoistic, so take advantage of it and go, improve yourself.
Secondly, almost always with hip-hop or contemporary there is choreography which means you have to memorize both movements and music you dance to. Therefore, you connect your body with the music much better. You “expand your dance vocabulary” by learning other “languages”. Now you not only have salsa or WCS movements your body is used to, but also some hip-hop or contemporary to add to your dancing.
Can you dance only to the voice of a singer in the song? What about only the guitar tune? That’s not what novice dancers learn, as rhythm and counting beats play a huge role in swing dance. We learn how to walk, hear and differentiate one-and-two so that our steps are on time, then we practice dancing 6 and 8-count patterns only to the rhythm.
As you progress and start looking for creative ways of making your dance better and more musical, solo dances help to go beyond the usual one-and-two, 6 or 8-count patterns, and allow you to dance only to vocal or musical instruments, for instance. You hear more in a song and your body response to the music becomes more advanced. You notice some peculiar sounds and want to add some body movement to it and you improvise better when a partner gives you a chance to show yourself. You use everything you learnt in solo and as a result your musicality levels up. That’s number three on my list and what I found to be the greatest benefit for myself.
Let’s move to number four. I remember my first classes where I was taught “just relax, have fun, do simple step-step-triple step” and then some ‘easy’ patterns later. Why do we pretend, AS IF it was an easy dance to learn in the beginning?
But this was a different type of difficulty. No way that would ever happen in a hip-hop lesson. I was dying after just 20 minutes of a class, as we worked our abs, did push-ups, squats, followed by basics, then choreography and stretching in the end. We had to engage a lot of muscles all the time, with almost no breaks. So, hip-hop gave me much harder practice and muscle engagement than any partner dance. You dance your ass off, really. It is not fun, especially when you start, just hard work and practice, but it boosts your body endurance enormously.
The last things I want to talk about are speed, sharpness and coordination of movements. You can imagine how shocked I was when I saw some elementary choreography we were about to learn in a solo dance class. My mind was ready to repeat everything, but it was a total mess in my body. My brain exploded when the legs had to move to the right, the arms to the left, and the head back and all at the same time, at an accelerated pace and TO THE MUSIC! I didn’t have to think a lot about speed and coordination before, and it was a great thing to work on as well.
So, if you have doubts about how solo styles can be beneficial for you, I hope my experience will persuade you at least to try it. It feels completely different when you dance alone, but it may be so helpful to make your partner dances more advanced.
See you on the dance floor! Cheers!