Strength in Surprising Places

Like most dancers I know, I can’t stand watching myself on film. Really, I’m that slow? It’s not that I dance behind the music, but I never look quite sharp enough. Innately smooth, lyrical and calm, my natural movement quality works all right in adagio choreography, but if you ask me to “hit” a position I’ll probably “lightly tap on” it and then flow through to the next step.

But recently I’ve noticed this weakness improving. Surprisingly, it’s not due to more petite allegro; it’s because of hip hop. 

Coming from a classical ballet background, I never thought of hip hop as a serious technique. While I’ve always been in awe of anyone who can do it well, it never seemed like something I should spend my time doing when I could be taking a ballet class instead. Then I got hooked on Jennifer Archibald’s class at Dance New Amsterdam. I don’t look nearly cool enough. The movement is aggressive and gritty—nothing like what my body naturally wants to do. But I love the challenge. And it’s affected my movement in all other styles I do. Being forced to strongly hit positions with force has helped me move clearly, precisely and with power. Where I used to have to round the corner, with every step always connected and flowing, recently I’ve been more able to punch it out, and then cleanly move on to the next. Granted, I still have to work hard to dance with that sharpness, but I now know I can find it if I try.

Sometimes it’s worth it to try new genres that are completely out of your comfort zone. If you stick with it, you might discover a new quality that you’ve always aimed for but could never quite find in ballet.