Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The 'It Factor'

You've probably heard the term, but what does it mean to you? I think of passion, talent, a natural aura of confidence. The 'It Factor' is something everyone wants, especially performers. It makes you special so that you stand out during a huge casting call in a sea of dancers waiting for their big break. As a matter of fact, the 'It Factor' is essential for anyone who wants to be successful in the dance industry. Casting directors and agents are looking for people that will fit a specific role perfectly. The first thing you need to do is get their attention on you, of course. The best way to do that is to be genuine and true to yourself, but show off that special quality that you have, which separates you from the rest of the group. You want your audiences' eyes to be drawn to you and never leave.

Then, there's the question of whether you're born with the 'It Factor' or can you cultivate it over time? I believe both statements to be true. There are dancers that are just naturally and effortlessly radiant, and no matter what they do, you are captivated by it. Then, there are dancers with strong technique, but they need to work on their performance quality. This doesn't mean that this type of dancer will never be great or they will never book a gig, but some have to practice more than others. So, what's the key to making your dancing special and meaningful?

By that I mean, let go of perfection and let your true soul shine through. I would say that about 99% of dancers are perfectionists (I wish there was a study on this). This comes from constant practice of technique and corrections from teachers. Corrections are not a bad thing at all; you should actually thank your teacher for corrections because it means they care about you and want to see you grow. It is the biggest compliment. But sometimes our desire to fix the corrections and master the steps leads to an obsession of executing the movement perfectly just like we were taught, and then we forget about what we should be feeling.

I've been working on this myself, and recently during class my teacher brought it to my attention and told me to just let go. I could tell that she really cared about seeing me take that next step in my dancing and it motivated me to make a big change. So, the next time I did the combination, I made every single movement as big as it could possibly be and I did not think about the steps at all. I was just feeling free and alive and feeding off of the music. That's another great tip: Think about how the instruments sound or what the lyrics are saying, and let that inform the quality of your movement. It makes a dance so much more interesting to watch when you see a dancer portraying the emotions of the singer or the mood of the song. To make it believable, close your eyes and imagine a specific experience in your life that is similar to what the dance is about. Make one up if you have to. But, you have to envision it and use all of your senses to bring that feeling into your body.

When you stop thinking about technique and what comes next in the combination, you may mess up or you may even fall. Think of that as the first step in your growth as a dancer and performer. If you never stumble or fall down, it means you have never taken any true risks. Challenge yourself to continue growing throughout your entire life because there are no limits to hold you back. It's better to make a mistake while pouring your heart out on the dance floor than it is to execute a combination perfectly.

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