Forum: Advice / Support

How to Dance "Bigger"?
By kinsidhe
On Mon Oct 19, 2015 09:33 AM


I am a Highland Dancer who competes. Which means I am usually dancing on the platform with two or more competitors. I tend to be the one who is not seen.

I am struggling with figuring out how to dance 'bigger'. It's a correction I've been getting on and off since I started with my teacher about 2 years ago. I've only been in dance for 4 1/2 years, the first 2 1/2 half with no real instruction. I have a LOT to learn and little time to do it in. So here's what she has said that I think are all related to the same thing she is trying to change:

"You need to Dance bigger!"
"You need to Take up Space!"
"Don't be invisible!"
"You are too controlled and tiny". ( she said it was like my handwriting, which is apparently also too controlled and tiny). :)

I understand her words, but clearly I am not managing to turn those into what she is looking for. I am frustrated, I think she is frustrated. So I am looking for ideas on perhaps a different way of thinking about it? Or Specific ways of changing how I do things to be "bigger".

Here are some challenges that I think are getting in my way:

My general temperament:
I tend to be very introspective and I process things for a long time before responding. When learning anything new I have a difficult time just throwing myself into the deep end and seeing if I can swim. I am a 'private practitioner'. Prefer to take something new and work on it quietly on my own out of sight and them come back and show you what I have got. I have a difficult time 'being certain' and it shows.

Despite my best efforts, I Do worry about what people think and feel. I have a deeply ingrained habit of 'adjusting' to make room for others.(physically, emotionally etc). I'm the one who will let everyone go ahead of me at the buffet and end up with only crumbs and I will be ok with it, because at least everyone got something to eat. In dance, it means I am very aware I may be 'in the way' and I try to make sure I am never in anyone's space. In competition it means I am very concerned about making sure I dont bump anyone, or get in their way. It's as if somehow their dance is more important than mine. (really need to work on that!)

My Background:

Added to my basic nature is my unfortunate nurture. I lived my entire childhood and most of my adulthood in the midst of violence and sexual abuse. Being 'invisible' was a survival tactic. It's also made it a bit more challenging to 'be in my body'. This is something I have been working on with a good amount of success, but if I feel vulnerable or uncertain, I do still tend to disconnect with my physical self. I have a difficult time letting my Self show. I know I am safe now in my mind, but I often dont feel safe emotionally.

Here's what I think I have working in my favour:

I LOVE dancing. I've always wanted to dance and spent my whole life dancing in my head even if I couldn't with my body. I feel in every fibre of my being there is this Need to move to the music. I love doing this!

I really love performing. I enjoy the smiles and the pleasure the audience seems to get. I love sharing my love for this form of expression with others.

I am NOT afraid to challenge myself to change. I know despite my fears, and doubts and worries and memories that plague me, I am Resilient, and really brave in my core, even if I am quaking in my shoes.

I am really persistent and determined. I am not one to give up even in the face of certain defeat. When I was little I ran a race having never run before. Fell so far behind everyone else, no one knew I was still running and they all packed up and went home. I still finished the race, even though everything in me told me to just stop there was this tiny fire in me that just kept me going.

I want to be a better dancer. Everything I do is with that goal in mind. So here I am, being brave and asking others for help ( which is really hard for me!).

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Advice, viewpoints or just words of support. I would be so grateful.

Dancing is one of the biggest risks I've ever taken. Now, I need to dance Bigger.

Thanks for listening.

8 Replies to How to Dance "Bigger"?

re: How to Dance "Bigger"?
By Theresamember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Mon Oct 19, 2015 08:27 PM
It makes me frustrated for you, that she just keeps saying "bigger", without saying what it means.

Basically, you gotta turn up the volume. Pick your feet up - if you're picking up your foot and bringing it to your ankle, bring it to the mid calf. If you're going mid-calf, bring it to the knee. You gotta get your jumps up higher. It sounds a little contrary to write it out, but to get your jumps up higher, bend your knees a little deeper before you jump, that's where your power comes from. Keep your head up, keep your shoulders back, and look out at the audience. You're good, you like showing people what you know. Little, tiny, precise movements don't read on stage. You gotta make sure the person in the back row knows what you're doing. :)
re: How to Dance "Bigger"?
By kinsidhe
On Tue Oct 20, 2015 08:12 AM
Thanks Theresa,

This helps. Thinking about it, I am guessing I probably dont bend my knees as deeply as I think I am when jumping. And I would also guess that my head isn't all the way up even when I think it is. Something about the energy...I can have my head up but it still isn't 'UP'. Haha! Just had an image of a prairie dog, stick up my head but it is very ready to duck back down in a flash! :)

I like the image of trying to show the person in the back what I am doing. I can feel how that would make me do things a bit differently.

I worry in Competitions I think because in Highland the positions are so precise and exacting, we will get marked down if the foot is too high or too low even by a small amount. This is where I am puzzled as to how to make it bigger. If my extension is only to be as high as my knee, how do I make it bigger? if I am not allowed to make it higher? (worry about getting it wrong can not be helping me!-:))

ok this is good. More to ponder!
re: How to Dance "Bigger"? (karma: 1)
By hummingbird
On Tue Oct 20, 2015 09:05 AM
Think about yourself trying to be Michelangelo's image of a man, the one with the arms and legs outstretched and the circle around him. Only your circle is just a bit bigger than your feet and fingers can reach so you have to stretch them a bit more to try and reach the circle and then a bit more because the circle has increased in size again. Each time you manage to increase your extension through your arms and legs and body this circle will also increase in size.

This feeling extension through your arms, legs and body is what will help make your dancing look bigger and help you look like you're taking up more stage space. I think that's probably going to help you too, just take up more space on the stage, stop giving it to the other dancers, it's your space, keep it for yourself!
re: How to Dance "Bigger"?
By kinsidhe
On Wed Oct 21, 2015 08:24 AM
Thanks Hummingbird

These are great images to work with. I found it interesting that when I tried just standing like Michelangelo's image of a man, I found it difficult emotionally. I could feel my tendency to want to pull everything in! There's this sense of feeling too exposed or vulnerable. Definitely a place to start working on it!

I mentioned it to my teacher last night and she suggested I just try to hold that position for longer and longer so I could grow more comfortable with it.

I never knew, when I started dance that it would challenge so much in me, beyond just the physical demands.

Amazing. :)

and none to scary!

have you or anyone you know worked with a dancer who was timid?

(wondering if I am alone in this)
re: How to Dance "Bigger"?
By Theresamember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Wed Oct 21, 2015 07:01 PM
You are not alone at all. I like to joke that I've got a knack for the headcases at our studio, I've seen it all, it feels like. There's one girl at our studio that gets so nervous, she won't look her own reflection in the eye. One of my dancers has been with me a long time, and told me she'd dance on stage at recital as long as she never danced alone. I held true to my word, she never has. Last year I had a girl that when she got nervous, she got fast, so she finished her first dance a full 30 seconds ahead. Never let anyone tell you performing isn't a skill, all in it's own right!!

And you practice the way that you perform, so start working on being bigger now. Don't assume it'll come to you magically once you hit the stage. It won't. You have to work on it.
re: How to Dance "Bigger"?
By bgirl_rosa
On Thu Oct 22, 2015 09:24 AM
I think it's very good of you to ask for help. Could it help to pretend you have the whole stage for yourself, and you're there alone? Or when you're in your room, you turn the music on and close your eyes, then just dance without thinking what to do. Let the music lead you. And when you're on stage, you think about when you were in your room, dancing big and letting it all go, giving all your energy. Maybe it could help? I hope so. :)
re: How to Dance "Bigger"?
By kinsidhe
On Thu Oct 22, 2015 11:47 AM
Theresa: Oh my goodness! I am one of those who can't look my own reflection in the eye! I never really brought it to my own awareness before-but that's me all over. See that? Another place I can start working on this. :). Thank you for letting me know I am not alone in this-it does help, probably more than you would know.

As for practicing the way I hope to perform that is the very reason I am looking for ways to work on this now. :) I dont have any competitions until Jan, and I know that what ever happens on the stage will be whatever I have trained myself to do. My old life trained me to be invisible and to take up as little space as possible. Now, my new life requires something different from me. I hope to avoid 'reverting' to my old ways by conditioning myself to dance bigger in practice. I worked very hard in class this week to just allow myself to keep my own space. And I took the front of the class for a bit as well, I usually just dance in the back. Go me! :)

Bgirl_Rosa: These are some very good ideas too! Thanks. I think I will see if I cant just dance OUT when I am in my space and just practicing alone. I mean, who's way could I possibly get into? No one but my own and that is allowed! (just a little reminder to myself there) :) Maybe I can find the feeling and learn it so it will be easier to find when I am dancing with others?

many thanks to you both.
re: How to Dance "Bigger"? (karma: 1)
By kinsidhe
On Tue Nov 17, 2015 08:36 AM
So a wee update:

Last week my teacher challenged me to try to go 24 hours without saying the words "I'm sorry". I tend to go through life apologising for existing-and she says I dance this way.

So I've been giving it everything I have. It has been extremely challenging! I think the longest I've managed was about 7 hours but I keep trying.

This past weekend I had a private class (no place to hide!) and for a few minutes she had me just stand in first and then just walk. And she said..."Now you look like a dancer, now you are taking up space"

I had success! even if it was only for a few moments I did it!

(and was scared to death....)


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