10494563_935232696503135_8663748334277022637_nThe key to becoming successful in dance is to be a copycat – at least this is what I think at first.  As much as people try to hide from who they really are, uniqueness is inescapable.

Our fingerprint can be imitated but never replaced.“But I’m not very unique – my dancing is boring!” You may feel this especially in your early growth as a dancer.

I sometimes feel this insecurity deep inside me, specifically upon my arrival to the first dance of a weekend workshop, and I’m a international dance champion – whatever that’s suppose to mean.


“Dang, I suck.” This is what the subconscious reenforces the moment you start comparing your present skill level to the culmination of an unsaid amount of work another dancer displays on the social dance floor. It’s an unfair comparison, but we all do it.


By the end of the weekend after many hours of practice, the ego boast just the opposite  – at least until the next event. 

Everyone experiences this emotional pendulum of mediocrity and greatness if they are honest. But what does this have to do with being a copycat? Good question.


We are all in school but we’re mostly in different grades – running through our process independently but not exclusively from others. Knowing how to observe a dancer and capture their essence is a rare skill.  This can really help you mature.

I want to show you how you can copy the concepts that fuel a dancers movement. 

There is a difference between copying a shape in dance, and copying the principle behind the shape.  The greatest dancers understand this.

10409210_1019477388078665_2531169740950990979_nOthers will copy others at the expense of their own identity, feeding solely off the praise of people instead of the journey of discovery.  

Some who receive such admiration enjoy it at the expense of their followers.  

A mentor of mine said that, “true leadership works to destroy the dependency of the people around them.”  I like that.

We all know our inevitable end. Eventually people forget who we were and our significance, and we live starved of the affirmation we think we want from those who do not really matter to us. 

Or is there a better perspective in which to place our focus? What if you made people greater than yourself? That is true immortality, and another revelation I’ll avoid elucidating upon.

The key is in tipping the balance towards the process of discovery and creativity, more than the never ending incline of praise and approval. For me, that is a fulfilling dance life.


Don’t misunderstand me. There is a vestige of ego driving us for personal praise, but that shouldn’t be our driving force and destination.

We should be dancing because we love to dance, not because we just want to be better than someone else. There are many competitors you will face. 

The most significant one pursuing to beat your accomplishments right now is your old self – who shouldn’t exist, if you are living alive.

598984_623793960980345_1651819315_nSo let’s get to the point. Here is a method to discover what makes others unique in their dancing.

There are many things that make a dancer unique, but I am isolating a very specific concept that will keep it pithy.


This will empower you to discover, and appropriate the difference between the intrinsic (building blocks) and the preferential. (Style)


My intent is to empower you with these concepts for personal maturity, and to help you communicate something your students may have trouble understanding.

It will be important to understand my perspective on the fundamentals. Sharing energy with another body under the guise of swing can be simple to communicate, and I encourage you to read that article.


This concept I refer to as Contrast.

When dancers match the wavelength of intensity in the music they do very specific things instinctively. 

Watching a drummer violently head bang as the music intensifies, or a dancer spinning and jumping on their toes in typical “MJ” fashion before the sing along chorus blares, are perfect examples of this.

Contrast allows us to glimpse a snapshot of a dancers personality. Especially when there is climax in the music.


Some people prefer to “repeat phrasing” of a certain shape to emphasize contrast.

For example: the music is a wavelength that rises and falls throughout a song.  We all know it when the chorus is about to happen. We also know when the verse commences.

Here are some examples of showing contrast in dancing by repeating a movement.

Example 1: 14:35-14:42

Example 2: 1:54-2:03

There are many dancers that I watch who embody this unique personality. This skill set is not the only way they show contrast, but this is a glimpse of what they do naturally without thinking to much – a clue in discovering your personality. Try practicing this concept.

Other dancers like to show contrast in they’re dancing by “letting the energy run out of a shape”

after they lead something and the music is building they let the energy expire – filling the space with a syncopation.

I like to define a syncopation as any thing that you do that doesn’t affect your partners energy.

Many of my favorite dancers demonstrate this skill set.

Example 1: Watch all the fancy footwork by the lead that doesn’t directly effect the follows body. 

Example 2 17:52-18:06 Both lead and follow are great examples in this video.

Another unique way dancers show contrast in there swing dancing is using the concept of the “intensity change.” 

Someone is driving on the road 65 mph and suddenly slams on the brakes and everything in the car explodes through the windshield. I’m sure that no one would be surprised that the “intensity” of your heart beat would “change.”

You get the point.  The key if you are a leader is to communicate this sudden change of energy with clarity and lack of pain.


This concept is harder to do, requiring the leader to have complete confidence in their timing – accelerating the energy without injuring their partner.

This makes for some of the most dynamic entertainment when mastered. 

The audience can ride the wave of the intensity of the music building, and you can match that build up of energy visually with this concept.

Example 1: 1:24-1:29

Example 2: 3:08-3:11

Example 3: :33-:47

Example 4: :55-1:00

The next big step is to start applying these concepts by social dancing. The key to mastering these concepts are in the doing not just the knowing. 

My motto is for every hour of class taken, you want to spend at least two hours social dancing to grasp the concepts more in depth.


You want these ideas to go from your head to your body, making the complicated simple overtime. This will subsequently increase your patience and confidence as you grow through the levels of dance you are striving to reach.


And the truth of this is proven by social dancing.


Again I encourage you to master being fundamentally sound since these concepts will help you embellish the fundamentals, not replace them. 

This will make showing contrast in you’re dancing much easier.


So get busy being a copy cat with these methods of contrast!  Let me know your progress. What is your natural way of showing contrast? Sound off in the comment section below.