What is it about real masters that makes their dancing so irresistible to watch? It’s not that they make it look easy. It’s that they make it look effortless. Some dancers have it and some don’t, but the difference is striking. Ruby Keeler was a prolific movie star who made a ton of musicals in the 30s and 40s. She tapped her way through them all, never losing her effortful, heavy footed style. She was cute and had good chemistry with costar Dick Powell, but clearly was successful in spite of her dancing, not because of it. Here she is demonstrating her famous lack of grace on the dance floor:
Contrast this with Eleanor Powell, who was so good some of the best dancers of her time did not want to partner with her for fear she would show them up. She was the epitome of effortlessness. I love this clip of her dancing casually in her living room with her dog. Button is thoroughly enjoying himself with no ego issues while Eleanor drifts through the dance with amazing ease. Watch how her dancing suddenly comes alive the moment the music starts. There is no wasted energy in the way she moves. Only the muscles she needs are being used while the rest of her is totally relaxed. You don’t see any effort. This kind of dancing is truly inspirational.
I don’t work with professional dancers, so few of my students will every achieve anything close to this level of grace, but I will say this. Most people get closer and closer to it simply by doing it a lot over the years. The more you dance, the more your body figures out on its own how to conserve energy and move with less effort. Learn to do it right first, then go dancing, and dance some more. It never hurts to hold an inspirational dancer in mind and channel them when you dance! Who is your favorite? Pick someone who inspires you and imagine dancing like that and see if it doesn’t make a difference!
by LaurieAnn Lepoff
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