Dancing at Three Volume Levels

Most dancers don’t think about the “volume” level of their dancing: they choose patterns or styling options based on what they know rather than what the music calls for. At a more advanced level, dancers begin to separate their movements into high volume and normal volume movements. However, most dancers don’t think about ways to make their dancing quieter.

Learning to dance at a third volume level is a powerful skill. First, there are a lot of contemporary and lyrical songs that call for quieter movement. For instance, in Ed Sheeran’s Bloodstream, the song builds through the second chorus before dropping. Listen to the drop below, and note how much the song builds after that drop.

If you don’t drop your own dancing volume, you won’t just miss the musical shift. You’ll also run out of room to turn the volume up as the build continues. By lowering the volume level of your dance, you make it possible to keep building with the song.

The same thing happens on a smaller scale in What Do You Mean? by Justin Bieber. After the chorus, most of the instruments drop away; you just hear the ticking on the clock and the held chord.

The chorus wasn’t particularly wild, so you probably weren’t dancing at maximum volume beforehand. In order to acknowledge this moment, you need to be able to turn down the volume of your dancing, at least for four beats.

Second, quiet dancing is an opportunity to reconnect with your partner and help them calm down. If your partner is nervous (especially in a competition), this is great way to ground him or her. Or, if your partner is dancing wild or showboating, quiet dancing is a great way to hit the reset button and bring yourself back into the dance. Followers can use this as a way to abort pattern junkies or catch a breath from spinning; leaders can use this trick to reign in a follower that is taking over the dance.

The Drill: By yourself, practice dancing to songs with volume drops. Start dancing at your normal intensity level. When the music slows, find a way to slow yourself down as well. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Slow the walks: walk at half speed (one step per two beats) in order to lower the energy level.
  • Shorten the slot: dance a shorter slot so your movement appears more contained.
  • Go into closed position: leaders can pick up the follower in closed directly; followers can shorten their arm in order to create a closed distance even within open position.
  • Take out footwork: turn triples into step-rondes, step-drags, or delayed singles.
  • Stay in the slot: followers can hold their position instead of stepping out to anchor and create shapes with their bodies; leaders can keep the follower in, especially with compression moves like a sugar push, in order to extend the pattern.

By practicing lowering the volume during your dance, you can add an additional dimension to your musicality and give yourself a tool for calming the dance when your partner needs some support.

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