Monday, August 8, 2011

What Makes Dancers Good: Soft Power

In this series, I'll be discussing different aspects of dance that I think "good" dancers have or do. Please note that these are my opinions and I am in no way trying to force my ideas on you, and that I'm not an expert, so I'm just sharing my thoughts as another dancer who's noticed things. Thanks!

This time I wanted to discuss something one of my good friends keeps bugging telling me to bring up. I call it "soft power," for lack of a better phrase. What it is is when a dancer makes you feel like they could fly if they wanted to - they just don't choose to. It's the ability to put an almost magical strength behind the movement, but not to use all of it - to control it and make the dancing look effortless and dynamic. It's pure freedom - having all the strength in the world and choosing not to use it.

You know when a dancer is giving her all. She's throwing herself all over the place, she looks like she's having fun, she's got a wild look on her face. But what's better is when you can't tell how hard the dancer is working. You don't know what they're capable of when you watch them, and you feel like they might be holding something even more amazing back. It's a thing of beauty.

I came up with this phrase when I did my third piece of choreography in high school (never talked about it...should I?) and said friend tried to describe a quality I had when I performed my own choreography. I won't claim that I embody this kind of power because if I did, I feel like I'd be perfect (and I'm really so, so far from that).

No, what I mean by "soft power" embodiment is Melanie Moore's solo for SYTYCD last week, or her audition at the beginning of the season (the full version - The Meadow), or Ida Saki's Schindler's List. When I watch them dance, I can feel the energy rolling off their bodies, yet they don't appear to be straining, out of breath, or even tired by the end. They're incredibly quiet, yet their movements speak volumes. They can make a simple gesture with a soft flick of their fingers, and you feel like something should happen because of it. Undoubtedly, they show such controlled strength.

Controlled strength. Yet another phrase that probably doesn't make sense. You have to work - do all that Pilates and all those sit ups - but you have to hide the fact that it was so tough from your audience. You can't push as hard as you want to, thinking they'll appreciate how hard you work. Rather, they'll love you more if you make it look so easy that they they think they can stand up and dance with you. That's when you've succeeded as a dancer, and that's what these dancers do with their soft power.


  1. I like the series :) And I want Melanie to win SYTYCD! Who are you rooting for?

  2. Thanks so much! I'm pretty sure Melanie will win and I've admired her from the beginning, but I'm beginning to like Sasha a lot. I've also loved Tadd just because it's so impossible what he does - a bboy?! Looking like that?! Love Marko as well...this entire top 4 is amazing, I can't really say I have a favorite, they all deserve it so much!