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Dancing Outside The Box

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Erin is a 20-something Irish dancer competing in the Southern Region with Nashville Irish Step Dancers. She splits her time between dance and her career in social media marketing. Her favorite part of dancing is meeting new & inspiring people. Connect with her on Twitter @erinforevr.

What do Hip-hop, ballet, jazz, and salsa have in common? They can all make great additions to an Irish dancer’s training regimen. Whether you are in a funk with Irish dance and need to rekindle your love of it, or you are looking for something to take you skills, strength, and technique to the next level, exploring other types of dance can do wonders.

I started Irish dancing at 15, but dance had always been part of my life. When I came into Irish dance, I found that having background in ballet and jazz was extremely helpful – it put me leaps and bounds ahead of dancers in class who did not come from dance backgrounds. Having ballet and jazz experience meant that I understood music, 8-counts, had a strong point and core, a developed turnout, and I was comfortable with the process of learning steps.

Of course there were certain habits carried over from those other disciplines that I had to transition away from to developed as an Irish dancer, specifically. But, one thing became very clear to me – studying other types of dance was ultimately beneficial for an Irish dance career.

So, as I continue in my Irish dance journey I make a point of spending some time in other types of dance classes whenever I can.

What exactly are the benefits, you ask? Well…

Hip-Hop

Did wonders for my sense of rhythm, I discovered beats in the music that I’d never noticed before, the kind of beats that a good slow speed hornpipe is made of. Hip-Hop has also helped in strengthening my core.

Salsa & Tango

Talk about perfecting timing and getting a better understanding of timing and foot placement within the music. Ballroom dance styles are extremely precise, but the also shed new light on the steps and foot placement really do flow with the music.

Ballet

Posture, point, and turn out. If you want to keep things “locked and squeezed” as my TC is always saying, and get those lovely lines in your legs and height on your jumps – the ballet is like a technique boot camp. Yet, the classical melodies and use of different planes will get you thinking differently as a dancer.

Jazz

If you want to get more comfortable with floor patterns and put a little more pizaz in your high-clicks (rockette style) this is the discipline to go to.

Truly I would recommend mixing in a rotation of ALL of these different styles into your training routine, and finding which ones speak to you. A little variety will also help you avoid plateaus in your efforts to build muscle and flexibility.

Most importantly, though, experiencing other types of dance can be FUN. Don’t worry if you’re not used to using your arms or if the music sounds strange at first – it’s a chance to let lose & evolve! A broader dance experience can help build your confidence on stage and deepen, or renew, your appreciation for Irish dance.

Happy stepping!

Photo credit: Image is courtesy of and belongs to author.
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