This past Sunday, we started teaching our annual solo charleston routine to our Annapolis crew, and I had such an amazing time. I was reminded of how much I love solo charleston and jazz steps. It just feels so comfortable in my body. When I first tried my hand at solo charleston, I felt like a bumbling idiot who fell apart anytime I tried something beyond a basic. It took practice to get comfortable with each movement, and to figure out how to transition into and out of the moves. (Transitions are always key!)
When I’m practicing a partnered dance, my focus is most often on developing good partnering skills. I try to minimize styling (when I’m practicing) to clean up my technique. When I’m practicing solo dancing, I no longer have to concern myself with good partnering and can focus on what I’m doing with my own body. I can play with rhythmic variations and syncopations without worrying if I can lead it. I get deeper into the music, listening for crazy little rhythms and trying to figure out how to put those rhythms in my body.
My own body movements become central, and I become much more focused on the lines and shapes I am making. Do I bend the knee? At what angle? Does the foot point or flex? Is the movement sharp or fluid? One of the things I’ve come to appreciate in all my dancing through the practice of solo charleston is the importance of clean weight changes. They keep my dancing crisp and deliberate. I never realized how muddy and fudged my feet used to look.
Often, our students want to know more than how to do some moves. They want to look good doing them. I’ve heard it said that if you can’t do it by yourself, what makes you think you can do it with a partner? If you want to dance well with a partner, work on your partnering skills. If you want to look good doing it, practice your solo dancing.