Get Out of the Class Trap: 6 Ways to Improve Your Dancing

If you’re a freelance dancer without the structure and routine of college classes or a company season, it may feel as if the only way to keep training or improving is to take open classes and workshops. In big cities like Los Angeles and New York, these classes are aplenty, with many working choreographers and excellent instructors teaching every day. Still, even with so many exceptional classes offered, taking class can be inaccessible to certain dancers -- whether for financial reasons, or conflicts with other work schedules and responsibilities. If getting to class isn’t possible for you, know that there are plenty of ways to improve your dance training at home!

Investing in yourself can be so much more than just physically dancing

Start with these six suggestions for when you want to keep training, but just can’t make a class:

1. Take a class online

In this day and age, there are so many resources available online, you don’t even have to live in a major city to take a master class from some of the best teachers and choreographers in the business! Many of these online dance classes, like here on DancePlug, are going to be at a lower price point than a physical class, making them even more accessible. A great way to find online dance classes you’ll like is to check out your favorite teacher on Instagram and see if they have any paid tutorials up on their own pages or advertised on other sites. Remember that choreographers retain the copyright to their original choreography from classes/posts on social media, so if you’d like to learn choreography from a post that is not available as a tutorial, do reach out and ask if the choreographer is comfortable with that.

2. Maximize the classes you do take

How often do you learn a combo in class, then never think about or practice it again? Are you going to improve on that movement if you don’t ever do it again? Instead of taking class on Monday and then a different one on Tuesday, try spending the next day “rehearsing” what you learned in class, practicing the combo at home and applying any corrections or details the teacher mentioned in class. Notice if you see improvement or things to work on -- through this additional dance training at home, now you’ve really maximized what you got out of the class and will be more prepared for the next one! If you have a good relationship with the instructor and know they are comfortable with you recording their choreography, ask about sending them a video of you doing the combo for feedback to get even more out of your practice.

3. Cross train with different styles of movement

Cross training for dancers is actually such a great way to get more out of your movement. You could try Pilates for better stability and core control (holding that passé longer for one more pirouette), Yoga for grounding and flexibility (everything you need to get that perfect lateral T), weight training for strengthening (lifting up your partner with ease), and more! If paying for workout classes like those isn’t possible, here’s a money saving tip: Instagram, YouTube, and other sites like DancePlug’s offer various resources to do these cross training workouts at home. When you can’t get to class, finding other ways to move or do a dancer’s workout will help to improve your dancing for when you do end up getting into the studio. 

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4. Practice what you want to be doing

Are you itching to perform at that awards show or behind that new artist you saw a recent performance by? Why not practice doing just that? As a freelance dancer, you might have choreographers you want to work for but who never teach class, so the only time you’ll see them is at an audition. Get ahead of the game by practicing the choreography you want to be doing if you can find a clip of it. Then take it a step further by recording yourself doing what you learned, and edit your clip next to the performance clip to see if there’s anything you can work on to match the level of the hired dancers. A caveat to this: every choreographer is different, and some might not appreciate dancers performing choreography they were not taught directly, so use discretion and make sure to ask the choreographer if you want to post anything publicly. My suggestion would be to do this training for yourself -- not for the ‘gram. 

5. Create your own dance classes or improv jam

Call on your squad for this one and create your own class, where you find space to teach an original combo or even just get together for an improv jam. Another money saving tip: if you need to rent a studio, try suggesting to your friends that you split the cost of the rental, or see if anyone has the ability to get free studio space. Or jam in a park! This gives you and your community the opportunity to practice your own creativity, rather than constantly learning from others, while helping to hone your artistry, improvisation and choreographic skills, and can even result in getting feedback from your peers on ways to improve or ideas for content you can create together. Making deeper connections with your fellow dance community can be a great way to improve your dancing and dance career. 

you don’t even have to live in a major city to take a master class from some of the best teachers and choreographers in the business

6. Just rest

How will not doing much actually improve your dancing? Because you can’t run on empty! Set yourself up to perform better the next time you get into a class, rehearsal, or performance by taking the time to reset and rest your body. Only you can know what your body needs to refuel to perform at its best, but take this as permission to use that day off from class. You can always still find a way to move with some restorative Yoga, a walk outside, or foam rolling, but don’t overdo it! 

It’s easy to fall into the ‘class trap’, and feel like the only way to improve your dancing and further your career is through class, but your growth is in your own hands as a freelance dancer. Investing in yourself can be so much more than just physically dancing, so take these suggestions as inspiration for how you can work smarter, utilize your creativity, and better connect to yourself and others to improve your dancing in ways that won’t break the bank or burn you out!

About the author

A native of El Paso, TX, Khayla began dancing at a young age in ballet and Folklorico classes, eventually moving to LA to earn her BA in dance and English from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She went on to earn her MA in Arts & Cultural Management from Kings College London before moving back to LA, where she currently works as a commercial dancer. When she's not dancing, you can find her teaching Pilates and freelance writing about the intersection of dance, fitness, and wellness.