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Words by Katia | Edited by Wednesday | Photography by Etienne Reynaud and The Black Light Sydney

“How do I freestyle?” is a question that gets asked of me all the time. For many people, it’s almost as if you are standing there ready to freestyle, and every ‘move’ you have ever learnt has completely left your brain and you now have no idea how to dance… even though you have been dancing for years. Freestyling is something that I love to do more than anything, so I wanted to share some tips to embrace freestyle in your practice sessions and learn to love it as much as I do!

Benefits of Freestyle

Improved Stamina

Freestyling in practice sessions will allow you to improve your stamina! Instead of practicing tricks on their own (where you have breaks in between), your body is constantly moving. Along with strength training, it also means that you are getting more of a cardio workout. Improved stamina will also help with your choreographed routines, meaning that you will be able to do more run-throughs and able to practice combinations for longer!

Fluidity in movement

Practicing moves by themselves is fantastic to focus on correct technique, but freestyling to a song allows you to work on fluidity in your movement and transitions. Not only does this improve your flow for ‘tricks’, it also helps with linking combinations and dancing together. For example, thinking about what will come before and after your combination is just as important visually, as the combination itself.

Creativity and Exploration

Learning the unique paths your body likes to move, and training your muscle memory into shapes that work for your body type and style is extremely important for aerialists and non-apparatus dancers. Freestyle will allow you to explore all of the different shapes that your body can make and it is a great way of embracing creativity of movement without the pressure of conforming to a routine. Everyone is different, and the way my body moves might be different to the way yours does. Neither is right or wrong – we are just individual and that’s what makes dancing incredible. find it quite easy to follow.

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Step One | Create a Playlist

Create a playlist that inspires you to dance. I find that when you are first starting off, it’s always best to choose slower paced songs so that you don’t move too quickly and get tired easily. Being a Deafie… I tend to dance to the same songs over and over because music is something that doesn’t really inspire me (who would have thought? Hehe!), and I also just remember the songs and it makes it easier for me to hit beats. For beginner freestyle babes, I recommend doing it this way too – use songs that you know really well so that you can predict pathways and changes in the music.

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Step Two | Wear something Inspiring

Whenever I freestyle, I want to wear something that inspires me and makes me feel good about the way I look. I usually look in the mirror when I’m dancing so that I can train my lines and extensions (and also to check the way my body is moving so that I can develop muscle memory patterns). Looking in the mirror when I’m feeling self-conscious about the way I look is not going to be a fun time. I always make sure that I wear something really beautiful and that my hair is brushed and glossy.

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Step Three | Get Inspired

Before a training session, I like to have a look on Instagram at some of the accounts that I follow to get inspired. Sometimes I check for floorwork inspiration and other times I look at combinations (of moves that I already know) that I want to try. I usually try out the moves first, before the music starts so that I can get a grasp on what I’m actually doing. I have a list of moves in my head that I want to include in the freestyle.
Think about it like a formula: Introduction and first verse (floorwork), Chorus (first combination), second verse (floorwork) and then last Chorus or Bridge (second combination), then floorwork for the outro. I also always choose combinations that are a level below (or less advanced) than my skill as I like to practice making things look smooth. Freestyling is about developing and nurturing the moves that you already know and are comfortable with. Training new tricks is something that I like to do without having the pressure of dancing around them.

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Step Four | Get Creative

Have a little play without the music first to see how your body wants to move that day. Sometimes I want to move slow and sexy, and other times I want to be sharp and dynamic. I then pop some music on, and allow my body to create new shapes on the floor and around the apparatus (if I have one!) and try and string them together to create dance combinations.

I like to look at my body in these static shapes so that I can see whether I should pop my chest out more or exaggerate something etc. I like to do this without filming myself (and just looking in the mirror) as I find the best creativity comes for me when I’m not under the pressure of filming.

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 Step Five | Film yourself

Now that you’ve done all of your freestyle prep, it’s time to choose your song and set up your video camera (or phone!) Literally film every freestyle and review it afterwards. Feel your song, but don’t be afraid to stand there and do nothing while you think of what to do next. Sometimes I just like to stop and think while I’m dancing and something new and creative pops into my head.

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Step Six | Do it again

Once you’ve done one freestyle, have a look at your video footage on the spot. Assess the things that you liked, and also the things that you didn’t like. It’s important to be critical in order to grow – but not too critical and dishearten yourself. I then repeat the same song over again, and try and recreate my freestyle with my “improvements”. Of course it’s never going to be exactly the same as the original – but you will find beautiful moments in both, for different reasons.

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It’s important to keep freestyling and watching your videos back in order to grow as a dancer. If you are considering taking the leap to do live performance, it will be comforting for you to have the ability to perform on the spot, in case you forget your choreography. Looking comfortable freestyling is something that comes with time and perseverance. The more you travel through the levels, the bigger your library will be of “moves” and the easier freestyling will become. I am always happy to answer any questions about freestyling, so please private message me (and give me a follow @katiaschwartz) on instagram!
Send me a PM and I’ll follow you back!