So you’re in the industry! Maybe you’ve landed your first singing job at a holiday park, but have no idea how to move. Or perhaps you’re an actor and just want to survive the movement round at that all important audition. The fact is, whether you love the feeling of moving your body to music, or it makes your brain feel constipated, chances are sooner or later you are going to have to demonstrate or be willing to learn how to move (don’t panic.) The good news if you have 2 left feet, is that everyone can learn (it just may take longer for some than others depending on your ability.)
On jobs I’ve done, I have come across people with little to no movement experience, and it got me thinking how helpful it would be to have a post on dance for singers and actors, something that helps with the basics BEFORE a job actually starts. I’ve designed this post as a dance terms glossary; hopefully it can be a reference point and show you what to practise and get into your muscle memory now so that you can go into the process with confidence. This will not only make the whole rehearsal process run a lot more smoothly, but also make it much less stressful. The sooner one can get the basic stuff into body memory, the easier those dance calls, or jobs that require movement will become.
Below I’ve compiled a dance terms glossary which lists the basic dance moves that tend to come up A LOT, particularly on holiday parks, but there’s also numerous other opportunities for which you might need to be able to move well. Even musicals that are not considered ‘dancey’ will often require some form of basic movement. As a singer, being able to know how to move well will also massively up the game of your cabaret set as well. So let’s get going!
Dance Terms Glossary- Part 1
Although originating from line dancing, the grapevine has pretty much become the holy grail when it comes to dance calls and shows, particularly where holiday parks are concerned, (or any job where you are cast as a singer that moves.) This is mainly because it’s easy, it travels and it’s a good time filler.
To do a grapevine, stand facing the front (you will be travelling sideways.) Step out to the side (r), step across (either in front or behind) (l), step out to the side again (r), and then step together bringing the left leg in towards the right. You can also do it going the opposite way. The key thing to remember is to keep travelling in the same direction until the grapevine is completed. Much like a walk, you change feet with each step.
3 Step Turn
This is another travelling step that moves sideways. It can be easier to think of it as step turn step. Extend your right leg to the side and step onto it. Next, turning over you’re right shoulder, bring your left leg in so your feet are together and you face the back. Then turn over your right shoulder again to face the front stepping with your right leg out to the right side.
Tip– to keep it looking clean and stop yourself getting dizzy, make sure you spot. This is where you fix your eyes on a set point in front of you in the direction you are turning, leave your head until the last moment and then whip it round back to that same point.
OK, when talking dance for singers and actors, this is the one that people hate the most. But I promise, with a bit of know-how it is entirely possible for you to master, and it feels great once you get it! It’s just a case of getting the basic mechanics, and then PRACTISE until it feels natural. That and being able to do it at speed.
To do a body roll, stand with your feet shoulder width apart and angle your body to the diagonal. The move starts with your chest and works its way down, ending with the hips. The move itself is fluid but whilst you’re mastering the basics, I advise breaking it down into its isolated parts. Start by bringing your chest forward (shoulders back and belly in.) Next your belly moves forward as you lean back; the pelvis then moves forward and you bend the knees as you deepen the lean back and finally you isolate the pelvis backwards so it comes back to neutral position. If this has got you confused, don’t sweat it! Check out the tutorial below and it will all make sense, I promise.
It sounds basic, I know. But it’s important to know how to sway well so it’s on the list. Start with feet shoulder width apart in parallel- typically your feet will be a bit wider than hip width apart. Keeping your feet planted, you simply rock from side to side, transferring your weight from one foot to the other. Quite often, you will invert the heel of the opposite foot to the one you’ve shifted your weight onto, bringing it forward whilst still leaving your toe in place and tapping it on the ground. Although this is a very basic step, if you struggle with musicality when moving, it can REALLY show. There is nothing worse as a dancer than to watch someone swaying out of time. So it’s key when practising to try to practise swaying to different music until you know with complete confidence that you can keep time to different tempos of music.
Pas De Bouree
Not as fancy as it sounds. When we’re talking what to prioritise in terms of dance for singers and actors, if you learn nothing else, learn this one. A pas de bouree is always 3 steps. Typically, you step crossing the foot behind (l), step to the side (in the same direction) (r), and then step front (l). For simplicity, just say to yourself behind, side, front as you practise it and you’ll soon get the hang of it.) As with walking, you transfer weight from foot to foot with each step.
Tip– keeping the weight on the balls of your feet is key.
These can be done in a circle, or a figure of 8 motion. To practise, start with your feet apart. Keeping both feet on the ground, shift your weight onto your left leg, sticking your left hip out to the side. Imagine then that you are drawing with your hips the curved part of a semi circle to the front, ending with your weight transferring to your right foot with right hip stuck out. Then carrying on in the same direction, you do the same thing to the back- drawing semi-circle from right to left with your weight transferring from right leg to left and ending with your left hip out. This should all be one fluid motion. After you’ve mastered it one way, you can then practise circling the other way.
Figure of eight— much as the name suggests, this time you’re going to be making a side on figure of eight with your hips. Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Keep your knees bent a little. Bring your right hip to the right front corner (think diagonal,) then drawing a quarter of a circle, circle the right hip to the back corner. Now, shift your weight to the left by taking your left hip to the left front corner (this bit will feel like your drawing a diagonal line.) Next, draw a quarter circle, circling the right hip to the right back diagonal. And there you have it. Once again it should be one fluid continuous movement, but at first when you practise, I’d advise isolating it into the individual parts.
Here’s another video for how to do the figure of eight:
This turn takes place over 4 transfers of weight, with one foot anchoring you as you change direction. Each change of direction is 180 degrees (don’t worry, I’m actually making it sound far more complicated than it is.) To do this kind of turn, step forward. (Rather than thinking directly front, I tend to think of being slightly more side on with my foot facing the side.) At this point your weight will have transferred onto your front leg, but make sure to keep your back toe anchored. Next, turning towards your back foot, step onto your free foot. Take another step towards the back with the same leg you stepped forward on (once again keeping the toe of your back foot anchored) and then turn back towards the front with your free leg once again. You should complete a full turn in one direction.