Imagine you walk into a studio to practice and you are surrounded by top dancers and judges. That's scary, right? Do you ever wonder what they think about you when you dance?
Last week, I had a pleasure to ask this question one of the best Ballroom dancers in the World- Marcus Hilton MBE whilst chatting with him. Marcus Hilton has seen it all so that inspired me to find out what is going through his head when he watches others perform and practice. I loved his answers.
First, I asked Marcus what he thinks when he watches dancers at practice and his answer was exactly what I was hoping to hear. Marcus never criticizes the couples who he watches thinking they are hopeless or bad, regardless of the quality of dancing. On the contrary, he always tries to find individuality and depth in a dancer.
Everyone has been a student at some point and he knows the hardships of dancing. This is why seeing couples working hard is in fact a positive in itself. That was a relief to me.
Photo by Dylan Chiang Foto
We also talked about performance at shows and competitions. I asked him what the key ingredients are for him in these situations.
Instead of giving me a dry straight answer, Marcus shared a story with me about one of his performances in Asia. He put a lot of work to produce an emotional and exciting show with his partner, Karen Hilton. However, he was shocked that during the dance some people were only looking at his feet making sure the footwork was correct, missing the experience of the whole performance... How did they even enjoy the show, he wondered?
Seeing dancers' technique is not all that important during a show. In fact, what matters to Marcus a lot is the gaze and eyes. Create the story and share it with the audience, draw them in and let them be part of it. Some dancers simply magnetize him with the look in their eyes, like William Pino who always created this engaging bond with an audience.
Marcus said "You simply had to look his way, he was that good". I remember William Pino and I couldn't agree more with Marcus.
Being an extrovert is a must on the competitive scene but optional during a show.
The last question during our chat was about competitions and what is important to him when he judges.
Marcus believes in the connection between dancers and audience. If the couple dances just for themselves and they perform in "their own bubble" they disconnect from the audience. He enjoys seeing dancers who are open and make a bond with audience by performing for them and to them.
Then I asked Marcus, if a dancer makes a mistake in the dance, let's say choreography, but recovers well, would he mark them down?
His opinion is that making a mistake is definitely less damaging to the couple than disconnecting from the audience. Marcus said "Everyone makes mistakes. The best dancers in the World do, it's human". This is probably another relief for many dancers.
Final words from Marcus were:
Whatever you do, just keep going and keep working hard.
Next time when you dance in front of Marcus Hilton you can be assured he won't criticize you. This should help you relax, be more confident and focus on your dancing.
It was a real pleasure hearing these things from a Ballroom Legend. Now back to studio working on that gaze...
Photo credits: Dylan Chiang Foto