What do you think of freestyle dancing?

I like to go swing dancing. Every now and then, I also try to expand my horizons by trying other styles – some latin, some ballroom, a bit of hip hop and jazz, and so forth. A lot of my friends say that they prefer to just dance freestyle, though.

I know that technically, freestyle dancing can refer to any unchoreographed dance. By this definition, it does not preclude dancing the foxtrot or a waltz. For the purposes of this discussion though, I’m using it to refer to dancing where you’re not following any particular style.

So my question is, what do you think of freestyle dancing?

Personally, I find it a lot less satisfying than, say, swing or salsa. I think that freestyle dancing can look great when done well. In my limited experience though, for most people, freestyle dancing basically means shaking and swaying around. This may be fun, but there’s no real artistry involved. (Personally, I usually don’t think it’s much fun at all, but that’s just me.)

It’s kinda like using free verse in poetry. When done right, the results can be beautiful. For most people though, it tends to produce an unstructured mess – one that the poet will tend to justify by saying “But I was doing it in freeform!” I think that in the same way, I think that a good dancer can make freestyling look awesome, but for most, the results tend to be indistinct.

Also, I think there’s a misconception that freestyle dancing is simply “making stuff up.” I disagree with that. A good freestyler may improvise as needed; however, he/she will often draw on other dance styles, such as hip hop or jazz. (In fact, some people mistakenly use the terms “hip hop” and “freestyle” interchangeably. This is incorrect, but it does illustrate how freestyle dancers can employ hip hop moves and other dance moves.) I know that when I’m forced to freestyle, I will often throw in a variety of swing and jazz moves.

IMO, good freestyling will tend to punctuate the music. This can be done by clapping one’s hands, for example, or by pumping one’s arms during key beats in the music, or by freezing during dramatic pauses. With a bit of creativity, one can improvise a lot of clever moves that way. Your typical freestyler, however, doesn’t usually do that.

So again, I think that freestyling can be great when done well. However, I find it less satisfying to do than the more structured styles. It’s usually less fun to observe as well, especially when people think of freestyling as just shaking or swaying around. Great freestylers are a delight to watch, but they’re not very common at all.


(Shrug) I like doing it. I think for a lot of people it’s just fun to move, and they may not be extremely concerned about how they look. I tended to go to goth clubs, and the people on the dance floor tended to move a lot more, and have a lot of (possibly very odd) personal style in their dancing. At normal clubs, I’ve mostly seen the “clutch beer and bob slowly up and down” dance, which isn’t a lot of fun to watch.

My personal dancing style is half goth (which is pretty thrashy-around) and half bellydance, because I’ve had extensive bellydance training. I haven’t done much ballroom, but I can do basic swing. It’s fun.

As a swing dancer myself, I find one characteristic is that good dancers try to make their partners look good, and not just themselves. Swing, salsa, and ballroom dances are social and conversational (and often improvisational), and the results are the product of communication between partners. Freestyle is (almost) by definition an individual dance, and more a reflection/expression of one’s internal thoughts and feelings. Both can be fun, but for entirely different reasons.

I agree with that wholeheartedly, Aestivalis. On every count.

I certainly don’t mean to suggest that freestyling can’t look good or that it can’t be fun. As I said in the OP, freestyling can look great when done well, and I think it can also be fun. The problem is that many people think of freestyling as simply doing whatever – shaking it about, for example – and I think that underscores a misconception of what quality freestyling is all about. That’s why most party freestyle dancing tends to be boring to watch (IMO, of course), if not downright painful.

Now I realize that some people feel liberated by simply shaking or swaying about, and that they derive enjoyment from this. This is where I think my previous poetry analogy is appropriate. Many self-styled poets think of free verse as a license to write down whatever they like, and they take pleasure in being unencumbered by the restrictions of meter or rhyme. A skilled poet can make free verse sound beautiful, but for most others, the results aren’t pretty.

Some friends and I liken it to playing the piano. One can be content with playing Chopsticks all the time, just as one can choose to mostly just shake it to the music. It may be fun, but one deprives one’s self of the opportunity for greater pleasure and artistry. Or one can choose to learn some stylings and open up vast new frontiers. The results will be more fun, and they’ll even sound better to others.

To extend the piano analogy even further, one could simply bang away; it might be fun, but in a limited manner, and it probably wouldn’t have much artistry. Or once could learn specific musical pieces, which would be analogous to learning some specific dance styles. Alternatively, one could learn to play improvisational jazz – “freestyling,” but with musicality and intentionality. The latter two approaches can be satisfying and beautiful, but in different ways.

Moving thread from IMHO to Cafe Society.

Ain’t nothing wrong with someone who just noodles about on the piano, or who writes down any old crap in their diary, or who shakes it like crazy to the music. You say that there’s “a misconception of what quality freestyling is all about,” but honestly, I think the misconception is on your part.

To me, quality dancing is mainly about whether the person doing it is enjoying it, not remotely about whether spectators are enjoying it. If you don’t enjoy dancing freestyle, then don’t do it–and that, right there, is where your capacity for judging its quality ends. Someone else enjoys doing it, and unless you’re paying to watch them, it’s absolutely positively none of your business to judge the quality of their dancing.

Now, of course you can do so anyway. Of course I do so anyway: if I’m at a club and someone’s moving like a self-conscious dork, I might make a catty comment about them. Or if they’re spazzing around like a kid, I might make an approving comment about them. But in either case, I do so knowing that it’s none of my business anyway.

Totally. I love to dance and move and be free… but it’s not always graceful. Yes, I have a dancing background (I danced ballet for 12 years, did Latin Ballroom dancing, etc.), but I’ve gained some weight since then, my center isn’t where it used to be.

But some times I just feel the need to move. I just feel the music. And I don’t want anyone to judge me for my movement. I just want to move.

I didn’t say that it’s WRONG to just twist and shake it about. As I explicitly said, people can have fun that way.

LHoD, you say that if it’s fun, then it’s quality stuff. I’ve got to disagree with that. Something can be enjoyable without having a whole lot of quality. There are times when watching a mindless movie can be fun, for example, yet I wouldn’t claim that this makes it a quality film. If somebody only goes for mindless movies though – well, he have every right to do so, but most would agree that he’s missing out on so much more.

Similarly, if somebody has fun by banging away wildly on a keyboard, then more power to them. I never claimed that they have no right to have fun that way. Ultimately though, I think that someone misses out on a great deal if they think that good freestyling is nothing more than just banging away on the keys.

Your argument is like saying that if somebody enjoys writing, then nobody has any business judging the quality of the results. Again, I’ve got to disagree with that. We can acknowledge that they are writing for themselves, take that into account, and recognize that they’re having fun. At the same time though, it’s fair to say that this isn’t necessarily quality writing – and that while people can enjoy doing whatever they wish, we miss out on vast opportunities for enjoyment when we think that whatever ramblings we like automatically spell out quality.

Just tonight, I was talking to a professional dance instructor. She likes to dance a wide variety of styles; however, there are times when she also enjoys just shaking it around. I think that’s a healthy attitude. There are times when she also enjoys moving for the sake of moving, but she doesn’t limit herself to that. She can enjoy just shaking it around without depriving herself of other, more vast opportunities.

That’s more or less the attitude of the dance instructor that I mentioned. I agree with it strongly.

As I said, there’s a difference between occasionally enjoying the need to move and thinking that wiggling around is all that good dancing is about (whether for public performance or mere personal pleasure).

It depends on whether they’re doing it for show or not. Only if not is it not any of your business.

I personally find it very, very difficult to dance. I’m very musically inclined, and feel the music in every fiber of my being. But all my improvisational movements come out quite clumsy. I would much rather dance a style that has a true form, since, although it’s not artistic, I’ll at least know I’m doing it right.

But, then again, I mostly went to dances for the slow dance anyways. Hold them, sway back and forth, and turn in a circle, and girls seem to think I know what I’m doing.

As I said, nobody is saying that people should be PREVENTED from just twisting it about. One can say that people are missing out on great opportunities without insisting that they should be forced to explore them.

I have said several times now that if people enjoy doing it, that’s up to them. There’s a huge difference between saying, “You’re missing out” and saying “What you’re doing is wrong and you must be stopped.”