I was listening to one of my FAVORITE podcasts the other day (The Dance Podcast), and they were talking about what inspires a dancer to move. Is it the feeling that we get inside? Is it a feeling we want others to experience? What do we want the outcome of each practice/performance/job to be? There should always be purpose behind our movement. If not, the beautiful art turns into just steps. This really made me think about my own dancing and how many times I get soooooo caught up in technique and steps that I don’t think about what I’m actually trying to accomplish or what makes me love dancing in the first place.
I think back to the time when I first decided I wanted to dance. I was watching DWTS and Julianne Hough was absolutely KILLING a Rumba routine. She had this fearless confidence that was so amazing to watch and I just had to learn how to move like her. She made everyone in the audience feel what she was feeling. In case you don’t know, Rumba is the most passionate of the Latin dances; you have to really be connected to your partner. It’s very sexy, beautiful, and captivating to watch when the dancer loses themselves in the movement. As an audience member, the most memorable performances to watch are the ones that transfer the dancer’s feelings into my heart and evokes either pain, happiness, love, joy, nostalgia, confidence, anger….whatever message the dancers are portraying. THIS is what great dancing is to me.
So when I dance, this is what I personally want to happen. I want to invite the audience to feel these things that I am feeling or portraying in the dance. Each Latin dance has its own character and story behind it. If I’m dancing Rumba, I’m going to embrace the feelings of love and passion. If I’m dancing Jive, I want to make the audience feel like getting up and start dancing with me….like we are all in a 50’s diner dancing “Grease” style to the jukebox. Whatever it is YOU want the audience to feel, express that vividly and your dancing will be even more enjoyable for you and those watching.
I love that dancing can bring such strong messages to people in a way that no other art form can. Messages about serious things like addiction, success, relationships, heartbreak, loss, sickness, inequality, natural devastation….all of these things that are sometimes hard to express verbally can be portrayed through a dance…how incredible is that? One of my favorite choreographers, Travis Wall, is so well known for this. His pieces just wrench your heart out and tell stories that can make an audience grasp a concept that would otherwise be somewhat inapproachable. Not all dances have to do this, but I really connect to those that do.
Dance has really helped me to process things in my life that otherwise I would keep bottled inside. By either going into the studio one day and just moving to the music in a way that feels therapeutic, or creating choreography with your partner that relays your story; either way, it helps us to use creativity through those hard times and bring something beautiful out of the ugly. In the video I posted below, you can really see the dancer’s passion and need to tell their story. The beauty and intensity of the movement portrays this perfectly. Yes, I cried at this one because I really related to the storyline.
Besides making the audience feel a certain way, I want to inspire that young girl/boy in the audience to go after their dreams….the way that Julianna Hough inspired me 5 years ago. The idols that we look up to did not know that we would be watching them that day. Instead, they make the most of every opportunity to share their love of dance with others. Dance has changed my life in so many amazing ways, and I want everyone to experience that sometime in their life. I have so many dancers that inspire me, and I want to inspire other dancers or kids that might think they could never do something like this. I was the FURTHEST thing from a dancer, but just watching someone else do it and have SO MUCH FUN made me feel like I could too.
In order for me to inspire others, I have to stay inspired myself. In between competitions, it’s sometimes easy to lose inspiration. That’s why I use these things to really stay inspired and keep dance at the forefront of my mind.
- YouTube Videos– I love watching the champions of ballroom on YouTube as well as recent Latin Finals/Championships, and Technique Videos. Staying immersed in that “competition atmosphere,” even if you’re at home, is very helpful. Also there are a ton of great training videos on YouTube that are good for learning technique when you maybe can’t afford the extra training in a studio. I have included some of my favorites channels below.
-Ballroom Dance Tube
- So You Think You Can Dance/World of Dance– LOVE LOVE LOVE these shows. Each week there are several powerful performances that either make me laugh, cry, or feel some other emotion that is so well portrayed by the dancers. I have included a two of my favorite performances from the recent seasons below.
- Podcasts– Podcasts are my new addiction. There are so many great ones, but several for dancers that really help us to learn more about the dance world and hear from people who are going through the same things we are. I love learning about the professional world and what it takes to achieve our dream career. I have listed a few of my favorites below.
-The Dance Podcast
-The School of Greatness
-The Gina Pero Show: Living Life Full Out
-The Chasing Joy Podcast
-Mind Body Musings Podcast
-The Tony Robbins Podcast
-Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert
- Dance Movies– You all know I LOOVEEE my dance movies. I literally reference Dirty Dancing once or twice a week and keep the soundtrack on repeat. That’s because this movie and others inspired me to follow this path. I have listed my fave ones below. (You know DD will forever be my all-time fave).
-Dirty Dancing (duh)
-Step Up (all of them, but the first one for sure)
-Dance With Me
-Take the Lead
- Self-Motivation/Help Books– This goes along with the podcast side of things, but I just recently finished reading “You Are a Bad A**: How to Stop Doubting your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life” and it totally changed my mindset about what I’m capable of. There are so many others I want to read, and they really apply to anyone who wants to make big things happen in their life. I also just got “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert which I’ve heard is amazing as well and can’t wait to get started on.
- Music- Music ALWAYS inspires me. It doesn’t necessarily have to be ballroom music, but just music I can connect to. I’m almost always choreographing something to music, even if it’s not the perfect tempo for Latin dancing. Music creates feeling, and feelings are where our most amazing works of art can come from. I have included some of my favorite Spotify Playlists below.
-Dirty Dancing Soudtrack Playlist
-Leon Bridges Radio
-Ella Fitzgerald Radio
-Frank Sinatra Radio
-Gavin James Radio
-Infinite Indie Folk
-John Mayer Radio
-Salsa and Bachata Hits
- Getting Outside– This one might seem like it doesn’t connect to dance at all, but it totally does. If I stay inside too much, I get super anxious, cranky, and my creativity becomes muffled. Getting outside, even if it’s just to explore the city a little, makes me feel alive and ready to get back in the studio (recharged and revived).
These are just some of the things that inspire me…but anything about dance really inspires me because I just love it that much. Whenever things are hard or I get frustrated with myself concerning dance or the future, I just stop and think about how much joy it brings me when I’m out on that dance floor, bearing my soul for all to see and just HAVING FUN doing it. I think about those “teenage Ashlyns” in the audience who think they would like to be a dancer someday. I think about the incredible messages that can be shared by dancing, and what a difference I could make in the world by sharing them. There are so many possibilities, so many ways that we as dancers can inspire others and can be inspired ourselves. Sometimes we need to stop thinking about BEING a dancer and focus on the actual DANCING.
What inspires your movement? Who do you hope to inspire in this world?
Inspiration is everywhere,
Ashlyn Tori <3
PS: HUGE THANKS to my girl Glau for taking these amazing photos! Such a beautiful person inside and out.