You are probably surrounded by your dance BFFs constantly. Whether you are in class, on the way to a competition, or at a convention, all of your favorite dancers are right there with you. But what about time you spend outside of dance spaces? At school and in public, you will meet many people who do not understand and appreciate dance the way you do. You might feel like you can’t share your passion with people because of this, but that isn’t the case! You can share dance with non-dancers, but you have to do so differently than you would with other dancers. We talked with talented tapper, singer, and actor Aaron Burr about mastering this skill.
One of the greatest connections Aaron has found between his passion and people who don’t dance is rhythm. “Everone has rhythm,” he says, and because of that, people don’t have to understand dance to appreciate it.
When he isn’t on stage, Aaron likes to take his tap shoes out into the streets and subways of New York City. There, he dances for hundreds of passerby who don’t know anything about the hard work and skill required to make music with his feet. He doesn’t find this discouraging, though because he can see the response on their faces. They can feel the emotion he puts forth when he dances. This has taught Aaron that one of the easiest ways to share dance with non-dancers is to perform for them.
Connect Through Rhythm
Aaron believes that “if you get your audience to connect with your rhythm, you’ve won.” This is important to remember because the connection you build through dance with non-dancers needs to be beautiful and rhythmically simple. This is because it is easy for someone who does not have a deep understanding of rhythm to find and enjoy patterns presented in simple rhythms. It might seem like this takes away from your ability to show off your skills, but that isn’t the case! Your movements carry emotion and tell stories. The rhythms you use are the element that translates those motions into music. If you pair beautiful motion with carefully selected rhythms, you will be able to share your story with anyone regardless of their dance knowledge.
When you are performing for non-dancers, you are not showing them technique and skill as much as you are taking them on a musical journey guided by your motions (and if you are tapping, the music you create). Because of this, Aaron stresses the importance of dancing for people and not at them. You can’t treat non-dancers like your dance friends. When you dance for other dancers, you want to show them the ways you have improved and skills and stylistic choices unique to you. Non-dancers might not recognize this and trying to show them these things might, instead of impressing them, make them feel as though you are holding your skills above their heads. Aaron thinks it is important to keep in mind that all “people have a natural sense of music,” and that alone is all you need if you want them to follow along with whatever story your dances tell.
Sharing dance with non-dancers is not only about sharing your craft with people who do not understand it. It is about you, too! When you perform for someone who cannot judge your technique with a critical eye, you can work on style. It is easy to be driven by passion when you are in front of someone who does not have a judge’s eye. They can only assess whether or not they feel something when they watch you. You can judge the technical aspects of your performance later, but when you are in front of non-dancers, only look for what makes them smile and engage. From there, you can experiment and find the patterns and stylistic moments that bring your art into the hearts of the people watching.
Aaron Burr is a tap dancer and theater performer. He began dancing at three years old, and since then has worked in theatres and in groups all over the world. He is a fabulous member of Showstopper’s teaching staff. He recently appeared on Season One of NBC’s World of Dance with the tap group Rhythmatic.Tapping has taken Aaron on tour with the Tap Dogs. Aaron also performed on American’s Got Talent and America’s Most Talented Kids. As a theater performer, Aaron has performed with Tommy Tune as a member of the cast of Doctor Dolittle as well as in numerous theater productions in New York theaters.Tapping has taken Aaron on tour with the Tap Dogs. Recently he has starred in productions at Merry Go Round Theatre in Upstate New York including Guys and Dolls and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.