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How to add depth to flat dancing.

Do you sometimes feel uninspired, but when you try to make your dance more interesting, you end up throwing in everything but the kitchen sink?


A better option is to do more with what you’re ALREADY doing

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This was professionally transcribed, but it probably still has some errors. If you catch any, drop me a line at I’d love to hear from you!

Do you ever feel uninspired, but when you try to make your dance more interesting you just end up throwing in everything but the kitchen sink, so it ends up being confusing rather than rich and interesting? Well, a better option is to do more with the moves that you’re already using.

One way to do that is by adding dimension. This is a concept that I learned from my teacher, Amira Jamal. Dimension is all of the different ways that we have to vary a move and take it from being flat to being three-dimensional. So how do we do that? Well, there are a lot of options, but I like to organize them into five categories, space, shape, time, energy and embellishment.

In short, what we’re doing is instead of asking what should I do we’re asking how can I do this move? This might make more sense if we do an example. The question what can I do, you might answer that with a hip drop. A hip drop is fine, but there are lots of different ways that you can use it, so how can I do a hip drop?

One way to play with space is to add a level change onto your drops. To vary it with shape, you might alternate doing straight up and down hip drops that creates a straight line versus arching, to drop to the front and back, which creates a curved line. To create time variations, you might do it in even tempo, drop, drop, drop, drop, or mix in some timing patterns like slow, quick, quick, drop, drop, drop. For energy, you might try doing it loose and bouncy versus strict and locked. For embellishment, there is the simple drop, or you can add on that traditional kick.

You’ll notice there are some things that you can vary that I didn’t include, things like intention, expression, musicality, gesture or cultural references. Those things absolutely matter too, but I think of those as the why, not the how, so we’ll talk about those another time.

Why is dimension worthwhile? Dimension makes your dance interesting without adding more stuff. Too much stuff makes your dancing confusing, not captivating. Dimension is a way to add texture and nuance to your dancing. It’s the difference between trying to paint with just red, yellow and blue versus having a whole palate from pale pink to maroon to crimson, lemon yellow, gold, rich ocher, sky blue, electric blue and rich navy.

Also dimension can make your dancing more traditional. A very common theme in Middle Eastern arts is to repeat the same motif over and over again with different variations. You’ll see this in the Golden Area dancers. If you look closely, you’ll notice that they don’t use a lot of moves. They pick just a few and really milk them for all they’re worth.

You’ll also here this in the music. If you ever listen to a full-length version of one of Oum Kalthoum’s songs, those ones that go on for 45 minutes or an hour, and you check those against the lyrics, you’ll realize that she’s repeating one line over and over again with different intonations and different stress, different melodic embellishments. It’s like she has to explore every facet of that one line of the text before moving on. Even if you’re not a traditionalist, that’s a great tool to have in your toolkit.

How can you start using dimension in your dance? Over the next several episodes I’m going to dig deeply into those five categories one by one, but for now just play around. Explore whatever aspects of space, shape, time, energy and embellishment that you can think of. If those don’t mean a lot to you for now, don’t stress about it. Just play with whatever does occur to you.

You can put on some music and explore freely, or if you want more structure try choosing a move or a combo that you’re already comfortable with and try to come up with as many dimension variations that you can based on just that one thing. You can do that while moving, or you can sit down with a pencil and paper and brainstorm.


Your Turn

What is your favorite way to use dimension?

Do you have any tips to share with other listeners?

Got a question or topic that you’d like me to talk about on the show?

I would love to hear from you.

Leave a comment below, or better yet, leave me a short voice message. Maybe I’ll even play it on the air!


Want More?

Check out The Dimension Library, a FREE collection of articles, audio, and videos to help you use dimension to enrich your own dancing.

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