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5 Qualities of a Great Dancer


One of our online students asked, “I need help breaking down what the vision of a good dancer is – can you help me?”

I want to talk about this because I don’t hear much discussion about this or teachers talking about it in their classes.

So, here are five characteristics that make up a good dancer and for each one I’m going to give you some questions to help you reflect on your own development.

Grab a piece of paper and a pen!

Note: I talk a lot about salsa and social dancing here on Dance Dojo, but in my opinion these characteristics apply to all forms of dance.

1. Skill: Your Vocabulary, Technique and Execution

This is what most people think about when they think of a good dancer. It’s what you do and how you do it.

One way to think about it is are you able to make the hard stuff look easy and make the easy stuff look so cool it looks hard?

Eventually you’ll reach the point where whatever you do that feels good also looks good you don’t have to think anymore, you just express yourself and it’s impressive .

Reflection questions

  • What skills am I missing to dance the way I want?
  • What’s the bottleneck? What’s holding me back from improving the most right now? Identify that and get to work.
    • Watch: How to Practice and Improve 10x Faster
    • Watch: How to practice Salsa Without a Partner

2. Cultural Understanding: The Stories Behind the Dance

This refers to your understanding of the significance of the movements you’re doing and the stories behind them. Only then, can make an educated decision on how you’ll interpret and express them.

Questions for reflection

  • Do I understand the history of the music I’m dancing to?
  • Do I know the creators and the stories behind the moves I’m doing?
  • Do the moves have a specific intention? If so how can I express or honor that?
    • Once you understand how a move is meant to be done historically, think of how you can flip it and make it your own, adding your own personality and style to it.

The goal here is to reduce your ignorance, increase your cultural intelligence and increase your ability of educated self-expression.

3. Style and Character: Exploring Your Tastes and Developing Presence

This is all about realizing and understanding how you like to move to music and feel within the context of the dance you’re doing.

You can be whoever you want. You don’t have to be the same character that you are every day on the street, at work or at home. You can be anyone who you want.

A perfect example is performing on stage. Beyonce is Beyonce every day of the year, but when she gets on stage she’s Sasha Fierce.

For me, when I was an early teenager and I was break dancing there were no studios and teachers to learn from, so I had to find information wherever I could on the internet, a video and then take that knowledge and try to figure things out myself by exploring deeply within myself. I think that’s what’s missing today especially in the social dance world.

A lot of people now just go to studios and classes and copy teachers without thinking on their own, without going inside themselves to ask questions or get creative.

Deeply exploring the stuff you learn from class is how you’ll learn how you like to move, how you react to music. Really going inside and discovering that for yourself will help you develop your own style and personality for dance.

Your style and character are defined by a lot of different choices:

  • how you like to dress
  • how you carry yourself
  • your energy: is it high, is it low, is it confident, calm, tranquil or timid? Maybe your funky maybe you’re really funny. In a partner dance, do you smell good? It’s about the moves you do and how you do them, the energy that you bring to that partner or the people you’re interacting with.

Everyone is in a constant evolution but you’ll realize you’re maturing when you get clear on your tastes, what you like, what you don’t like and why. You start getting more comfortable expressing yourself.

The ultimate test of style and character is this…

Imagine you’re in a theater a giant screen up on stage and you can only see the silhouette of the person behind it if you were dancing there where people know it’s you if you put Michael Jackson behind the screen oh they’ll know.

Questions for reflection

  • Am I just copying my teachers or am I going inside to explore myself, how I like to move, my energy, my personality?

The goal is to discover your tastes, your strengths and your unique way of expressing them.

4. Connection: The Musical and Human Interaction

A simple way I like to think about it is the feeling that you leave someone with or the feeling that someone leaves with you.

There’s three important pieces to this:

Connection to self and being comfortable with yourself. This goes back to the three previous characteristics. Are you comfortable and confident in what you know, who you are and how you like to move?

Connection to the music: your awareness and interpretation of it. aAre you letting the music inspire and guide the fun you’re having with yourself? With your partners?

Connecting with a partner: are you able to take your personal skills, style and way of interpreting the music and mix in a partner? This covers everything from the moves you choose to do, and more importantly, the moves you choose not to do (to match your partner’s skill level and style), as well as the dynamic and interaction you bring to your partner, your level of energy, and your empathy towards them.

Are you taking suggestions from her? Is she taking suggestions from? If you if you make a mistake how are you responding? Are you laughing it off? Is there a light-hearted playful energy? These are the important things with partner connection.

The most important thing to remember is this…

People won’t remember exactly what you say and do but they will remember remember how you make them feel.

That goes for your partners as well as the people watching you.

Amazing dancers take you through the highs and lows of a song, using everything they know to express how they feel inside, often surprising you and themselves in the process while creating a completely unique and amazing experience.

It’s unique because they’ve discovered who they are, how they like to move, and how they like to interpret the music. Only by doing the deep exploration for themselves are they able to then share it with the world.

Questions for reflection

  • When I hear music am I able to just let go and dance?
  • Am I comfortable expressing myself to the music that I hear?
  • What is easy or hard when interacting with a partner?
  • Where am I strong?
  • Where am I struggling, and why? and lastly number five

5. Fun is the Key

Yes, training and improving can be difficult, and not always fun, but if the majority of the time you’re not enjoying yourself it could be a clue that your efforts are not coming from the right place.

When you watch an amazing dancer get lost in a song you feel their sense of joy and you get captivated in the moment with them. You feel what they feel because their expression is coming from such a pure place.

So remember why you started all this in the first place, to express yourself from the inside out and have fun.


That’s my quick take on the five characteristics that make a great dancer. I hope these thoughts and questions can help you in your own growth!

What’s Next?

Watch/read: The Process of Becoming a Great Dancer