How to Not Be a Stiff Dancer

By Judy Fisk ; Updated September 15, 2017
Specific techniques can help you feel and appear less stiff when you dance.

Whether you are a student of dance or someone who enjoys informal social dancing, you may worry that your movements are too stiff and awkward. Ironically, feeling anxious about how you appear on the dance floor, in the studio or onstage can actually cause your joints and muscles to tighten up. You can take concrete steps to build your confidence and to loosen up physically. As a result, you will feel – and appear -- more relaxed when you move and you will get far more pleasure from dancing.

Take dance classes to increase your physical self-awareness and to build confidence in your movement ability. Expose yourself to a variety of dance styles and, in the process, increase your flexibility and muscle tone and improve your posture, balance and coordination. Gain greater awareness of how your body is organized and become more in tune with how it moves.

Warm up and stretch your muscles thoroughly before dancing. If you spend many hours every day working at a desk or computer, you may suffer from shoulder stiffness and tight muscles and joints. Counteract that stiffness by walking in place for five to 10 minutes and then engaging in basic stretches to loosen up your muscles before executing more rigorous dance moves. Warmer muscles will respond more readily to conscious efforts to relax them.

Relax at the joints, particularly in your fingers, elbows and shoulders. Note if you hold your your chin and neck too rigidly and consciously shed any tension you experience from the shoulders upward. For social dancing, bend slightly at the knees and ankles to give yourself greater range of motion in the hips.

Breathe deeply five to 10 times to shed the tension of your day before heading out to the dance floor, studio or stage. With every outward breath, think of letting the air flow through to your extremities and consciously soften your muscles and joints.

Know your choreography. If you are performing on stage and are concerned about appearing stiff, review the moves you will be performing until you know them exceptionally well. Adequate preparation will help you stay calm when you head into the studio to rehearse or when you step onstage. Review choreography in your head whenever you have a quiet moment, such as when you are lying in bed at night or during your commute to work or school.

Enroll yourself in a yoga class and attend faithfully. Learn the basic poses and breathing techniques and tackle the stress and anxiety that may be causing your muscles and joints to tighten up. Yoga technique can help you consciously "soften" the areas that are tense and stiff and add fluidity to your dance movements.

About the Author

Judy Fisk has been writing professionally since 2011, specializing in fitness, recreation, culture and the arts. A certified fitness instructor with decades of dance training, she has taught older adults, teens and kids. She has written educational and fundraising material for several non-profit organizations and her work has appeared in numerous major online publications. Fisk holds a Bachelor of Arts in public and international affairs from Princeton University.