Or Does Your Dancing Need More "Puppy"?

Monday, April 25, 2011

In my last article, we talked about kitty energy. Kitty energy is important because it brings a confident, elegant quality to your dancing. However, if you find yourself dancing with your nose in the air, and a snooty, prissy demeanor, you might be overdoing the kitty. (I think of this as haughty dancer syndrome.) Or maybe you’re bringing more of a “bunny” energy: staring at the floor in terror, avoiding the audience, and franticly jumping from move to move.

Either Way, The Cure is More “Puppy”

As I mentioned when we discussed kitty energy, my friend Lilya visualized herself as a labrador puppy when she performed. She did it for good reason: puppies are friendly, energetic, and appealing. And those are important qualities for an entertainer.

Why Do Entertainers Need Puppy Energy?

As entertainers, our job is to make the audience glad they came. Puppy energy helps you do your job by making your audience feel welcome, and setting an upbeat, light-hearted tone for your performance. At party & restaurant gigs, this means getting the audience into the party spirit. At a more formal stage show, it helps break the ice, and get the audience involved. Nothing is more frustrating than dancing for an audience that thinks they should sit quietly and hold their applause until the end!

How Do I Get Puppy Energy?

To bring some puppy energy to your dance, observe a dog. (Ideally, a tiny energetic puppy.)

Mark Your Territory
When a puppy enters a new place, they immediately explore the entire space. They sniff for signs of other dogs, and then mark their territory. We can do the same thing (minus the fire hydrant) by circling the stage once or twice at the beginning of the show.

Sniff Everybody

In a room full of people, a dog will inevitably sniff each person in greeting. You can do the same: at some point during your show, visit each section of the audience. You don’t have to go among the tables, although that can be nice too. Just go downstage left, and focus your attention on the left side of the audience for a while. Then, at some point during your show, do the same thing downstage center, and downstage right. Just try to give equal time to each section, so nobody feels left out.

Get Personal

The other thing puppies do is get personal: they’ll come up to you, wag their tail, and maybe also jump up and lick your face. Obviously you shouldn’t lick your audience, but you can single someone out. Singling out one person adds a personal touch to the performance that actually makes everyone else feel included.

Choose a member of the audience. stand near them (two arms’ lengths is plenty), make eye contact, and smile at them as you dance. At some point during your show, do it again, with someone in a different part of the room.

Don’t be a crotch-sniffer!

It’s good to get personal, but not too personal. A wagging tail is adorable, but when a puppy tries to sniff your crotch, it’s embarrassing and intrusive. So don’t single out someone who may not want to participate. It’s safest to choose a target who is obviously receptive (dancing in their seat, clapping along, beaming), or someone who relaxes and opens up as soon as you smile at them.

But I’m Shy!

The great thing about the puppy persona is that it gives you permission to be friendly & outgoing, even if you are shy. You may not be the kind of person who goes up to a stranger and smiles, but you’re not you - you’re the puppy. And once you let go and let the puppy take over, you’ll tap into a great source of performance energy. Nothing boosts your confidence like making someone smile.


If you’re suffering from haughty dancer syndrome or stage fright, the cure is to bring more puppy energy into your dancing. The puppy’s friendliness and energy is critical for an entertainer, since it makes the audience feel welcome and sets the party mood. To bring puppy energy to your dance, mark your territory, visit the different areas of the audience, and single out individual people. Avoid being a crotch-sniffer by choosing people who want to participate. If you think you’re too shy, remember that it’s not you getting personal: it’s the puppy.

Next Steps

Make a mix of your favorite entrance songs. Practice marking your territory. Identify good places in the music to visit different sections of the audience, or to single someone out. (There’s no right answer: this is purely a matter of personal style.)

Master this, and your audience will wish they had tails to wag.

To see some puppy energy in action, check out this video from Britain's Got Talent. The dancing is nothing special, but the energy grabs you. (The good stuff starts about a minute in.)

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