How to Live “In the Pocket”: A Dance Lesson

Commit to the moment, wherever you are.

Being stuck in bed without access to your usual vices will do a number on you. For me, my surrender to sickness without Facebook or Instagram meant a prolonged chase down the rabbit hole of new subjects.

This weekend, it was dance. I suddenly became very interested in Keone and Mari videos, when I discovered two resources worth mentioning: Building Block Studios, and the STEEZY blog.

Now, if you’re a dancer, your face has probably lit up. But for all us non-dancers, Building Block Studios is a private space run by world-renowned (but locally grown) husband and wife dance duo, Keone and Mari Madrid. What I appreciate about this space is that they really take dancers back to the foundations of their craft—a journey I recommend for any art form. STEEZY blog is an online resource dedicated to all things dance. The two are connected, as STEEZY filmed a visit to Building Block Studios—the “Willy Wonka factory” of dance studios, it’s apparently so hard to get in.

So there I was, laying in bed and reading/watching dance articles and videos from Building Block and STEEZY, when I discovered this article:

What is “THE POCKET” And How Do I “Dance In It”?


dancing in the pocket, via STEEZY blog

Graphic courtesy of STEEZY blog illustrating what it means to dance “in the pocket”.

Now, I’ve taken many a dance class, followed the rise of the commUNITY of dance culture in Southern California, and am truly moved and obsessed with this art form. But I’ve never really paid attention to this term. According to STEEZY, to dance in “the pocket” means your moves are perfectly. on. time. You’re not too slow and not too fast; not rushing or glossing over any move, just to make the next.

Related resourceWatch Keone mentor 14 dance students at Building Block Studios, where he speaks to timing and space relevant to “the pocket” 

Oftentimes when dancers are off-count, it’s because they’re focused on each move as separate entities. They don’t give space—we’ll call it respect—for each perfectly thought-out move or transition, and are ergo either rushed or late. The artists who really excel dance “in the pocket”, giving each move their due respect for the total sum of a superb performance.

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” -Aristotle

What Dance Can Teach Us About Living “In the Pocket”

There is something so magnetic about giving each move, each carefully thought-out transition, due space to breathe. When each dancer pays attention to the pocket in a performance, what you’re left with is a mesmerizing piece of art.

It made me think about the transition phases of life. How is it that we can give due diligence to the pocket in dance but not in life, which—I would argue—is much larger than one performance? We are so occupied with rushing to each mountaintop, we don’t give space for the time it takes to get there.

Keone and Mari Madrid dancing perfectly in sync

Keone and Mari dance in sync, showing that a worthy performance is not in the grandiose, but the details.

Thinking about this in dance terms, living for each mountaintop moment is like filling a number solely with big movement. But great performances often tell a story, and stories are filled with stretches of breathing room to punctuate those explosions of movement. Not to mention, a number filled only with big moves would leave the dancers gasping for air.

If “all the world’s a stage”, perhaps these slower times—these transitory periods—are meant to punctuate those grander moments. And neither is more important than the other; rather, they work in conjunction to create an overall, expansive, enrapturing piece.

If dance demands we pay respect to the pocket—the timing and synchronicity of movement to the melody—perhaps it’s time we pay even more attention to a life lived that way.

Wherever you are in life, whether on a mountaintop or trekking down a slope, I urge you not to take this moment for granted. Breathe in a hard look at your surroundings and the beauty waiting to be seen; breathe out the impatience pushing you to gloss past this scene. Because, one day, you will be past the here and now. What you take from here, will undoubtedly resurface again.

Dance through life. Hit each move with intention, and let your gifts shine. Whether that means seeing loved ones you never made time for before; sinking your toes into new environments; brushing up on new skills you’ve always desired, or more, take advantage of the here and now. Live in the pocket—your present moment—with full-out confidence, knowing that the music will continue… as will your moves.

Cheryl Elizaga BlogHey there! I’m Cheryl Elizaga, but you can call me “Ché”. I’m living in the in-between but choosing joy each day. This post is part of my #100DaysofWriting Challenge, because words are my weapon but consistency, my Achilles’ heel. So join me on this bumpy ride; let’s laugh, let’s talk, and maybe cry… thank you for sticking with me. 

Photo by Nadim Merrikh on Unsplash


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