"So You Think You Can Dance" Season 12 winner (and Season 14 All Star winner!) Gaby Diaz is a dance powerhouse. She can perform at a crazy-high level in seemingly any style, from tap to jazz to contemporary to hip hop. Want to improve your own dance versatility? Diaz took a break from Shaping Sound rehearsals to give us her top 10 tips for doing so.
Have an Open Mind
Don't be a slave to dance trends. Be willing to give anything a try. "The styles you see on Instagram might be what you think of as popular, but there are a ton of great styles and great teachers out there, so keep an open mind," Diaz says.
Take a Lot of Classes
This one's a no-brainer: If you want to become a versatile dancer, you have to "take as many classes in as many different styles as you can," Diaz says.
Find Your Own Groove
"Be true to yourself in every class you're in," Diaz says. "I was always really self-conscious in ballet classes because I didn't necessarily look like the ballerina type. As soon as I just accepted who I was in that class, I found it to be a lot more enjoyable."
Don't Compare Yourself to Others
When you're working in an unfamiliar style, others in your class will probably be more advanced than you are—but don't let that bring you down! ""Be inspired by the people around you, instead of tearing yourself apart thinking you aren't what they are," Diaz says.
Find a New Spot in the Room
"I used to be obsessive about my spot at the ballet barre, and I kind of found that I was reliving the same ballet class over and over again when I stood there," Diaz says. "Find a new spot in the room! It might bring a new energy to your dancing."
Instead of spending hours watching your favorite contemporary dancers on Instagram, research styles that are new to you. "I can have a love-hate relationship with the internet, but it's definitely a great tool to be able to explore a lot of different types of dance," Diaz says.
Find Multiple Role Models
It's important not only to have a versatile role model like Diaz, but also to find role models in each style of dance. "I like to play the 'Who Was Their Teacher?' game," Diaz says. "If I meet a dancer I really love, I ask who their teacher was, and then I research their teacher, and follow the chain."
Give Every Class Your All
Don't ever give less than 100 percent—especially in classes that aren't your strong suit. "It's one thing to physically show up to class, but throw yourself into it just as you would with a style you know and are comfortable with," Diaz says.
Don't Get Frustrated
"You don't have to have everything perfect in your first class," Diaz says. "The point of class is to be able to learn over a period of time. Be OK with feeling uncomfortable, because that's how you grow."
Just Have Fun
No matter how challenging learning multiple styles can be, remember to have a good time. "Always do it for the love of it," Diaz says. "Just have fun!"