Accelerate Your Progress in Dance

YOU have the ability to accelerate your/your childs’ progress in dance!    Generally when students hear this they are a bit surprised– but its true, your actions and thoughts have a direct impact on your progress.  Just as selected the best foods will give you the fuel you need to get through your long day, you can fuel your progress by following a few simple steps.

 “How can I maximize the impact of my actions & thoughts on my progress?”

 

The power of positive thinking.

Your perception of yourself in dance (& life) will impact your performance whether you dance simply because you love it or because you want to pursue a career in performance, choreography, or teaching.  Keeping a positive mindset in class will foster your ability to absorb information and corrections both mentally and physically.  Receiving constructive criticism from your teachers becomes easier when you start with a positive outlook on both yourself, and your dancing.

 What can you do when you have those moments in class when you feel discouraged and negative?

    • Take a deep breath and remember why you love to dance.
    • Do something to ‘change the channel’ – get a sip of water and tell yourself “I can do this”.
    • Remind yourself that dance is a process – your teacher is challenging you because he/she believes that you can do it!

Keep a dance journal.

Taking a moment after class (or during if your teacher allows) to write down the corrections your received, how you felt about the class, and even the exercises that were taught in the class, will help you to retain the information you received.

    •  3 positives:  Simply by writing down 3 positive things that happened in class will help you to keep a positive focus.
    •  3 corrections:  Recording 3 corrections to work on will help you to keep a positive focus where you need to focus your energy during class.
    • 3 points of gratitude:   While you are at it you may as well include 3 things/moments that occurred that day which gave you joy/made you happy.   Keeping track of the things/moments you are grateful for will help you to stay focused on the positives throughout life.  Eg.  A sunny morning,  a hug from mom/dad/sibling, a good day at school.

 Be sure to keep your journal with you and read it through (2 or 3 times would be great) before the next class.  This will remind you of the positives and of where you need to focus your attention throughout your classwork.

 

Preparation will fuel your progress.

This is a simple one, but can be hard to follow through with when life gets busy.  When you journal you are in a sense preparing your mind, this particular preparation will help you prepare your physical self for dance.

    • Prepare your dance bag before you go to bed – make sure you have the appropriate gear, your shoes are ready for dance, water bottle, snacks are packed and ready.

TIP:  Set a reminder with an alert tone/sound on your phone to remind you to prepare you dance gear the evening before a day of dance!

    • You have arrived early for class – take a few minutes to warm up.  Jumping jacks, jog on the spot, jog the stairs (something active to increase your heart rate), and then do a few light stretches (not for flexibility) such as downward dog and a back stretch (cat/cow is great) to increase blood flow to the muscles.

OR

    • You have arrived late for class – just 5 minutes until class begins!   If you can, still take a couple of minutes to do some light stretches before diving into class.  Take a few deep breaths to calm yourself and, while you are at it, have a quick glance  at your journal notes from last class to focus your mind on dance.

 

Parents:    How does this translate to younger students?

 

Positive thinking – Encourage your child to speak about dance in a positive manner.  Even when a child experiences challenges in dance, whether its behavior or technique, let them know that there are positive results to learning how to deal with such challenges.

 

Journaling – Maybe there is something that the teacher focuses on regularly  (eg. Posture) in class.  Ask your child to draw a picture of this and explain it to you.   Or, as you drive home from dance ask your dancer “what was one good thing that happened in dance today?”   “What was one thing you teacher wants you to work on in dance this week?”

 

Preparation – Have your dancer help prepare their dance bag the night before dance.  Lay out their dance clothes and pack their shoes.  Ensure that a water bottle has been packed, and if he/she takes more than one class in a day – pack a quick, energy snack for between classes.

NOTE:  Being on time for class makes a huge impact on a students’ focus, particularly when tardiness is consistent.

 

 

Teachers:  How do we teach this to students and parents?

As you already know, the role of a dance teacher is to educate both the students, and the parents.   On your parents’ day/open house/observation week, take the time to talk to parents about ways students and parents can impact progress in a studio setting.   If you have worked on any of this in class – let them know this as well.

Though this might take a few minutes of your class, your students will reap the rewards in the coming months (and parents will appreciate the proactive direction!).

Some suggestions to help spread the word to parents:

Create a poster and place it in an area where parents and students will see it.

Post something on your schools’ website or Facebook page.

Create a handout for parents’ day.

Author:  Jacqui Davidson

Teaching the Adult Dancer…

Photo www.saltcreekballet.wordpress.com.

Turning our attention towards the adult dancer, whether beginner or advanced students, let’s focus not only on learning and experiencing the art form, but also on developing our body & spatial awareness, and overall fitness.

Teaching adult student can be tricky task whether the teacher is younger than the student, or of a similar age.  Within one class there can be a broad age range – from twenty somethings through seventy (+) somethings, as well as a range of experience and abilities.  Consider the reasons why an individual might begin taking dance as an adult, or might continue dancing into one’s adult life.   Here are a few intentions and desires to be considered:

To continue dancing, for life!

To learn about and appreciate the art form.

To challenge oneself physically (fitness).

For the mental challenge of learning new things and ways of moving.

To experience all aspects of performance:  preparation, rehearsal, and performance.

 In addition to all of the above intentions, having fun and enjoying the process of learning is an important intention as is key to encouraging adult students to continue exploring dance and remaining active in life.

 

“Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance one must keep moving.”  (Albert Einstein)

 

The adult dance class is an opportunity to teach the technique of the art form, as well as facilitate a deeper knowledge of the mechanics of dance, explore what inspires us as individuals, and encourage a healthy focus in dance (& life).  As adults we carry not only the stresses of our day into the class, we also have our insecurities as well.  The adult dance class can be an enjoyable and safe place for adult students to explore their physical and cognitive abilities through dance.

We’ve discussed the importance of the warm-up in the dance class in relationship to youth in dance, now let’s consider why its important for the adult student.

Adult classes generally occur outside of the usual workday schedule – which means either classes occur earlier in the morning or later in the evening   In the morning our muscles and joints can be stiff from inactivity, having been at rest for (hopefully) 7-8 hours, our heart rate has lowered and our bodies have been recovering to homeostatic balance.   For morning classes, taking the time to increase the heart rate gradually  increases blood flow to the muscles and tissues, while gradually moving through the joints warms the (synovial) fluids and tissues of the joints is key.

Any adult who has gone to the gym later in the evening knows that we often carry the weight and tension of our day in our muscles and joints (particularly in the upper body and neck).  We have been working against gravity throughout the day, which can have a negative affect on our posture and alignment.  By the end of the day our muscles are not necessarily ‘ready to move’ and this is perceived as stiffness in our muscles and joints.

In either case, a warm-up which is not heavily focused on technique aids in the awakening (firing) of neuromotor connections, an increase in heart rate, which in turn increases the blood flow to the joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons as well.   A good warm-up also facilitates the mental preparedness of the adult student , energizing and refocusing our thoughts towards the body and its mechanics, and away from the tension and stress of the workday.

The WARM-UP is key to beginning class on an energized and positive note.   For the adult student ‘analysis to paralysis’ is a common issue and can be a de-motivating force.   Incorporating everyday, pedestrian movement that is familiar takes the focus off of perfecting technique, facilitates a quicker physical response and encourages a positive ‘can do’ attitude.   The warm-up should be non-technical, increase the heart rate, and incorporate gentle, dynamic stretches to foster pliability of the muscles and lubrication of the joints. Elements from yoga (love downward dog) and pilates (plank!) exercises can be incorporated, as well as those reliable calisthenics that we use in training and workout sessions at the gym.

Keeping the warm-up moderate in length, doing four repetitions of the warm-up provides ample time to gradually increase the tempo of the exercise.    If the warm-up begins with walking through the space using different directions, on the third and fourth repetition the walk can progress to a light jog with our without stretched feet.

Generally adult students spatial & body awareness is limited, particular for beginner students.   Incorporating the use of directions and personal space in your warm-up is an easy way to incorporate a cardiovascular element to the class.  Encouraging students to move through the space, keeping a long stride, while making an effort to move through the spaces in-between the other dancers in the room.   Agility and balance can be challenged by encouraging quick changes of direction, and in particular travelling backwards.

Rhythmical elements can be incorporated, and then referenced later in the class in a more technical manner.  For instance if the class focuses on triplets, balances, or big waltz movements across the floor, use a basic walking triplet in your warm-up.   Again, this can progress to a quicker, running triplet as tempo accelerates.   This can be a very effective way to prevent the ‘analysis to paralysis’ epidemic when learning these forms of rhythmical steps.

 

Looking for more specific ideas and progressions?

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Author:  Jacqui Davidson