Congratulations dancers, teachers/coaches and dance parents on another year done and dusted! Competitions, performances and just week to week classes – we are all SO ready for this break!
Heading back into the studio after 6 weeks off can be a little daunting though, especially if you have spent the whole time in holiday mode. Muscles feel squishy, or brains are a little foggy, and many of us take a few weeks before we are back in the swing of things.
So how can we make sure we walk into the studio ready to smash 2018 right from day 1? Check out the tips below which will keep you in shape… without interrupting your holiday and chill out time!
Come on guys. Just do it. You already know what that first week back is like, and you don’t want a week of barely being able to walk! People always seem to think stretching will be time consuming but its truly not! Set aside just 10 min per day just to maintain where you currently are. Even if you don’t increase flexibility over the break, you have worked too hard all year to lose it now! So its just about keeping what you have! If you spent all year planting flowers and getting a garden to grow, you wouldn’t just let it die over the holidays would you? Not when all you need to do is take a few minutes to water it each day. Your body is the same!
A tip? When watching a TV show just stretch in the ad breaks! Stretch when you are on your phone, or when you are relaxing by the pool, or when winding down before bed.
The key? Even if it’s not for long, you do need to do it every day. Other wise there is no point. It’s like only flossing the night before you go to the dentist: Trust me if you leave it til the night before, the professionals can always tell.
This is easier than it sounds. You don’t need to be going to a gym or going crazy, just stay moving wherever you can. Play backyard sports with friends and family, go bushwalking, bike riding, swimming. Why not organise a fun day with your friends and have relay races or team fitness games in your local park? This is not working out instead of having fun. It’s just keeping active while you’re having fun! There are plenty of ways to stay moving without it being a chore. In Australia we have daylight savings now which is awesome for evening walks. Again you don’t need to push yourself or try to become more fit; this is about maintaining all the fitness you have gained over the year in class. After an awesome year of getting stronger and stronger, you don’t want it all to be a waste just because you spent the holidays being a couch potato! In that first lesson back, coaches always know who stayed active during the break. And if it wasn’t you, you will be able to tell the difference too – and not in a good way!
Wherever/whenever you can! Go to holiday clinics/classes/open gym. If your coach offers holiday privates, try to book in. You may even be able to share with a friends to keep the cost down. Some gym’s have dance style group fitness classes like ‘Body Jam’ that are fun for something different. If you aren’t able to take any classes in the holidays? Get your friends together for a dance day! Stretch and practice skills together, you can even choreograph your own routines together! Even if you can’t get together with your friends, get your earphones in and dance around your room – even that counts! If it is keeping your body dancing and keeping you in the dance frame of mind (thinking about technique or at least creating/remembering combos), it will make you that little bit less rusty when you come back, and that’s definitely a good thing!
Goal-setting is SO valuable! The most simple way to do it is to write a list. Keep it short and very clear. Exactly what do you want to achieve? These goals are 100% up to you, no one else needs to know and they don’t need to be the same as anyone else’s. Split your list into short and long term. What do you want to achieve by the end of Term 1? And what do you want to achieve by the end of the year?
Examples of good goals:
- Get my back hand spring (any skills like a tumbling skill or a specific leap or pirouette is a very clear goal)
- Improve my balance in my pirouettes (not just your balance – be as specific as you can. On what skill? Why?)
- Improve my fitness and stamina (pick one area to work on like: fitness, flexibility, strength, balance, turnout etc.)
- Be more outspoken in class (Or maybe yours is to not talk so much in class! Goals don’t all have to be physical, they can be about you as a person. Maybe you want to make an effort to talk to more people in your class, include more people not just your best friends, be a better role model to the younger students, or to be more organised so you don’t always forget your tap shoes this year. All of these things are awesome goals too!)
Put this list in your diary/planner or on the wall of your room, somewhere you can see it often so you will keep the goals in mind and hold yourself accountable. Starting your year with very clear intentions will make a world of difference to your focus. The next step is to make an action plan for each goal. A goal is great but what are you going to do to achieve it?? If you are stuck, chat wih your coach/teacher about your goal and see what their advice is. They can help you with tips for during class and at home.
(Shameless plug: To step your goal-setting game up a notch, you can purchase a custom Athlete Progress Journal, please contact me through Letters from A Dance Coach on facebook to order)
Holiday – in moderation!
Holidays are a time when the rules can relax a little. Bed time is not so strict, healthy eating is definitely not so strict (especially around christmas time!) and we get to enjoy plenty of laziness and treating ourselves without training, homework or school to worry about. ENJOY all the things that come with holidays, you have earnt it! But the magic word: MODERATION!!
OF COURSE on christmas day you can eat lollies and a big feast and gingerbread and ice cream – it’s christmas! But maybe we don’t eat that much every day. Maybe little treats here and there are still fun. Of course you have earned your chill out time to relax! But maybe sitting down on your ipad every day is not the best way to look after your awesome healthy body. No school to wake up early for? Of course you can stay up later and watch movies with your friends, but maybe not every night or you will end up too tired and your body clock will be crazy!
It comes down to looking after yourself, and being kind to yourself. It might seem great to be lazy, stay inside on the couch, stay up late, never drink water, and have lollies for lunch every day BUT if it is making your brain and body tired, lazy and out of shape that is not being kind to the amazing body that you have. You will regret it in February when you are puffed out just from climbing the stairs to the studio, before class has even started!
Remember: EVERYTHING IN MODERATION – this really means everything, even your exercise and stretching! So this holidays, have fun, relax and treat yourself, but make sure give your body some love when you can too – you will be very glad you did!
Happy New Year and THANK YOU for reading my first few blog posts! See you all again when Term 1 begins!
Congratulations! If you are reading this, it might be because you think your coach/instructor/teacher is “picking on you”. Do you feel like you are always being corrected, or like your coach calls your name allllll the time in class, or that they are on your back every lesson? They probably are. And here’s a quick breakdown of why its actually a positive thing.
1. You are capable!
Your coach will simply not waste their time and energy telling you over and over to do something if they know you can’t do it. Trust me. If you are being corrected or told to do a particular thing it’s because your coach knows that you can physically do it! Dance and cheerleading are not sports for dummies. You really do need to be intelligent to do well. Hearing a correction /note and having the ability to make your body do what it is being asked to do is not easy, and it is not a skill everyone has! Complex notes are given to the students who are smart enough to put them into action. If we see something that’s not quite right but we know it is the absolute best you can do, or that you aren’t physically or mentally up to doing better than that, you won’t be called out. It’s as simple as that.
Your teacher can also get annoyed and frustrated (and yes, a little loud) when they see potential in you and know that you are capable of doing better. One of the most frustrating things for a coach in any sport is trying to help an athlete who is not reaching the potential they have! If you are being corrected it’s because we know you can do better! So take the corrections and notes as a positive that your teacher sees potential, intelligence, and capability in you!
2. You are NOT the dancer next to you.
Another reminder of the cheezy saying “Everyone is different” But it is TRUE! You are not the dancer standing next to you. The best coaches of any sport know this, and are able to not only coach a whole team at once, but address and teach each individual in the way that suits their needs. One dancer might get a lot of positivity and ‘coddling’ while her friend gets a stricter, more hard lined approach. Particularly in younger teams this is common as teachers know which approach gets the best out out each student.
So, let’s look at an example. You are leaping from the corner and the first dancer is not perfect but the teacher simply says “good job Sally!” Then you take your turn and give much more technically correct leaps – yet instead of “good job”you hear “Longer back leg Suzie!! Softer hands!!!” HUH!? Why are you corrected and not Sally??
Do not. Worry. About Sally. Because you are not the same as her. She is doing her thing and you are doing yours, it does not matter if you are ‘better’ than another dancer or if you are ‘worse’. Your notes don’t come from comparing you to the others, they are notes for you. Just for you. This lesson will serve you well throughout the rest of your dance career – and life!
3. Your teacher cares.
Mushy ending point, but again, it’s true! You know this. If we didn’t care about you, your future, about you reaching your potential or feeling rewarded and proud of yourself – we would not persist. And when we get frustrated or raise our voices or get emotional, it is because we care! You won’t get much of a reaction from someone who just wants to have a nice night, get paid, and who doesn’t really mind whether you improve or not.
Please remember how much you as an individual person are valued by your coach. We spend a loooot of time working with you, tracking your growth, thinking about the best ways to teach you and how to bring out the best in you, strengthening you flaws and celebrating your improvements with you. We talk about you to your other teachers, we get to know your personality and what makes you tick. We go home after class and wonder what else we could do to help you. Yes, specifically YOU! Please don’t forget how much you mean to your teacher or coach, and try to take that cranky correction or frustrated note as the display of love it really is.
Food for thought:
Are you coming to class to have someone sit and watch you dance? Or are you being coached? A class where your name is not mentioned at all, is not a good class. Whether it is a positive comment or a constructive one (or in a really great class, it will be a mix of both types of comments) your teacher is paying attention to you. They aren’t zoning out wondering what to cook for dinner when they get home. They are actively watching you and are engaged with what you’re doing. When you think of it this way, maybe you do have a pretty great coach after all.
A last note on negativity:
In this blog post use the term “picking on” because it is something young athletes say. “Miss Such-and-such picks on me” refers to the teacher always calling them out or correcting them. Comments from a teacher can get absolutely loud or passionate when we are frustrated, and yes we do yell (either to be heard over to music or just to get a response from you; we keep the energy way up high as much as possible!) and I won’t pretend that we don’t get fired up from time to time. HOWEVER corrections should never be mean-spirited or insulting. All dancers/athletes need a thick skin as they are constantly being corrected. Corrected. Bullying is different. Please make sure you know the difference and know what the intention is behind your coach’s comments. Is the intention to help you improve? Or is it to make you feel bad? If you feel like you are being bullied by anyone, a classmate, friend – or even a teacher – that is never OK and you need to speak to a parent or another teacher about it.
SO! Next time you’re in the studio, listen to the comments being made by your teacher or coach. Appreciate the intention behind the comment. And do you best to put it into action! Your coach already knows you can.
Every dancer is a work in progress and we will never be perfect, no matter how hard we try. We all work hard to keep improving – but did you know that there are things you can do at your next class that will give you instant results and fast track your improvement?! Take a look at these 5 points, and challenge yourself to give them a try.
1. Be prepared.
Ballet class? Have your leotard and tights on, hair in a bun. Tap? Have your tap shoes in your bag. Forgetting something not stops you from being able to work to your full capacity, you can’t dance full out when hair is in your eyes or you don’t have the right shoes. Being appropriately dressed does a lot for your frame of mind, many of you will know what I mean when I say that when you are in your baggy clothes you just feel more ready for hip hop. Tights and a leotard will instantly snap you into work mode and make you feel ready for ballet. Aside from this, being unprepared it also tells your teacher and the rest of the team that getting ready for class wasn’t a priority for you. Everyone is busy or comes straight from school. Being prepared shows your teacher and team that this class is important to you and you are here to give it your full attention. And that is exactly what you’ll do! When there is nothing stopping you, you will have a much more productive class.
2. Use your Mirrors!
Most studios (unless you hire a hall or similar) have mirrors*. This may come as a shock but they are not just there for you to check your hair in! It is amazing how we become so accustomed to having a huge wall of mirrors that we forget to actually utilise them! Check the mirror at all times.
- Learning new choreography? Use your mirrors. Do you look the same as your choreographer right down to the angle of the hand and the tilt of the head?
- Cleaning your routine? Use your mirrors. It will halve the time this takes. Who looks different? Are you bending as low as the person in front of you? Is your chest on the same angle as the person beside you?
- Technique class? USE YOUR MIRRORS. When the coach talks about pushing your shoulders down you need to literally look at your body in the mirror and see yourself doing this for it to sink into your brain and body.
SO many dancers don’t use their biggest tool!
*If you don’t have a mirror where you train you need to hone your attention to detail. Really listen and look at the choreographer, strive to mimic his/her body shape, and resist letting moves evolve from the original choreography to fit your style unless you are asked to.
3. Stretch at home!
You have heard this before! I know you have! There is not a coach/teacher on this planet who would not advise you to stretch at home. Just do it. Stretching does not need to be a huge time commitment, sit in second position while doing homework, sit in the splits while watching TV. You will make time if it is important to you, and it should be. We all stretch in class but it is simply not enough, your muscles need to stretch every day for you to see improvement. If you are a base in cheerleading and are lifting with your legs for a few hours a week, you need to stretch double!
Of course, you don’t have to stretch at home, but you will notice those who do, slowly creeping past and overtaking you in class.
4. Know when to STOP talking.
Hint: It’s as soon as you walk through the door.
The talking/laughing rule is my most flexible because we all want our studio to be a place where we have fun. Part of why you go to your particular dance school is because your friends are there. Socialising is a huge part of dance and successful teams are those with a strong bond, who love and support each other. All coaches love teaching students who have fun and enjoy each other’s company, and it is a blessing having girls in class who love to have fun together… BUT there is a time and a place. When your teacher is speaking, you are not. Ever.
Knowing when chat time is over is very important, above all it shows respect for your teacher. When you get older some of you might move into teaching or choreography yourself, and you will learn very quickly that the feeling is being disrespected by someone not listening to what you are teaching is not a nice feeling at all. Your dance teacher never talks for the sake of it – they are telling you something you need to know.
This includes when someone else is taking their turn or is being corrected. When the teacher’s attention is on someone else that is NOT your time to talk – it is your time to listen and learn. If Suzie has just done kicks from the corner and been told to point her toes, I should not see you taking your turn and executing kicks without pointing your toes! To your teacher, it shows that you are not paying attention. If you were listening you would have already heard and applied that correction. A correction for one is a correction for all.
5. Say YES
When the teacher needs someone to do a highlighted skill or a featured solo? Put your hand up! When he/she asks for someone to do a specific leap or trick? Step forward!
If you volunteer and don’t get chosen, you have lost absolutely nothing! But there is plenty to be gained if you do get chosen, so it’s worth putting yourself out there. If your coach or teacher asks you “Can you do (insert skill here)” Say yes. Own it! You have worked hard to be able to pull that skill so there is no shame in having confidence and saying “yes I can”. If you can not do what is being asked, the best answer is “that’s not my best skill but I will work on it” – never ever just say no. Show that you are willing to try! It’s all about attitude.
By the same token, if your coach wants you to try something new, say YES. You might arrive to class to be told you are learning something completely new today: embrace it! No coach will ever ask you to do something dangerous or something they know is beyond your capability. It may be a challenge, you may fail the first 2 or 20 times but it is not completely beyond you. Dive into it and give it your all. PLEASE remember, class is exactly that: class. You are allowed to fail, fall over, look bad. But you must try. Your teacher is there to guide you through the process. If he/she is asking you to try something new, it is because you are capable of doing it! There is nothing more frustrating to a coach than a dancer who says “no” or (God forbid) “I can’t” – we know you can and we just want you to reach your potential! A YES attitude is the first step, and it will take you a long way, in the studio and in LIFE.
Bonus points: The “No Mark-Throughs Challenge”
Yup. It’s exactly what it sounds like. NO mark-throughs, even when the teacher says you can take it easy.
In this challenge, marking is not even allowed when learning new choreography! This is a challenge for most people, we don’t want to go full out until we know the combo properly, I get it. However, marking will not only stop you from learning it correctly, it will actually make you take longer to learn the steps!
This is a challenge you set for yourself, no one else needs to even know about it. Can you go a whole week NEVER marking through a routine or combo? Can you go a whole month? A whole term??
Here’s what happens as a result of setting this challenge for yourself:
- Your coach will LOVE you. Trust me.
- You will inspire others around you. Others will feel you dancing full out next to them and automatically try to keep up.
- You will improve DOUBLE as fast – trust me.
- You will look better on stage: the way you practice is the way you perform. EVERY run of the routine counts.
- Your stamina and fitness will improve straight away!
- You will train your brain learn new choreography faster and more easily.
SO! As a coach I now put it out there to YOU the dancer. Implement these points in class.
Every one of them.
Watch what happens.
You will be glad you did.
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock and Alamy
Hi Dance friends and family! So much for my goal of fortnightly posts, I am already a day late on this one! The last 2 weeks have flown by. I had a post prepared ready to go for this week’s entry, but after a huge 3 day competition this past weekend I decided to write down a few thoughts I was left mulling over instead.
Dance teachers are just that: teachers. We do our job primarily in the studio, but we are also coaching and teaching our students during their competition. Children in particular take something out of every experience and never stop learning. So here are a few of the valuable things (written for both dancers, coaches, and parents) still soaking into our little human sponges during comp time.
Self (and coach) performance evaluation.
Yes, coaches do tell the kids when they did something wrong on stage. No, we don’t just tell them that as long as they had fun that’s all that matters. This is because that attitude of “close enough is good enough” does not do any justice to the dancers themselves. Telling you you’re great when you are, and that you’re not when you’re not, is what the hard working dance student deserves to hear.
When the dancers really do a great job, we of course celebrate and make them feel as good about themselves as possible, which they absolutely deserve – but how will they get to enjoy these moments if we are just always telling them how amazing they are?
A great thing about most All Star comps is that you get to watch an instant video replay of the performance after you come off stage, which is an extremely valuable coaching tool. The kids have just come off the floor so the performance is fresh in their minds. To have a visual tool they can then compare with what they felt they did (as opposed to what it actually looked like) means we can take them through a play-by-play of the routine, so generally the dancers will watch the video with the coach speaking over the top of it giving running commentary. They know to keep an eye on themselves as well as the overall picture, and to make mental notes of what they thought was good and what they would like to improve on next time. Our dancers are usually right on the money and know where they can improve, self correcting is a skill you continue to hone as you develop as a dancer and smart dancers are often able to do it without much prompting. Coach commentary is always a mixture of both negatives and positives, as they happen. Its usually simply “Sally that supporting leg” ( or even just a quiet “Sallyyyy” is enough – Sally knows.) and then we are straight onto “great timing guys!” literally on the next beat.
The dancers who can connect the coaches correction with what they see on the video or in the mirror in class and can apply the note quickly are the ones who progress the fastest.
Yes, we do call out individuals both in class and at competitions. We are never nasty or personal with the correction (I promise, no teacher is ever yelling “point your toes” just because they hate you!) but we will mention the dancer by name. Dancers, when you are on a team accountability is so important, and it is a tough life lesson to learn. It is something that carries over into your adult life though and makes for a strong young adult. In cheer for example, your whole team can drop from first place to fourth simply because one person landed their tumbling badly (among many other things) and she every other member has done their job correctly, the disappointing result is literally because of that one person. No pressure.
The lesson? Own it. Grow from it. Apologise to the team if its really that bad. Move on. And the rest of the team? Accept it graciously. Learn from the mistake as if it was your own (because if it hasn’t already been you, it will be some day!). Forgive. Move on.
At every dance school ever, parents will every now and then raise concern about coaches “singling out” their child or correcting them “in front of everyone”. If this is happening to you/your child (which it is, because it happens to them all!) trust me it is not a negative thing. You grow a thick skin, and even better, you very quickly stop making that mistake. Out there on the dance floor you can’t blame anyone else. We know that you do your best every single time because of this! In your post-dance adult life wherever you find yourself living and working, you will be able to quickly identify your own mistakes, own them without the need to throw anyone else under the bus, and correct yourself swiftly. Accountability is a tough one to get the hang of, but so important.
… but not getting in “Trouble”.
Very rarely in a dance class or at a competition does a dancer actually “get in trouble”. They are spoken to if they did something wrong. They are corrected. Our voices get more forceful the more times you make that same mistake. But as long as you are trying your hardest and giving 100% then no matter what goes wrong, you are not in trouble. Half the time a little pair of eyes will dart straight to the coach when something isn’t executed well, and the facial expression we give back is all the dancer needs! Dancers please remember, if you’re being corrected it is because your coach/teacher cares. If we thought you weren’t worth it we wouldn’t bother!
Supporting your team.
Another one that flows on into other aspects of your life. A good team player is a good member of staff, team leader, business manager. This means everything from congratulating the member who performed well, to psyching everyone up backstage and staying positive, to supporting the person who didn’t give their best performance. Sometimes you come off stage knowing you crushed it, only to realise you have been let down by someone else not performing quite as well. How does a good team member respond to this? With strength and positivity towards all team members. Helping them recover for the next performance. Realising that all ups and downs are shared as a team. Remember, YOU as the dancer create the team you want to be in. The phrase “your vibe attracts your tribe” is true. Set the tone of support, positivity and encouragement and you will be pleasantly rewarded with how the day pans out.
Dealing with disappointment.
Sportsmanship is something all coaches of all sports teach their kids. You clap for everyone and remain professional at awards presentations even when you don’t get the desired result. You never ever carry on like a sore loser. No one wants to see a tantrum because you performed badly, or because you thought you would win and didn’t. HOWEVER. Disappointment is part of the game, and if you are upset with your performance or the result, it is because you care. This is a good thing! When something goes wrong, it doesn’t pay for coaches and parents to say “it doesn’t matter”.
It does matter.
To say “don’t worry about it” or “it doesn’t matter” diminishes the hours of hard work you have put in, the dedication and passion you have, and the effort that went into the performance. It does matter.
Instead we can say “Next time it will be better” “We will keep working on it” or if it was a one off, encourage the dancer to focus on the positives of the performance. The coach can broach the subject again at the next training session. A disappointed dancer is not always a bad thing. A disappointed dancer is usually a goal-setting, hard working, passionate dancer.
The art of moving on.
Important both in class and on a competition day. Take the criticism or correction seriously, and acknowledge the mistake BUT : Do not get worked up (no tears!). Do not dwell.
Dancers, if you are upset with yourself or have made a mistake, acknowledge it and make a mental note to look at it at your next class. Then erase it from your mind. The last thing your team needs is a dancer who is still in a negative frame of mind for the next performances – all that will happen is your performances will steadily get worse and worse!
Just think: “Yep that was disappointing – I know why that happened/didn’t happen – OK let’s nail this next one!”
That attitude will make a world of difference.
Same goes when you are corrected in class. Taking it personally or taking on a negative attitude will create a mental block for the rest of the class. Take the criticism, apply it, and off you go. Chances are the next thing your coach will say to you is “Great job!” and you can both move on and keep working.
The takeaways: take every opportunity to self-improve. Trust your coach. Give 110% ever single time. Acknowledge and correct, then move on.
Thank you for reading another little note from my brain! Please feel free to leave messages and comments, and share this post with your dancer, dance coach or dance parent. Enjoy the rest of your comp season! xx