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.
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