By Denise van Es, Head of HCA Dance Department

“What Can I Do To Improve or Progress In My Dance Classes?”

I often receive this question from very passionate dancers who are looking to improve their skills and advance in their classes. Here are a few pointers to help with the process!

Keep A Dance Journal: By keeping a journal or notebook handy each class, you can write down corrections, exercises, or even just little hints the teacher gives to help with particular movements. I have found that the use of a journal in my classes really helps the material sink in and allows students to take ownership of their dance education.

Listen to EVERY Correction: The teacher is a vessel of knowledge, not only for individual students, but also for the class as a whole. If the instructor corrects one student on a particular movement or skill, apply that same correction to yourself, even if it’s not directed at you. This can really help you to engage your body and mind in the class, and allows for stronger self-assessment.

Be Your Own Teacher: You notice your teacher repeating the same correction over and over again. It’s starting to sound like a broken record! Assess yourself. Take a look in the mirror at the movement and check to see if you have applied the correction to yourself. Watch how the teacher performs the movement and ask yourself, “Do I look similar to my teacher?”

Note: Your teacher does notice when you improve, so keep at it! The more you practice and work on it, the more improvements will happen, and the less you will hear that broken record!

Film Yourself: With the age of technology upon us, it is super easy to access a camera and film ourselves. Record yourself performing the movement you were corrected on in class. Watch the video and see if you fixed that particular correction. Seeing ourselves moving is the quickest way to know if we applied the knowledge or not. Most dancers are very visual creatures and we take our cues from what we see. Filming yourself is a fabulous way to help yourself improve much more efficiently.

Practice, Persistence, Progress: The 3 P’s! It is said our body needs to repeat movements 10,000 times in order for our muscle memory to kick in. By practicing with persistence, we encourage our bodies to recall movements and the corrections. We begin to develop maps and pathways in our brains that connect the brain to the body. Over time, over years, our body begins to remember how to do things on its own, so we can focus on more detail-oriented corrections. Yes, at times, frustrations and obstacles will arise, but never give up! These are completely normal feelings to have, and when you work through them, the accomplishment at the end will seem that much more rewarding.

Review Before Bed and Get Proper Rest: By reviewing the material in your head before you go to sleep, it allows our brains to process the material while we are in a deep slumber. If you couldn’t get a step or sequence that night in class, go through it in your head before laying down for a long rest. Once you wake up, you may notice the movement is easier or that your body is now able to apply the knowledge. Rest is everything. Practicing every day is fantastic and highly recommended, but burning yourself out won’t help anyone. Get proper sleep, eat the proper foods for refuel, and make sure to get some down time with family! Your family’s support along with proper rest will allow your brain to de-stress and work through the little details of your dance classes.

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