In all of the years of being a proffesional dancer as well as dancing teacher, I have learnt many things about myself. The biggest challenge I faced was breaking free from my comfort zone. I journeyed to New York to immerse myself in as many classes as I could such as Ballet, Jazz, Heels, Waacking and Vouge. I was amongst the best dancers in the world and felt bad sometimes as I believed I wasn’t as great. I tried to renew and change my mindtset as well as listen to what techniques the teacher taught, even though I felt I couldn’t master it yet. I began to focus on myself and accepted that I was in a process which I tried to enjoy. Feeling the music and rhythm as much as I could and repeating it time and time again was the best thing I have ever done to grow as a dancer, and it’s a never ending process!
1. Show up ready, not unprepared
When you commit to a dancing course to improve your skills and technique, showing up on time and prepared for the class of the evening will help you get focussed before you even get your dancing shoes on. Practicing the previous lesson’s choreography before the new lesson will mean you are ready for the next level as each lesson builds on the last. Be alert, ready to learn and soak up all that your teacher is showing during any given lesson.
2. Dress up to feel good, not up to impress
While seeing individuals and teams perform in extravagant costumes at events and parties may paint a picture of style, polish and professionalism, the studio space is a very relaxed environment when it comes to the way you look as the focus is on learning and mastering the steps of the choreography. It is more about feeling comfortable and good than looking the part. Functionality and freedom of movement of the body are key when it comes to improving yourself in your dancing.
3. Warm up before and cool down after, not jump right into action
The body is a system of many moving parts which need to be all in sync in order to perform a physical task well. Muscles need to be warmed up in order to get the best possible results and because dancing is physically demanding on the body as much as it is the mind, warming up before any form of exercise is always a good idea. The same with cooling down after class as a form of telling the muscles to relax and release tension built up learning new skills.
4. Stand in front, not in the back
Joining a dance program could seem like an impossible task for some people as they fear failing and not succeeding is greater than the will to overcome new challenges and learn new skills. Always make a conscious effort to leave your fears at the door when entering the studio. It should be a place of trust and where people support and push each other to greater achievements. Be bold and stand in front not only to boost confidence, but to be right in front of the action where your teacher will be helping you improve.
5. Stay in the rhythm, not in your head
Thinking too much about anything without action is not productive and hampers the ability to properly learn by practice. Just like you leaving your fears at the door when you walk in, try to leave your mind and all the reasons why you can’t improve and achieve. The easiest way to do this is to stay in the rhythm of the music. Let it guide your mind and not the other way around.
6. Focus on yourself, not others
Many people are concerned about what the people around them are up to as it provides them with a form of comfort that there is always someone there. This does not always have positive effects on you when improving your skills are the goal as focussing on others instead of yourself and the task at hand could mean you do not properly put that precious focus in yourself. Dancers who are seriously focused on improving give themselves priority when in the studio with their teachers as they realize the importance of this focus.
7. Learn the choreography in your muscles, not in your mind
Muscle memory is an amazing motor skill acquired by repetition by any avid person who uses specific exercises to learn choreography in their muscles rather than in their minds so that it can become second nature such as breathing. Seasoned dancers can call upon many if not any specific choreography at any given time within their arsenal of skills as they have learnt the steps and moves in their muscles. This makes for a wide variety in selection which promotes creativity and more to play around with.
8. Ask for guidance if you are unsure, not learn the wrong techniques
You teacher is there to help, guide and push you to a level you never knew existed within yourself. Dancing may be a stunning visual showing to people and audiences around you, but it is about how it makes you feel on the inside that gives it power. Never be ashamed to ask for help as you have left your fears and excuses at the door and realize that it is on no one else, but yourself to succeed.
9. Practice at home, not only at class
Put in the time when no one is watching so that you can show the world what you are made of if it comes down to it. Practice is the key to mastering anything and doing more so than is required of you will only benefit your dancing as well as your confidence so that you can reach the next level. Make the time to practice what you learn in class. It may require sacrifice of other things, but it is necessary to improve your skills and will exponentially do so if followed diligently.
10. Enjoy the process of growth, not the frustration of it happening over night
Improving yourself in your dancing as well as in life takes time. Nothing worth anything happens over night as much as we would like it to. The glory and sense of accomplishment you feel when you focus on the process of growth far outweighs the frustration of it not happening as quickly as you might want. The journey is what makes it worth all the long hours which you sacrifice the most precious commodity you have in life which is time. Never forget that every step you take, you are moving towards improving and being successful. Nothing else matters, but knowing you gave it absolutely everything you had and came out on the other side a stronger, more diverse and confident person than you could have ever been without it.
Let’s inspire each other to be the best we can be!
See you in class!