Dance is a whole body experience. When we dance, we engage our bodies, our minds and our souls. Not only is dance a physical activity requiring strength, flexibility, and stamina, but it also requires mental toughness, intelligence, social awareness and emotional balance.
Dancers take a lot of classes involving extensive use of their bodies; stretching, strengthening and generally pushing themselves to the limit physically. It’s important to know how hard to push, when to back away, when to go harder, when to stop. This involves really listening to your body and taking in all of the information needed to know what to do next.
Alignment is the first aspect to consider. Dancers are consistently given alignment feedback from teachers, but really listening to this feedback, asking questions if an issue isn’t understood and requesting further assistance may be necessary in order to truly understand correct alignment. Dancers should start to listen to cues from instructors and take corrections to heart whether they are given personally to them or as a general class correction.
Next, dancers should recognize their own strengths and weaknesses and own them. Be proud of beautiful strong and flexible feet, ease of rotation, good balance, flexibility, strong legs for jumping, etc. But also acknowledge tight hips, overdeveloped quads, tight calves, and stiff shoulders. Take note and work to correct habits that cause weaknesses and instability. Dancers need to realize their potential to overcome the aspects that they see as holding them back and not dwell on them, but rather come up with solutions.
Lastly, a positive attitude about oneself, the class, technique, the instructor, classmates and all that is involved in being a dancer is very important. Dancers should ask themselves if their thoughts are supporting their goals as a dancer, using images and sensations of where they want to be and how they want to dance combined with positive expectations and emotions. Everyone has difficult days where coming to dance class is difficult and putting forth all of the effort to take a class fully seems impossible, but concentrating on goals to achieve in dance can help a dancer to focus and possibly even overcome problems outside the studio.
I’ll finish with a quote by Walter Sorell in his book titled, “Dance Has Many Faces.”
“The dancer spends his life learning, because he finds the process of dance to be, like life, continually in process. That is, the effort of controlling the body is not learned and then ignored as something safely learned, but must go on, as breathing does, renewing daily, the old experiences and daily finding new ones."