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“But I know everything already!” – the REAL way to take a dance class

 In Dance Training, Getting the Most Out of Class

Submitted by CCD Student Leilani Montoya

For this article, we asked CCD student Leilani Montoya to give some insight into what makes her a successful student. As pedagogues, we hear from young students that they’ve ‘already learned plié’, and of course…that journey continues until the end of days. I’ve wondered, “how does a young dancer stay motivated before they ‘get’ what the journey is??”  

Have you ever been bored in ballet class? Have you ever thought “I get this correction all the time” or “we have already talked about this before!” If you really think about it, these thoughts will not help you improve your dance technique. Rather than doing this, look at those corrections from a different angle every time. Wipe your thoughts clean and start fresh. By doing this you can think about the correction differently. Oftentimes, when we get a new perspective on our technique, we can find easier ways to interpret those corrections. Instead of waiting for a new teacher to give you a different way of thinking about things, try discovering them yourself! 

Remember, you are your best teacher. By spending a few minutes exploring in the mirror or watching a video of yourself dancing, you can learn a lot about your technique. Feeling from the inside is a wonderful thing, but seeing from the outside can be even more helpful. Also remember to be kind to yourself. Rather than bringing yourself down when you watch yourself dancing, think of it as a new perspective. Give yourself advice as if you are giving a fellow dancer advice. Instead of thinking negatively about a position, explore how you can make your position stronger. Fact find. What could help you succeed or even make things easier? Perfection does not exist, but exploration and growth does! Encourage yourself to try something new. If you overdue a correction, you can always pull yourself back later. 

Another thing to keep in mind is not comparing yourself to others. No two people are exactly alike. The things that someone else can do might not be suitable for yourself. That being said, if you compare yourself to your peers during class, it is not going to help you advance. Rather than comparing, ask yourself why you like the way someone else dances. What qualities might you try to experiment with in your own technique? Be observant during your classes. Perhaps a peer gets a correction similar to one you have gotten before. By observing them, you can learn so much about why the correction could have been given to you and what you can do to correct it.

One more way you might enhance your class experience is by always working and learning. If it is not your turn to do the combination, rather than standing and waiting in the back, take advantage of the extra time. You might watch and learn from your peers when they are dancing. What were they successful with and what could they have improved on? You can then take this information and use it when it is your turn to dance. You might also mark the combination. A great way to mark a combination is to do the upper body and arms full out. By doing this you can get a sense of the movement and musicality before you actually do it. Lastly, whenever the teacher is coming up with a combination, or you finish stretching early, you have an opportunity to work on something else. Perhaps you struggled with a certain turn or movement that day. Now is your chance to try it again, find out why you were not successful, and attempt it once more differently.

Taking class might not always be new and exciting, but by viewing your classes through different perspectives, you can get so much more out of them! Remember to keep a positive attitude and mindset, take every opportunity to learn, and be open to trying new things!

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