One of the most enlightening aspects of learning to dance has been an increased awareness of my body/mind connection. We’ve all heard how our self-talk can impact our performance…and often aren’t aware of how much that self-talk is rooted in childhood experience. I am continually discovering how especially true that is for me in dance. I’ve become aware of how my self-talk either enhances or inhibits my dancing. For example, when I was taking ballet lessons as a child, turns (more specifically spotting during turns) were a challenge for me.
Fast forward several decades and my default psychological approach to spins and turns has been that turns are difficult…and so they are. My mind (childhood message) is telling me that I will have trouble with turns; I tense up and reinforce the internal message that I will experience difficulty. However, when I shift my self-talk to a different focus such as “my turns are beautiful” or “I can do several spins successfully”, my body relaxes and my turns are executed well.
The other aspect of this mind/body connection is learning to let go and simply trust my body’s innate wisdom – the body often knows what the mind can’t articulate in words. For me, after all the practice and technique, that means attempting to shut my brain off and let my body take over. I am continually discovering how much I want to control my body with my mind…and how that control is actually counter productive. I’ve discovered that, given the appropriate practice/conditioning, my body will do the right thing if I just let it.
I recently had that exact experience while polishing a routine that requires several independent spins/turns in a row. During one practice, my coach/instructor saw on my face that I was worried (which I didn’t realize). He told me “You do these spins well – don’t overthink – just let your body go – your body knows what to do.” Yeah, right. Well, of course he was absolutely correct. And as I continue to practice these turns with the mindset that my body knows and the self-talk that I turn beautifully, you can guess how much better (and fun) they are.