Post Showcase – New Insights

 

 

Post Showcase – New Insights

Back to my word for the year, DANCE, as I play with acronyms.   Here’s the latest:

D Demanding

A Athletic

N Necessary

C Conditioning

E Enterprise

Dance is a demanding, athletic, necessary, conditioning enterprise.   How many times do we have to remind ourselves to practice?   As with any other skill set, improvement comes with consistent practice, yet like working out, how often do we make excuses?

Personally, I seem to go in spurts.   For several months leading up to my most recent showcase, was able to get myself to the studio a minimum of two times/week to practice before any lessons.   While I did concentrate mostly on the showcase routine, I also spent time practicing competition routines or even the minutia of certain techniques.

After the showcase, despite its success, for at least 3 weeks, I could hardly get moving.   I even have a small practice area at home (my living room which was obviously decorated during the holidays) and yet even at home, I have been hit or miss.   I can’t even use illness as an excuse as I’m perfectly healthy.

What I finally realized is that other areas of my life have been impinging on my mental focus.   For example, it’s hard to get motivated to practice when one is worried about the health of a loved one or how to generate more business.   I re-discovered the mind-body connection – in this case, my mental state was impacting my body – I wasn’t sleeping well and had no energy.

The good news is that once I recognized what was going on, I was able to motivate myself to do a short practice – which led to another practice – and so on. Again, re-discovering the irony is in the situation — that practice can also help positively alter one’s mental state.

And who thought that dance would lead to such introspection?

 

 

Another Showcase

Another Showcase

 

I might have mentioned that I was having a hard time getting my head into the game for our studio’s winter showcase (think adult recital where students learn a choreographed routine and then perform for an audience).

 

While I loved most of the routine, which also included some good challenges for developing additional skills, my heart just wasn’t totally engaged so I waivered between being excited and feeling obligated.   After almost 11 years of doing showcases, this place was new – I’d previously been terrified, excited, passionate but never blah about a showcase.   I couldn’t get enthused about costumes, hair, etc.

 

I finally figured out that, while learning new routines to perform is fun, I was stuck in thinking that said showcase practice and lessons was taking away from some other long term goals I have for my dance life.   What’s ironic is that we (my instructor and me) chose this showcase dance specifically to work on advanced technique, etc.

 

Thankfully, because I have a fabulous instructor with whom I can share thoughts and through some good dialogue with him (plus my last blog post), I was able to re-frame this showcase.   I was finally able to think about this showcase as contributing to my long-term goals.

 

And what a joy this performance turned out to be.   Not only did I nail it, but we probably executed the best lift (to date) of my dance career.   Needless to say, not only was I ecstatic after the performance, but those feelings lasted well into the next couple of days.   Yeah, I really do love performing.

 

More DANCE

More DANCE

 

D Delightful

A Artistically

N Nuanced

C Communication

E Experience

 

Since DANCE is my word for 2018, I’m having a bit of fun playing around with how I might use DANCE as an acronym (or backcronym, depending on your definition) to keep me focused on the word.

 

Must admit, even this bit of word play is bringing new and different insights into my dance journey.   For example, I’ve been struggling a bit with a lack of enthusiasm for my next showcase – which is surprising given that I love the music, love choreography and I’m working on technique aimed at long term goals.

 

Yet, when I started the above acronym, I was actually able to frame the upcoming showcase with a different focus – and regain some much-needed motivation.

 

Again, just another example of how the mental and physical can positively influence each other. So, in that spirit, I’m off to my last practice before the showcase.

 

 

Musing

Musing

 

I do not know what the spirit of a philosopher could more wish to be than a good dancer. For the dance is his ideal.   Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

 

And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music. Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

 

As I mentioned in my last post, DANCE is my word for 2018 – to think about, reflect on, etc.   And I also mentioned that I happened upon some interesting dance quotes – like the one above.  While Nietzsche is best known for his philosophical writings on morality, culture, nihilism, etc., I found it fascinating that he also seemed to appreciate dance.

 

What is it that we dancers “hear” differently? Or feel differently?   What is it in the music that compels us to move our bodies?

 

I know that when I hear certain tunes, I literally cannot stop myself from expressing the music in my body – even if it’s a restrained toe tap or discreet finger tapping. And if I am in a place where I can’t physically move, I use my imagination and visualize myself moving. And I feel young, energized and alive.

 

What about you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dance

Dance

 

It’s a new year and I’m following a suggestion to find a word to meditate and/or journal on for the entire year. After noodling around several words, I landed on the word “dance”.   So my plan is to delve deeper into the meaning of dance for me, as well as different definitions of the word.   In addition to definitions, after a brief internet search I also landed on several quotes about dance – so I already have lots of material to start this project.

 

Let’s start with a couple of dictionary definitions:

1.to move one’s body rhythmically usually to music

2.move rhythmically to music, typically following a set sequence of steps

 

What do these definitions stimulate in you?

 

For me, though they are a bit sterile, when I read them, I did immediately imagine my body loosely swaying to some music inside my head. And I felt peaceful, beautiful and free – and this internal dance triggered numerous wonderful memories from my childhood. Below are a few of those memories.

 

I was 4 years old and I remember wearing a white frilly dress. It was a beautiful, breezy, sunny spring day and I was twirling non-stop until I fell on the fresh, new grass.

 

Then I’m10 years old and I am playing my mother’s Strauss waltzes on the record player. This music inspires me to leap, twirl, run and spin all over the living room. I imagine myself as a ballerina. Remembering how I played that music over and over again, it’s amazing I didn’t wear out the vinyl records.

 

Now I’m twelve and dancing to Tarantella with my ballet class at a local dance festival and I’m lucky enough to had a lead role. I was thrilled to be a part of this wonderful event and I remember the dance being light, fun and energetic – albeit a bit more of a folk dance than my penchant for classical ballet.

 

Again I ask – what do these definitions stimulate in you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Motivation

Staying Motivated

 

Now that we’re past Thanksgiving and preparing for Christmas, I am amazed at how hard it is to get back into practicing.   I have found that I need to be working on a couple of things simultaneously to get motivated to practice – especially when I want to do other things like put up decorations, shop, etc.

 

For example, right now I’m learning a new showcase routine – one that has been designed to focus on technique that I want to improve.   So I need to both learn the figures (steps) and to execute them effectively, I need to improve my technique.

So when I’m bored with the technique, I can bounce back to simply learning the flow of the figures.

 

Fortunately my dance coach is also a master at breaking down the technique into micro-chunks so that I can isolate which parts of my body to use to initiate and flow through a specific movement.   Thus he provides great exercises designed to both ensure that my technique becomes consistent, but also eliminates bad habits.

 

The best part of these exercises – I can do them at home — when I am in hermit mode and don’t want to go to the studio or when I need to squeeze in a few minutes of practice between conference calls or other work related tasks.

 

And thanks to this post, I hear the next practice session calling, calling, calling…

 

The Power of Videos

 

I generally prefer not having my picture taken and that goes double for videos.   That being said, videos have become one of my best friends in my dance journey.

 

Early on in both our couple and my individual dance lessons, I tried taking notes – especially regarding foot placement with some of the figures.   We would get home and try to practice and the notes didn’t make enough sense to help us. As the figures have become more complicated, the note taking became too onerous to even try.

 

Back in the day, since phone technology wasn’t spectacular, we bought a video camera to help us – and it did.   Although we probably weren’t as consistent in recording as we should have been – the little clips did help enough to get through some practice sessions at home.

 

Of course, now that smart phones have improved so much, videoing just about anything is easier. I am also very fortunate to have had instructors willing to demonstrate figures for me, or get someone to video us doing the figure together.   Just having those clips at home has greatly enhanced my practice time.   I am amazed at how often I go back to the clips – even some of the older ones to refresh on a figure I may have forgotten.

 

Since our studio also brings in external coaches from time to time, videoing a new figure or a new way of shaping or arm styling as demonstrated by the coach has been a gold mine for improving my dance.  Repetitive viewing is critical to grasp all the nuances.   The first few viewings are to get the footwork right, then I can move on to enhanced shaping or arm styling.

 

As I add new dances for competitions (I’ve moved into international standard), and my American smooth silver routines have become more complicated (requiring more expression and shaping), we’ve also begun to video the entire “routines” for me to use for solo practice sessions focused on technique and footwork. My private lessons then become opportunities for partnering and refining – rather than re-hashing the content of a particular figure.

 

And after several years of avoidance – think never watching videos of my dancing (I really hate seeing myself on camera, etc.), I am gradually becoming reconciled to watching my performances. Must admit, I am picking up on both mistakes and progress. It is a bit of a kick when I actually see myself doing something well. Who knows, I might even come to enjoy it.

Group lessons…or not

 

The dance journey is always a gold mine, when we take the time to reflect, for revealing new and old truths about oneself.

 

A little bit of context – recently during some group classes, I found myself struggling emotionally and tensing up during the classes.   What should have been a fun and inexpensive learning experiences with friends had become a personal emotional challenge.   I would often walk out of such classes either frustrated or angry – and questioning if I wanted to continue doing group lessons.

 

Where were those feelings coming from? I like all my fellow dancers, but was I jealous of their success? Did I somehow think my competence as a dancer was being called into question? I love my instructor, so why am I so frustrated with him in group lessons?

 

And after several entries in my journal, I began to uncover what was underneath the emotional roller coaster.   The good news – I am not jealous – I am actually thrilled when a friend masters a figure or new technique. Group lessons can be an opportunity for additional bonding and deepening friendships with fellow dancers.

 

On the other hand, I have also discovered that some of the teaching techniques in group lessons don’t necessarily lend themselves to how I best learn.   For example, in a group lesson, we can theoretically learn from watching each other – especially when someone has mastered a technique, etc. This learning from watching others is also why so many folks gravitate to videos.

 

The downside, though, is we don’t all master movements at the same pace or in the same way.   So watching another dance student in a live class (as opposed to watching a professional on a video) can potentially lead to comparisons with oneself that actually erodes, rather than enhances, self-confidence.

 

Upon reflection, I was reminded that I learn best by doing first – having the technique or movement presented in micro chunks that I can feel in my body and use my body to experience.   Watching others without having had the personal physical experience isn’t generally helpful as I can’t always identify what they are doing differently to master the figure or technique. So to honor my own learning process while participating in group lessons, I have started to ask for what I need.

 

Finally, the “duh” factor – communication is key in getting past tensions or blocks in a group lesson – sharing feelings of frustration between instructor and student can open one up to acknowledging our vulnerability and humanness – and increase connection as well as self-confidence.

 

So, am I still going to group lessons?   You bet – not only are they great learning experiences on multiple levels, they are really fun experiences with great friends.