Improvement Series, RA Dance Blog, Training Help

Improvement Series: How to plan to be a better dancer.

When you’re in school or university, many see organisation and planning as what the ‘boring’ or ‘teacher’s pet’ type of people do. As these people also seem to be the one’s that get things done on time and know all the due dates. Just because that is the stereotype doesn’t mean it’s true. For many other teenagers planning is seen as something restricted to jotting down what homework they need to do or what assignment is due when. However, it can also be used to help you with your dance training, which is what I’ll talk about in today’s post.

Over my years, I have sometimes felt overwhelmed with the amount of items in my schedule. Between 9-3.30 school, plus an hour journey each way, and at least a one hour dance lesson each night, it felt impossible to actually get everything I wanted done. I prioritised and made sure all my school work was done before becoming involved in anything extra. This meant I didn’t really have long term goals for dance, I knew I wanted to feel like I was good at it, but I didn’t put very many things in place to actually get better. Further on I’ll talk about some strategies I did put in place, but to start with we’ll think big with the long term goals.

Long term goals, by definition will take longer to get to. This may be that you want to get a certain grade in your next exam or you want to eventually end up at a certain dance school. Your goal may even be that you want to be in the West End. The results of these won’t be seen immediately but will motivate you to continue. They should also give a direction as to what sort of short term goals you should be aiming to achieve. For example, if I wanted to end up at Urdang Academy, I would train in more than one style, but if I wanted to be at the Royal Academy of Ballet, it would be more beneficial to spend more time in ballet class than street dance. As with ending up on the West End, it would be appropriate to learn to sing and take musical theatre. Everyone’s long term goals are vastly different, and will probably change and shift as time goes on. But if at this moment that is what drives you to continue dancing it is a good goal to aim for.

As mentioned above, the long term goals will shape your short term goals. However, there are perhaps a few short term goals that are appropriate for most dancers. Becoming more flexible, having more stamina, and being stronger. These are just a few generic attributes many dancers wish to have. To make them useful to your practise you need to make them testable. Maybe you want to be able to do the splits, this makes the flexibility goal more testable as you know when you have got to that level of achievement. As with anything, holding yourself accountable is also a good way to stay on track. When I was working towards becoming more flexible, I turned my Instagram into a dedication to that, posting a picture of me stretching each day. This was a great way to also get support from others. Alternatively, if you don’t want to change your personal account too much, you could simply create an account for your dance. In the short-term I found this quite helpful, however, as it went on I was only really doing the stretch I was taking a picture of. You can also make progress accountable when it isn’t online for everyone to see. Take pictures of what your current levels are like, and then set a reminder to take the same pictures in a months time. If you’ve been working hard at that goal your sure to see improvements when you look back at the old pictures. With strength you may jot down how many press-ups or sit-ups you can comfortably do and test yourself again after a month or two. Stamina is a little trickier, as it’s a little harder to test, the easiest way would be to see how far you could run before having to stop. But the jury is out as to whether running ability would equate to dance stamina. Hence why dancers don’t often do too well on the bleep test and have since created a dance version of that test. It may be more appropriate to see how many times in a row you can do a certain routine before being too tired to continue. In this case you could write down how many you can do at the start and then re-test at a later date.

So how about little changes that you can put into your schedule that can help you become a better dancer? As I mentioned I was pretty pushed for time while I was a school, so I incorporated little things into my schedule. The most effective of these was to turn up to lesson early. 20 minutes early is a good start, this gives you time to warm up your own body, as strictly speaking the teacher shouldn’t be ‘wasting time’ doing this, as many dancers need different parts of their body warmed up more than others. This also means you have time to get prepared for the lesson and stretch out anything you want to stretch before class. Just don’t be too vigorous with your stretching before being fully warm, as that will do more harm than good. Look after your body and if it feels pain, stop.

Another I was always told to do, although admittedly I rarely did, was to stretch in the evenings while watching TV or something. This way you still get down time but you’re also working towards your goals of becoming a better dancer. If you don’t want to be more flexible you could switch this out for other activities, during the breaks you could challenge yourself to do planks, or star jumps. Any activity that will help you improve the areas you want to improve. This will take a lot of habit forming though as you may not be motivated right away to give up your time on the sofa. If this is the case, start small, it doesn’t have to be the whole programme, it could be the breaks or the first quarter. But if you do this regularly enough, 8 weeks builds a habit, then it won’t feel so much like a chore.

Other things you could do, is to schedule in 30minutes everyday or every other day to focus in on what you want to train. Almost like you’re taking another class. You can find all sorts of online resources, like work-out videos and stretch routines that can help you stay focused when training on your own. Factoring in the time will make it easier to handle as you know you’re not missing out on doing anything important.

Another way to help your dance training is a little more specific. So many times I see dancers come back from the half-term or the summer holidays, worse than when they left. Mainly due to inactivity. It’s so important that you keep up with your regular practise. So during the holidays you could do your own class at the same, or a more convenient time for you. Going through the exercises or the routines at least once will help you come back a little stronger than the others in the class. On top of this if you build this into an actual class, ie warming up, stretching and cooling down, you won’t come back as stiff as you would have done if you hadn’t have practised.

That’s in for my tips for incorporating your dance progression into your daily schedule. I’m sure there are many more ways you could improve your dancing daily, but for now this is enough to start to work on. Find your long-term goals, choose short-term goals appropriate to that, and work on strategies to improve.

As always, leave your comments below.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.