How to get the most out of your dance class (a Wednesday dance post)

Being a dance teacher means that I get a special insight into the ways of champions. There are certain things that a dancer does that increases his or her chances of suceeding in dance. Here is a list of 10 ways to get the most out of your dance class.

1. Be ready to dance when the class starts. If your class starts at 5:45, then you should be outside the class at 5:44 with the correct shoes and clothing on, ready to go. You should not be running to get changed when your teacher opens the door for you to come in. You should not bring your shoes into class to put on while the class warms up. Your teacher should not have to wait for you. Every minute you waste getting ready once class has started instead of taking the opportunity to grow as a dancer, is a minute that you will never get back.

2. Wear the correct attire. Your dance class is at the same time each week. It is not a surprise. “My uniform is in the wash” wouldn’t be an acceptable excuse at school, it’s not going to fly at dancing either. When you get home from dancing, put your dance clothes in the wash that day, and then make sure they are washed and dried for your next class. And know where they are. It is not okay to wear trackpants to ballet because you forgot your tights.

3. Put in your best effort. If you give a poor effort, you’ll get poor results. If you give a good effort, you’ll get good results. If you give it your best effort, you’ll get the best results that you can get. If you don’t try your absolute hardest, there is nothing your teacher can do to make you a better dancer.

4. Know what you’re good at. It is amazing the improvement that comes simply from a dancer starting off with the attitude of “Oh yeah, I got this.” I don’t mean that you need to be cocky, just confident. Confidence starts with what you tell yourself, so stop putting yourself down and start telling yourself what you’re good at.

5. Know what you need to improve on. And then want to improve on those things. If you aren’t so good at leaps, when it’s time to do leaps in class, give it everything you’ve got. It’s easy to get stuck in this cycle of hating what you need to improve on, and so not trying, and then falling even further behind. Be determined, and tell yourself that you want to work hard on those things that don’t come so easily.

6. Pay attention. The best dancers are the most focused dancers. You won’t learn anything if you’re fluffing around or talking. Your teacher should not have to ask you to stop talking or to pay attention. If you want to improve, you’ll do that anyway.

7. Take on corrections, even if they’re not aimed at you. You aren’t perfect yet, so every correction that is given in class can be applied to your dancing, even if the teacher is talking to someone else. And when your teacher corrects you directly, or corrects the whole class, take that on. Your teacher should only have to tell you to point your toes or tuck your tummy in once. If she or he needs to tell you more then once, then you are slowing down your own progression.

8. Take notes. It is an extremely good idea to keep a dance journal where you write down corrections after each class.  Also write down the choreography you learn, and the things you need to remember to master certain technique or tricks. This will help you remember what you learn far more then just keeping it all in your brain will.

9. Practise. You will not improve if you don’t practise. For one thing, dancers who don’t practise are lucky if they can remember choreography, and even if they do they almost always forget the corrections they were given. Don’t have time in the evenings to practise? Get up 20 minutes earlier in the morning. If you’re serious about dancing, you’ll make the time.  

10. Decide where you want to go, and then work to get there. Set a goal for yourself. Do you want to get Honours in your exams? Do you want to win competitions? Do you want to perform in Cirque du Soleil? Figure out what you want to do with your dancing, and then do everything in your power to get there.

Because it’s a Wednesday, I will finish this off with a funny story. I have a little girl in my 6 year olds class who likes to tell stories. She’s told us all about her twin sister, Lucy (she doesn’t have a twin sister), and about how she can do the splits, but only when she’s wearing her sparkly sandals (um, no, she can’t?). Yesterday, she told me that her dad was 152 years old. I know her dad, he’s good friends with my husband. I can’t wait to tell him how old he is.

But how we got onto that subject was a little bit akward. Two of the girls were fighting over the fact that one had bumped into the other, and I (stupidly) said “It’s okay. We’re all okay. No one has died” and one of the girls said “My grandad died” and then they all started talking about people they know who have died. So I was very happy that the daughter of a 152 year old piped up.

“To dance is to be out of yourself.  Larger, more beautiful, more powerful.” 
– Agnes De Mille


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