Dancing at home is something you might have done occasionally for extra practice, or simply because you love to move. The majority of your training typically took place in the spacious studios at the Nepean Creative Arts Centre. This has all changed of course, due to the unprecedented situation we find ourselves living in - the COVID 19 pandemic.
It has been a big transition moving from dancing in-studio to dancing in front of a computer screen and we want to help by providing some tips and tricks to make the most of the situation. You can still progress technically and artistically while being away from the studio. It just takes a little extra drive and focus, as well as some creativity and adaptability.
Tip #1 - SET GOALS
Take some time to brainstorm what you would like to accomplish. Consider the space you have at home and the amount of time that you are able to dedicate to practice. Then come up with 2 or 3 goals that you wish to accomplish and consider setting a timeframe in which you'll do so. These do not have to be monumental goals! Start small and slowly build as you make progress.
For example, since we are limited in terms of space, focusing on travelling steps would not make very much sense as a goal at this time. Perhaps working on port de bras could be something you would like to focus on in the meantime.
Once you have your list, use it as a guideline for training, as well as something to keep you motivated! Make sure you periodically check in with your goals and honestly assess how you are doing and adjust from there.
Tip #2 - CREATE A SPACE
Creating an environment that supports your ability to practice effectively and stay focused is an important step for setting yourself up for success.
Firstly, make sure that your space is free of distractions and obstacles. Ensuring you have enough space to move will help prevent any accidents. Removing distractions, such as unnecessary technology, can help you maintain your focus.
Secondly, make sure you have the tools you need for your class or self practice. Examples include a barre (or alternative such as a chair), yoga mat (for floor work or as extra cushion for jumps) or a theraband (for conditioning exercises).
Last but not least, decorate your space with things that inspire you! The more time that you spend creating an environment that is uniquely you, the more you will enjoy spending time training. Examples include creating a vision board, framing meaningful quotes or flowers. Dancers are creative artists and an inspiring space can make all the difference!
TIP #3 - MAKE A SCHEDULE
Once you have set some goals and have created your space, it's time to draft a schedule. Make sure your practice schedule is realistic and considers the goals that you have set for yourself. Start with shorter weekly practice times and slowly increase the length and/or the frequency once you feel happy and comfortable with your at-home routine.
To help create accountability, you can make a calendar that you can hang us in your practice space. Remember, the hardest thing about a routine is starting. Once you get going, there will be no stopping you!
TIP #4 - REPEAT REPEAT REPEAT
Whenever you want to learn a new skill, it's assumed that you will need to repeat and practice it, in order to improve. In dance, repetition is essential to master a skill. This includes developing familiarity of the step, as well as the improvement of technique. As you progress in your dance training, you will notice that elements that you learned when you were younger are still being worked on, perhaps with a different rhythm or with change of direction for example. The repetition never stops and dancing at home is a perfect time to focus on it!
As dancers, we must remember that it always pays off to work on the basics, even if you feel you have practiced a thousand times. We have to be careful to not become complacent to ensure that every time we repeat a skill, it becomes a better version than last time. This is something we can really work on when practicing at home. So next time you hear your teacher say "one more time" (in your Zoom class or in person), give it your all!
TIP #5 - PRACTICE WHEN YOU HAVE ENERGY
Energy. We need a lot of it to get through ballet class and rehearsals. That's why resting and fuelling our bodies is so essential.
Of course, we can't expect ourselves to always feel completely energized and ready to work. We're only human after all. It's important to listen to your body and try to practice at peak energy times. This means a time when you feel the most energized and focused. It could be a while after having a meal, or after having a power nap for example. Our bodies natural circadian rhythms can have an effect on this as well, so try not to squeeze in your practice time right before you go to bed. You may find yourself feeling sluggish - not exactly how you want to be feeling when practicing your jumps.
TIP #6 - TRY NEW THINGS
As we stated in Tip #4, repetition is crucial for learning and mastering skills, whether that be in dance or school. With that said, we also need to be careful that we don't continuously stay in our comfort zones. Trying new things will allow you to keep growing to become the best dancer you can be. For example, if you've mastered your double pirouettes, try for triples! If you always approach a jump with the same preparation, switch it up to challenge your body and mind!
Another way we can try new things is to try a new style of dance. Ballet provides a great foundation for all styles and the kinesthetic awareness and coordination developed will benefit you in whatever style you choose. Learning other styles can help you become a more well-rounded dancer and also add a new quality to your work in ballet. Some of you have been working on character dance inspired work this summer, or tried salsa and improvisation in workshops recently held on Zoom. These are all fantastic examples of trying new styles that will benefit you when you're back in ballet class.
TIP #7 - REWARD YOURSELF
Sometimes we get so caught up in our work that we forget to reward ourselves when we achieve a goal. Practicing consistently is hard work, especially when we have to do so at home. Be proud of what you have accomplished, even if it feels like something small and insignificant.
For example, if you set a goal of doing self-practice for 30 minutes, 3 days a week on top of your usual classes, and you do so consistently for a few weeks or a month, reward yourself! Do something you love that you don't get to do often, play a game, have a treat - it's totally up to you!
Of course your reward doesn't have anything listed in our example. Even telling yourself that you've done a good job can be a reward in and of itself. We can be our harshest critics and being kind to ourselves is extremely important!