I'm learning to play the ukulele.
And it's hard.
My dad is teaching me. He's spent many years playing and teaching guitar and picked up the ukulele a few years ago. He has the unique ability to play the Marine Corp Hymn on almost any instrument. (It's no wonder I married a vet!)
I learned three cords, with which I should be able to play most popular songs. But, the challenge is in the transitions.
After only fifteen minutes of strumming and moving through the cords, my fingers were getting numb and cramping. I have enough on my plate - why am I doing this, I asked myself in a bit of frustration. Playing the uke looked and sounded so much easier than it was. And therein I found the nugget and the purpose!
The development and the skill comes from the practice of doing the same thing over and over again. Not in the "if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always gotten" sort of way, but in the way that "when tested, you don't rise to the occasion, you revert to the level of your training". In learning the cords and working through my transitions on the uke, I need to put an immense amount of time repeating the training of transitioning so I can move onto the next level and be prepared for my "test". (Or in this case, family sing-a-longs).
Why share this little story and cliche quotes?
I'm preparing myself and many dancers for upcoming performances. It's the point in the year/ semester when my dancers/ students are tired and other stresses are pressing upon them (papers, family, the weather, allergies...) Learning the uke reminded me of the importance of practice in my everyday dance life.
The practice of showing up fully.
The practice of being mindful of my movement.
The practice of making choices within the process.
Many years ago, "practice" was a regular meeting of an athletic team to repeat drills. I was insulted when someone referred to my rehearsals as "practice". (Didn't they know I was making ART?)
Practice, to me, has come to mean the repetition of a skill in order to more fully develop the craft. This is showing up. Being present. Executing the degage, the plie, the tendu. Transitioning between cords. Again. And Again. And Again.
It takes time. It takes effort and energy. It takes patience.
Eventually, the transitions become easier. Not necessarily perfected, but smoother. The practice makes way for the artistry to unfold. (And, sports fans, I realize that a well crafted athlete can be beautiful).
Rehearsal has become to mean the practice of the craft of making. In dance, this is the refining of the timing, the intention, and the dynamic of the movement. Rehearsal provides many choices, options, and opportunities to dig deeper into the art-making space provided by the discipline of practice.
I remind myself and my students that the way we chose to execute and be present (or not) in class is the way we're going to perform. Our bodies are imprinting the way we're repeating the movement so that in the time of the test, we can trust our training (or realize that we didn't take that time seriously enough).
It's with this realization that I take comfort in my sore hands from uke practice and torn feet and bruised body parts from dance practice. I am reminded that the attention to the practice will result in a more fully-prepared performance.
Or, "you get out what you put in".
(Shout out to the military for many of the sayings I often hear repeated in my family circle and some included here. That practice worked!)
(I realize that cliche has an accent, but I normal alt codes aren't allowing me to insert the symbol.)
There are many ways we embody "practice". How do you?