Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Dance Training = Valuable Life Skills

Happy Graduation to my many Dancers and dancing friends who are moving onto the next chapter of your lives! This time can be scary and exciting. It's a new adventure - the beginning of a new process or performance.

In times of major life changes, I encourage you to remember your Dance Training.

You spent a lot of time perfecting your technique, your performance skills, your spatial awareness. You spent hours disciplining your body and your mind, focused on multitasking - filling the space in between the counts with movement, remembering choreography, injecting intention and your own story into the process, paying attention to and acknowledging your audience, paying attention and being sensitive to your fellow dancers onstage, being constantly aware of your lighting, your space, your costume, your floor. You were prepared (albeit still surprised) when the lights went out in the middle of the show, the wrong song came over the speakers, the floor was uneven and slippery (and you were in pointe shoes), and your costume ripped onstage. You took a deep breath and re-blocked the piece during dress rehearsal because another dancer was injured during tech. You were injured during tech and worked with your choreographer and fellow dancers to re-block the piece and in a day you modified all of your movement to a low level or a chair.

You spent months working on your turns, your flexibility, your jumps - and all of the parts that would come together to complete the whole: your spotting, your stretching, your strengthening, the physics of the turn, the develope, or the jump. You understood that without practice, discipline, and a clear understanding of how the parts fit together, you wouldn't achieve the goal. And once you did, you found another skill, performance opportunity, or audition to master.

You looked to your instructors, friends, peers, mentors, parents, YouTube, blogs, and social media for feedback and ways to improve. You received praise, criticism, and constructive feedback and learned how to negotiate it all. You've learned to dance to your strengths and how to work on your weaknesses. And you've learned how to accept them both with grace, humility, and a stubborn persistence.

You've figured out how to give yourself a barre at your kitchen counter or how to practice Pilates and Yoga in a small space (hotel room, dorm room, hallway... you know what I'm talking about). You articulate through your feet and releve when you're waiting in line. You create choreography to the music in the grocery store and you can turn a branch, a keyboard, or a ladder into a beautiful prop. And you don't even mind when people turn their heads during your Improvisation on the Beach.

Your dance training has provided you with valuable life skills that will accompany you on any journey. And just in case you need some reinforcements, here are some ways your skills can translate.

1. Dancers are disciplined and hard working. We are goal oriented, but also concerned about the process. There's always a performance - but there's a long rehearsal and creative process to get there before the performance can occur.

2. Dancers can improvise. Remember that moment onstage when ______ (you fill in the blank)? Did you just run offstage? No! You improvised in the moment and allowed the show to go on. That's not just a stage skill - that's a life skill. (That client in the board room; that time when your boss didn't show up to give the presentation; that time when you needed to cover an extra shift because someone had a family emergency.... this is nothing new. You're trained in improvisation)

3. Dancers learn quickly and adapt quickly. All of those quick barre combinations or end of class combinations where the instructor said it once or twice and you needed to understand it, digest it, and perform it immediately? Your brain and body have been trained in ways to quickly take in information, adapt it to your immediate situation, and turn around a performance. Even if the performance isn't perfect you....

4. Dancers apply corrections and feedback quickly. Class time is limited. Theatre time is limited. We need to correct and move forward. Always. (Sure, you leave and continue processing, but an immediate turnover has to happen).

5. Dancers work well independently or in groups. We've performed solos and group pieces and each demands a different practice, but we have to adjust to each. Our own growth and technique requires that we work on our own. Performing with an ensemble demands that we give up part of our ego for the betterment of the group. We have been trained to listen and to hear each other so that together, we all shine.

6. Dancers can empathize. We've all been put in that role, character, variation, or piece that didn't quite fit our personality. We were challenged to find a way to understand that role and needed to do some strenuous research to find our way into it. But we did. And the performance went on. And now, we have a better understanding of how we work so that we can take a step back and empathize with someone else.

7. Dancers are professional. Sometimes accused of being cold or mean or compartmentalized, we know that a job needs to be done and we can leave our own stuff at the door. The show must go on.

8.  Dancers are ready for the performance. The interview. The tough client. The audition. The show. Our training has taught us to always be prepared and to always perform. We might have an off day (in class, with our balance, with our health, with life...). We might not like the immediate situation at hand. We might need to step into another character for a moment, but we know how to perform. (I'm not saying that dancers are good at hiding the truth, the opposite is true. Dancers often wear their heart on their sleeve, or tights, or leotard. But we know when that places is called, the show must go on.)

What are your 9 and 10? I know you're creative! I've left these open for you to critically evaluate your own experiences and add them. I know that your dynamic presence is expanding as your imaginative body and mind are engaging and questioningPlease share!

And in the meantime, know that you can always return to your body - to the barre or the floor - when you feel out of place. You can always return to the studio and the creative process.

Merde for your next performance and adventure!

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