While most dancers would swear that they always love performing, not all of us would say we always love class! At times it can be frustrating and you can feel like your not making progress. Here are my top tips for staying motivated:
1) Be vulnerable
This is incredibly hard to do well, but a teacher recently told it to the class and it has had a big effect on my behaviour in dance lessons. Especially in a style that you are not used to, or even a particular exercise where you feel less confident, it is important to remember to let yourself be vulnerable. If you are standing there in a leotard and putting your own emotions and experiences into something (what is sometimes called 'being yourself' by teachers) then that is difficult as you are offering something personal to be judged by others around you. But it is also great!
It can lead to amazing creativity and a sense of freedom if you allow yourself to be vulnerable in class. I think that it also comes from trusting your teacher and your classmates. If you have recently joined a new class it can be hard to allow yourself to be vulnerable before you know everyone there. But in the end, everyone is there to learn and develop. More about classmates next..
2) Look to others for inspiration
I think that we have all been there - seen another classmate doing an exercise and kind of giving up. Their leg is by their ear (or whatever else they're doing) and it is really discouraging if you are battling to hold yours at 90° !
However, once you get past the fact that someone else is better than you, watching other people in your class can be a great source of inspiration. The little nuances that your classmates do could improve your dancing. Of course it's lovely to stand at the front and be the best, but lately I've realised that you can stand at the front and NOT be the best too. It's all down to your mindset, and accepting that you might not do it perfectly, but if you're improving then that is an achievement to be proud of.
I also think that it is important to look to others outside of your classes. Dedicated readers will remember some previous posts on people who inspire me, such as Joy Womack and Misty Copeland. I truly believe that while I don't know these people personally, they have had a huge impact on my dancing and my mindset in general. Go out and find your own inspirations, be it online, in class, or anywhere at all.
3) Ask the teacher!
This links to the first tip, being vulnerable and putting yourself out there. Even if it doesn't always feel like it, your dance teacher will always have your best intentions at heart. They wouldn't do it if they didn't want to help you!
So we should respect the time and dedication that our teachers put in, by asking them questions when we need to. If the music is coming on, and you are feeling an escalating sense of panic because you have no idea what the steps are, now is a good time to speak up. Of course it is possible to simply copy the person in front of you, but is this really achieving anything? Maybe enhancing your bluffing skills, but I personally don't think that counts as a good enough reason to pay for dance lessons.
Being a latecomer to ballet, I have always struggled with the French terms. However, as obvious as it sounds, I still have to make the conscious decision to ask my teacher when I don't know what a step is. I think we have to get rid of the unrealistic expectation we have that we should know everything there is to know. But that's why we have teachers, to teach us that vast quantity of stuff we don't know.
4) Good vibes :)
This might sound like a joke, but I am almost entirely serious with this title. My teacher didn't call it vibes, but she was recently talking about our attitude and body language in class having an effect on the atmosphere in the room. And it's true, you can notice when the energy drops in a class (like when the teacher says "adage" in a ballet lesson!). It doesn't make you want to try hard to improve.
So next time you are frustrated in dance class, think happy thoughts, and try not to effect the atmosphere in the studio. Negativity spreads like wildfire, but then equally so does smiles and laughter. It's completely up to you how you approach your next lesson.
Contemporary dance student and food-lover, sharing tips and tricks, recipes and my journey through the amazing worlds of dance and food.