I Wish I Knew

10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was a Young Dancer…

  1. Ballet is essential!  The more you take and the harder you work at your ballet training, the better you will become at all your dancing styles. Learn to love it.  Ballet will keep your body strong and injury free, which in turn will keep you dancing longer.  Even the simple plié in first should be hard work.  Doing a tendu correctly helps your feet vastly improve their strength.  So concentrate in class, work hard at the details… and love ballet!  A little hard work goes a long way.
  2. Confidence counts.  Judges often look for the most confident and focused girl in the room.  Something that I have always struggled with is my natural shyness as well as a polite humility that was part of my upbringing.  I had no idea that my body language at an audition often communicated a lack of confidence. I believe that this inhibited my progress into the dance world tremendously!  Remember that you are on stage the moment that you walk in that classroom or audition room. Radiating a certain confidence with eye contact, demeanor, and smiles goes along way.   It doesn’t always matter what you are wearing, how cool your hair is, how high your jumps are or if you nail every count perfectly.  Many times if you walk onto the floor with complete confidence and presence from the beginning the judges will not take their eyes of you!  You have to believe in yourself and just go out there and “OWN IT”!
  3. Dance is subjective. Yes that’s right; it is both a sport and an art.  Which means that everyone comes to the table with their own preset ideals about what dance is, what it should look like, what is considered great and what elements have the most value. There are no black and white textbook answers or winners. As a young competing dancer,  I often struggled with the inconsistency  of the results.   In sports there are winners and losers.  In school you are graded regularly and you are very aware of your talents and weaknesses. Beyond the beginning levels where learning the steps are black and white, the rest of the dance world has a large area of grey. It was hard for me to understand that every set of judges will value dance elements differently. I would get so disappointed and discouraged about my dancing when I received a negative critique at a dance competition or didn’t get a call back at an audition. Every time you dance at a competition you have a new set of dance judges with different ideals about what is great. You may attend an audition where one director can’t stand the way you put a little extra bounce in your step and the next day attend an audition where the director loves your energy and can’t wait to work with you. It is such an important lesson as a young dancer to remember that dance is subjective. You are the judge that matters.  So use the critiques, feedback, and scores to push yourself and your dancing in a positive way. Remember to stay confident, keep your head high and refer to number 2!
  4. Learn how to strengthen your muscles!  We can all do those grand tricks, leaps and tumbling passes with some strength training and a little dedication!  If I really wanted to do a tumbling pass, I could train in gymnastics.  If I really wanted to execute the perfect switch leap, I could strengthen my muscles to get there. If I really wanted to stall on one arm, I could!   So many times when I was a young dancer, I discounted myself from these things as an inability of my body to be able to do them well! I would say to myself I’m not strong enough to do that… It wasn’t until I started teaching and learning about the body that I realized that I could train my body to achieve these goals.  Any athletes can remind you  of the importance,  if you have a goal, train hard and you will achieve it.  Many times in dance a little strength training goes a long way.  Sometimes you can make a big difference by adding some strengthening exercises into your daily routines.  Next time you are watching TV, use those commercial breaks to do some strengthening exercises. Stretch your feet or press to first position relevé while brushing your teeth. Multitask and get stronger!
  5. “I can’t I have dance…” This phrase is the story of my life, and is often followed by a series of sentences justifying to my friends or family why I am missing out on another social event. Guess what everyone; it’s far from OK to miss some of these things and actually is quite awesome that you are passionate about your dancing.  You don’t have to justify your dancing to anyone! It is amazing that you are working hard and that you sometimes miss social or family events for your dance training. Cutting your Friday night activities short because you have early morning ballet class on Saturdays is admirable!  Shortly after high school, a friend opened up and shared with me that she was always quite envious of my dancing.  It shocked me to hear that she admired my passion for dancing and was desperately trying to find what she was passionate about.  She had nothing that she “loved to do” and that made her feel empty.  This conversation hit me and it has stayed with me as a constant reminder that I didn’t need to justify my dancing, training, teaching to anyone.  I love it!  Of course, I am not suggesting that you miss your cousin’s wedding or grandma’s 70th birthday party, but sometimes it’s good to remember this as your friends hit a movie or head out to a concert. Remember that nothing worth doing is easy, sometimes you have to make sacrifices for what you love and life is all about balance.
  6. Eating healthy and intelligent food is crucial!  Good nutrition assures that you can keep your energy levels high, your stamina going strong, your muscles working efficiently and most importantly keeps you injury free! The experts say that you need to make sure that you have a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, water, vitamins and minerals.  Balance is key.  Especially making sure that you eat enough Carbohydrates to keep your energy up throughout long rehearsals or classes. Carbohydrates should be 50-60% of your diet! It is also vital to consume an adequate amount of protein to help repair and build your muscles. Look forward to a blog on this subject soon.
  7. Take Gymnastics, Singing and Music Lessons!
    Just do it! Gymnastics gives you an edge above the rest as well as a vast amount of strength.  Singing is vital if you wish to go into Broadway or the entertainment business.  Which also goes along with Music.  Study music and understand how a well-developed musicality will help you refine your dancing!
  8. The Competitive Dance world is not for everyone and there are plenty of other ways to dance or showcase your talents.  Don’t let a lack of interest in the competitive dance world keep you from training at what you love!  There are many ways to share your dance talents.  Concert dance, performance companies, musicals, dance groups and dance teams.
  9. Take care of your feet!  I will say that one again and again!  Dancers have to remember that their feet are their most important asset.  Keeping them healthy and free from blisters, tears, ingrown toe-nails, fungus etc is so important. I bet you are saying gross… but it is a fact of life as a dancer!  Look forward to a blog on this subject very soon!   My biggest problem has always been making the choice to not wear those super fun extra high heels.  Every time I did, I would end paying for it with blisters or aching feet for the next few days.  Many podiatrists will also share with you that Uggs and flip-flops are the worst shoes that you can wear, not just for your feet but for your knees and ankles too.  Quality footwear is the way to go, think about your feet and give them lots of TLC!
  10. To become an amazing dancer… one must master the ability to transition seamlessly!  What happens in between the steps is essential to success and can often be over looked.  Next time you take class or learn a new combination, I challenge you to think more about the transitions then the pictures.  How you get to the beautiful arabesque is just as important as the technique when you arrive.  Remember it’s about the “in-betweens” not the tricks!

“The heart of the dance is the heart of the dancer.”
~ Ghazallah al-Badriyyah

Happy dancing!

Sonya

Lets further the art of dance together… ASK MS. SONYA, I want to help!
askmssonya@gmail.com

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One comment

  1. I saw #3 demonstrated clearly a couple of years back. I was at a competition to cheer our studio on and one of our younger dancers was doing a solo. And she *rocked* it. She’s got tons of talent, and she gave a great performance – very clean, lots of personality, we were all super proud of her. And she only took a third place. We all rather expected her to take a second, she did a great job. She was pretty upset about it afterwords – but her choreographer pointed out that none of the pieces she had choreographed were placing well, even with the girls who had been taking firsts with their pieces at other competitions – so clearly there was at least some degree of the judges just not getting her choreography.

    I don’t know if it was any comfort to our young dancer, but it certainly opened my eyes up some about competitions, and how we humans are still subjective creatures no matter how hard we try to be objective at times.

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