Develop: Beyond the studio
When we think about dance training, we picture the studio. From beginner to professional, barre to centre, plié to performance, it’s in the studio that a dancer’s skills are honed… right?
The work you do in the studio is, of course, vital to your development as a dancer, but it is also important to look beyond your dance classes and rehearsals in order to reach your full potential.
So what can you do to develop your dance training, beyond the studio walls?
Do exercise that ISN’T dance
A dancer needs to be fit enough to manage the demands of choreography. One element of physical fitness that a dance class doesn’t build, however, is endurance – the ability to continue moving over an extended period of time. Activity in class is stop-start, but in rehearsals and on stage, you need to be able to dance for much longer stretches of time. Including activities such as running, swimming or cycling in your weekly routine can help you improve endurance so that you are fit for performances.
Want to know more? Check out new book Dancer Wellness, all about maintaining a dancer’s health and well-being.
Immerse yourself in live performance…
You can learn so much about artistry and about the kind of dancer you aspire to be, from watching professional dancers perform.
Be experimental with your viewing. “Often young dancers only see work that reinforces their pre-conceived ideas about what dance should look like and what dancers should look like,” observes performance psychologist Shona Erskine. “I encourage young dancers to look for the dancing YOU want to do, or look for dancers who have the same body type as you, and use that investigation as a starting point for finding out where you belong in this big, diverse dance world.”
You can start with the major flagship ballet and contemporary dance companies… but also check out the many smaller Australian dance companies and independent dance artists making work.
Dance Australia website is a great place to find out which local and international artists and companies are presenting work in your city.
… and recorded live performance
You have the world of recorded dance at your fingertips thanks to the magic of the internet. Don’t know where to start? Browse http://www.numeridanse.tv/en, a free online dance video library covering a range of dance styles, including contemporary, hip hop and flamenco.
Vimeo is another platform that’s popular with dance artists – search your dance genre and see what comes up. And, of course, there’s YouTube… although the hugeness of YouTube means that it’s more useful once you have some artist or company names to search. Similarly, once you’ve identified new companies or artists of interest to you, check their websites for more footage.
Read all about it
Again, thanks to the internet, there is so much information available to young dancers, in the form of print and online dance magazines, such as Dance Australia, Dance Informa, Dance Train, Dance Hub and websites such as this one! These resources often contain tips for improving technique and advice about a range of topics, from auditions to nutrition. Such publications may also include articles discussing issues facing dancers, and news from artists and companies. Read as much as you can to understand the context in which you are dancing.
Enjoy the world outside dance
The nature of elite-level dance training means that aspiring dancers often don’t have much opportunity to maintain their interests and friendships outside dance.
Why does this matter?
Firstly, it’s important to be able to take time out from your training, not just physically but mentally and emotionally. Friends and interests outside of dance will help you to do this.
In addition, performance psychologist Shona Erskine explains that adolescence is an important time because it’s when we form our sense of identity, our sense of who we are as a person. The high level of discipline involved in dance training, however, means that young dancers may have fewer opportunities to develop that sense of identity. This can leave them ill-equipped for life beyond dance school. Erskine believes that having friends and interests outside the studio may help young dancers to develop their identity and sense of self.
And then there is life after dance. While some dancers will spend their entire career working within the art-form, graduating from performance to areas such as teaching or choreography, not all dancers want to follow those paths. Maintaining interests outside dance, says Erskine, helps to smooth the transition from dance to your next career.
There’s a big world outside your dance studio. Be curious and explore!
– Nina Levy, Nina is co-editor of Dance Australia magazine.