I hope you have enjoyed your first weekly challenge with the new Kamrah page! Here’s your next one:
Assessing your dance
So…let’s be honest with ourselves today and this whole week (you really should be honest with yourself always, but let’s just try it for a week, shall we?). Being honest with yourself is difficult. Especially when we love something so much, we want to think that we are the absolute best at it, because NO ONE can be more passionate about it, right? That’s not always the case, unfortunately. I have seen a lot of dancers get moved ahead into advanced level classes they are not ready to take on. I’ve seen dancers start teaching after only a few classes or, worse yet, after buying every DVD they can get their hands on. I’ve seen excellent dancers cringe when they see themselves on video, criticizing every perceived flaw. This isn’t healthy. In order to grow in our dance, we need to assess where we are now, and whether we are truly meeting our goals and dancing to our true level, or if we are pulling the wool over our own eyes just to imagine ourselves at the point where we think we should be. Being honest is hard, but it doesn’t have to be cruel. Be honest, but be fair and kind to yourself.
What I am NOT going to do is have you compare yourself to other dancers and figure out whether you are better than they are or not. That’s not a healthy attitude, either. We should only challenge ourselves, not criticize ourselves, and comparing ourselves to other dancers, to me, is criticism.
Beginner: Your challenge is to determine if you are meeting the goals you and your teacher have set out for yourself. Take a good long look in the mirror–make an assessment–while you practice. Does your posture start to wilt half way through a drill? Do your arms drift down into T-Rex territory? Do you really have that hip drop down, or are you still bouncing? Be honest. Yes, we want to look at ourselves and go, “What!? I’m doing this right! I’ve got it and don’t need to do YET ANOTHER drill!!” Well, do you really have it down? Are you doing exactly what your teacher has asked? Take a look in the mirror again, and be honest. But that doesn’t mean critical!! If you are still bouncing in your hip drops, don’t scold yourself and despair of ever getting it right! Instead, ask your teacher what needs to change. Or try doing it a slightly different way. Do you get it at first, get tired (or bored), and then get sloppy? How did your body feel when you were doing it right? Try to reproduce that every time. Keep yourself motivated to have perfect technique each and every time you do a movement. You may not get it at first, but if you strive for it, you will get there.
Intermediate: Intermediate can be dangerous territory. We have a lot of the movements down, and now we are ready to refine them, make them look great, and show them to others. But…that might not mean you are ready to teach others. Be honest. Do you know the mechanics of the movement? Do you know what muscle groups are being used in order to perform the movement safely? Check yourself in the mirror and see if you maintain posture during your entire drill or choreography. Do you get tired half-way through and then get sloppy? Your challenge is to delve deeper into your movements. Pick a movement, and find out (from your teacher) what muscles you are supposed to be working (if they haven’t told you from the very beginning), and make sure those are the ones you are using. Of course, always make sure your posture stays perfect through all of your movements, even six sweaty minutes into a shimmy drill. Work on refining your technique so that you perform it 100% each and every time. Remember: the way you practice is the way you perform.
Advanced: Your challenge is going to be the hardest. By this point, you should know what you need to work on. At this level, we all know what we are weak in, what we are strong in, and what just needs a kick in the pants. Advanced dancers tend to stick to what we are good at, and drill that, because it’s easy and we know we can do it. This is not the right attitude to take. And if you do not think you have something to work on in your dance, you need to work on being more honest with yourself. Again, don’t compare yourself to other dancers at your level, but take a good long look in the mirror and see what needs to be improved. If you are honest, you will find something. Is your face frozen while you dance because you are concentrating on getting 13 different movements into 8 counts? Do you let your shimmies get sloppy because no one is actually going to count hips at this speed, right? Right? Being a great dancer is knowing what you need to work on, and WORKING ON IT. No excuses. I suck at certain types of layering, and I know that. So what do I do? It’s the first thing I work on when I practice. Assessing your dance is how we improve. The flip side of this, of course, is not being too critical. Because we are advanced, we know what we are supposed to look like when we dance, and so therefore we know when we don’t look like that. And when we watch ourselves, we often get horrified because one hand was too twitchy, or for some reason the floor seemed much more interesting than the audience for half the dance, or we messed up the choreography. Don’t let this get to you! Learn from it, then practice keeping your hands still, or keeping your chin up, or drilling the choreo a few more times before performing it again. Mistakes and things-to-work-on should not eat you alive and keep you from enjoying your dance. Your challenge: work on what you suck at, which of course means you need to be honest with yourself and find what it is that you need to work on.
This is a tough challenge, but we can only grow if we challenge ourselves. This is what the weekly challenge is all about, and assessing your dance is how you know what level you are on, what level you can strive for, and what needs to be done to get there. Happy dancing!