Perform better as an Amateur Dancer - in 4 Steps
- by Nadine Cordowinus
- Aug. 7, 2019
How you, as an amateur dancer, can prepare yourself optimally for a dance performance.
You're a dance lover. You train once, maybe twice a week in a dance class. When you go on stage, you have to know for sure what you are doing. In fact, not only do you have to perform the right steps in the right order, but you also have to take that extra step and perform a choreography.
Do you want to know how you, as a dance lover, can boost your performance to get a step closer to the skills of a professional dancer? Below we have put together some essential tips and tricks for you in a handy 4-step plan.
Step 1: The Dance Web - learning & remembering Choreography
Learning a new choreography requires a lot of physical and mental effort. Sometimes the amount of complex information that comes to you during a dance rehearsal can be prohibitive. In order to prevent you from getting stuck during the learning process and to be able to achieve quick success, it helps to work in a goal-oriented way. Think of learning a choreography as making a cobweb - Make your own danceweb!
Easy learning during the dance class
At the centre of the dance web, you're standing on your own. Ask yourself who you are as a dance apprentice. When a dance teacher or choreographer presents a new phrase for movement: are you someone who has to actively participate in the movements right away in order to prevent you from forgetting a few things? Or are you someone who prefers to take a look at everything first, because different dance steps escape your attention? If you are a "doer" who likes to apply it actively, stand near your dance teacher during rehearsal. This way you can always move with him or her right away. If you are a "thinker", stand at a certain distance from your dance teacher so that you have enough space to be able to see everything clearly. Don't you know yet what type of dance apprentice you are? Find out by consciously applying the doer method in one rehearsal and the thinker method in the other rehearsal. Use this to see how you can remember the dance steps faster.
Building up a network of dance steps
Starting from the centre, you will start building the basic structure for your dance web: you will learn the order of the dance steps including the count.
Only when the basic structure is solid will you expand the structure by adding new information to each rehearsal. Your dance web will become ever closer and stronger by adding and linking information about movement details, clarity in the lines, orientation in space and dynamics. In order not to lose the overview here too, it helps if you work systematically in sharpening your movements. Start with the legs, they are the driving force behind all your movements. Then look at the arms, because they often have an important supporting function in moving. Finally, the torso and head are added.
Strengthening the dance moves network
When your dance web is complete, it is important to make it as strong, stable and long-lasting as possible. Practice the choreography not only during the dance class, but also outside the classroom, so that it becomes a routine. If you wait at the dance hall before the lesson starts, then go through the choreography with your fellow dancers. This will not only help you to remember the steps better, but you will also practice dancing with each other as a group. If you receive a correction during rehearsal, repeat it several times, so that your body stores the correction correctly. Writing down dance steps and corrections or looking back at film recordings from the rehearsal are also good tools. Why? At the moment, you are working towards it in your learning process, in order to be able to rely on your muscle memory and long-term memory.
If you take weekly dance classes in ballet, street dance or modern dance, you build up muscle memory in this style. Your brain creates connections in the central nerve system in order to be able to control certain movements more quickly, so that your body can perform dance movements almost automatically at a certain point in time. This is how it works with your long-term memory, the place where you would like to remember the choreography. While learning a new choreography, your brain makes new connections, but only a constant repetition ensures that the connections remain and the choreography can be stored in the long-term memory. Without sufficient repetition, the connections disappear again and you keep struggling with the choreography and the steps.
Step 2: Theatre in de Dance Hall - Stage preparation in the Dance class
Exercise makes a difference. This applies not only to completing your movements, but also to learning your performance skills. Performing doesn't just start on stage.
From the dance step to the total dance movement
The structure for remembering and performing the dance steps is created in your brain and in your body. Now you are shifting your focus to the content of the dance and its presentation. You make the important step from just performing a sequence of dance steps to performing a choreography. For this you will think about the dance steps in a different way: what is the meaning of the steps and what do I want to show my audience? You are going to empathize and associate. That means, you will relate the movements in your thoughts to other subjects in order to enrich your dance with them. Ask your dance teacher or choreographer many questions about the intention of the movements and the content of the choreography. In this way you create, following the structures of your dance web, an inner story that you want to tell on stage with your movements. The combination of form and content makes up the entire dance movement.
Dancing without a mirror
You have trained a lot with the mirror, so you can be sure that you are performing all the movements of the choreography neatly. Many amateur dancers find it difficult to perform in a room without a mirror, because they are used to observing and controlling their own movements through the mirror. But for a successful performance, you need to be able to feel your movements yourself. In short: now it's time to let go of the mirror. Make a conscious start with your vision direction. You do this as follows: you no longer look at yourself in the mirror directly in front of you, but you project your gaze into the distance as if you were looking at an endless landscape. Technically, you approach this by initially lifting your chin slightly, feeling the nose in the wind and consciously opening your eyes. From now on you steer your focus along with your movements and you look into the extension of the direction of movement. In this way you will make contact with your audience. They feel seen and you can once again draw their attention to the right movements.
Theatre in the dance hall
In a good performance, it's all about expressiveness. Free from the mirror, it's time to build on that part of your performance. Bring the theatre to the dance hall and do the rehearsals as if you were already on stage. Expressivity means expressing yourself dynamically. For this, dancers can make use of a fantastic tool: the music.
Listening to music causes a lot of brain activity. Music triggers in the brain not only the motor part, but also the part where all emotions are. This means: if you consciously listen to the music while dancing, sing along and merge into the music, your brain will be supported, in order to get a better dance performance out of your body, motorically, physically and content-wise. Use the dynamic resilience of your muscles in combination with the music, or against the music, to make kinetic energy visible. Let the music speak to your emotions. Involving your facial expression in your performance will therefore be much easier.
STEP 3: Eat, Pray, Love - Your Performance Routine
A routine for a performance is personal. Every body is different, needs are different. The more personal your performance routine, the more you benefit from it, the better you are prepared. And yet there are some elements that are reflected in the routines of all of us and that ensure that we are mentally and physically well prepared to go on stage. You can remember these elements via the handy line 'Eat, Pray, Love'.
The right food on the day of a dance performance is crucial. Your body needs enough fuel to be able to perform well, but the food shouldn't be so heavy that you can't move around. So it is important what you eat and when. Choose your eating moments well in advance. Approximately 3 hours before the performance is the best time to eat a full meal. From 1 hour before the dance performance it is better not to eat any more fats, but only carbohydrates and proteins. Useful snacks are fruit and yoghurt. And just as important: always drink enough water. 1 The water and proteins ensure that your muscles can work smoothly. The carbohydrates provide your body with sufficient energy.
Pray is referring to the moment of rest that you have to take before you go on stage. On the day of the performance, there is often a lot of hustle and bustle. Don't let the hustle and bustle ignite you. It only causes you to get upset on stage, while you want to be calm and focused on your performance. That's why you should always get away from the hustle and bustle. Find a quiet place and do some breathing exercises to concentrate and relax.
Then it's useful to go through the whole choreography in your head. As you go through the choreography, your brain sends the same signals to the muscles via the nerves as at a moment when you would really do the choreography. This way you have already done the dance once and all you have to do is repeat the choreography on stage. Your body is now pre-programmed.
Love stands for love your body. During a dance performance you ask your body to give it everything it has to offer. In order to be able to deliver this top performance, we need to prepare the body well. That means: warming up well. A solid warm-up consists of four different elements:
1. bringing your heart rhythm up to speed
2. the mobilisation of the joints
3. stretching the muscles
4. strength and alignment exercises1.
In addition, it is always useful to include certain movements that are characteristic of the choreography or specific muscle groups that are put under extra strain during the dance in your warm-up.
Do you find it difficult to create your own warm-up exercises? Then ask your dance teacher which exercises are suitable for you.
STEP 4: Dance free - Free on Stage
The ultimate moment has arrived: you take to the stage and all your expressiveness and technique has been requested. You show everything that you have made your own in the rehearsals. Here are the last three tips that will make you move and perform freely and confidently on stage. Easily summarized in the concept 'Dance FREE': F stands for focus, R stands for space and E for expressiveness.
You're in the wings. Focus on your mindset. Visualize a spectacular, successful performance. This will give you positive energy and self-confidence, which will make you perform better. Do not give room for doubt or negativity at that moment. If you visualize what could go wrong, you become insecure and that is at the expense of your performance.
If you feel nervous, focus on a calm, rhythmic breathing and relax your lower jaw.
In the last seconds before you go up, you focus your body. Focus on your muscle tension: keep your center strong and stretch your abdominal muscles, feel your feet on the ground for a firm position, pull down your shoulders to counteract the wrong tension.
You go on stage. Now the stage space wants to be actively conquered by your movements. Don't hold back, just push the boundaries of your movements and the space. Think of it as a nice competition with yourself: how far can I get into space with one dance step within the given formation?
Define the space. You do this by dynamically and consciously placing your movements in space with a clear starting and ending point.
During the rehearsals you have already worked on your expression and emotions, which you want to put in your dance. During the performance in the theatre, the stage lighting can give you an extra boost. Look closely at the light picture and feel the light of the spotlights on your body consciously. Are they open, warm colours that lead to extroverted movements? Or are they dark and cold colours that require a subdued or mysterious look? Or perhaps there are many bright changes that require a tough, accentuated interpretation.
Is there nevertheless all the good preparations taking place, is there a mistake? Don't even think about it. Don't get angry with yourself, but keep moving. Immediately try to do the next movement all the better and to empathize with yourself even more. Thus, even a mistake does not get you out of your routine.
But above all: enjoy dancing on stage. Share your dancing pleasure with the audience. Let your eyes go far into the auditorium. The audience will automatically join you and you as a performer have won their attention, to show what you can do.
Have you become enthusiastic about taking dance classes as a result of this article? Are you looking for more or new dance lessons in Rotterdam? With Artship you are always up to date with the most recent offer of dance classes, dance courses and dance workshops, given by dance schools and freelance dance teachers in Rotterdam.
You want to be a better dancer? Discover our broad selection of courses now.
- The above nutritional advice was given by Sefton Clarke, personal coach of the Dutch National Ballet, during the Symposium 'Know More Do Better'.
- The above warming up opinion was issued by the International Association of Dance Medicine
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