Technique of the Week: January 20, 2016
4 Ways to Make the Most of Practice Time
Not sure of the best way to practice, how much to do or when to do it? Here are 4 easy ways to make every minute count!
- One Thing at a Time. We like to think of ourselves as Multitaskers; but in truth, we can do 1 thing well, or many things at once with only mediocre quality. Do you feel like there are a lot of things about your dancing that you’d like to improve? Make a list and bring it to your next practice session. For example, if I’m practicing Rumba, maybe I want to:
- Keep my toes turned out.
- Brush my feet through closed in between each step.
- Make sure I have the correct knee, hip and rib forward with each step.
- Keep my head up.
- Squeeze my lats alternately.
I would never be able to do all 5 of these things at once if I was just learning them! Go through a simple pattern, like basic to open break and underarm turn, and see if you can keep your toes turned out the whole time. When you can go through that exercise successfully three times in a row, then try to do the same pattern while brushing your feet through closed in between each step. Keep trying until you do THAT successfully three times in a row. If you never get to items C, D and E, it was still a successful practice! Go for quality, not quantity. Tomorrow you’ll be able to get through A & B again in 5-10 minutes, and then have time to move on to C and D, then maybe the next day you’ll do E (as well as F, G, and H which suddenly popped up as wellJ).
- Slow and Steady Wins the Race. A lot of people move quickly through the parts of a figure that they know, and then slow down in order to think of what they have to do next. The problem with this method is that your body learns through muscle memory, and every time you do that figure in the future, you’ll slow down when you get to the part that you once thought difficult. Practice a new figure S-L-O-W-L-Y enough that you don’t have to slow down when it gets hard. This may feel painfully boring while you’re doing the “easy part,” but you’ll reap the benefits in the future. Once you can go through the whole figure at the same speed, speed it up in small increments (always dancing the whole thing at the same speed) until you are able to dance it to music.
- Yin and yang. Find balance in working on the fine details and the “bigger picture.” Spend some time picking apart movement on a microscopic level (i.e. 1-3 steps at a time) until you are happy with that tiny piece. Then let that go and practice putting amalgamations together. Technique is wonderful and critical but if you can’t dance through a whole song then you’ll never be able to use it!
- Less is More. Practice is most beneficial if you do it more frequently in shorter sessions, rather than for marathon-length sessions less frequently. [Except posture. Practice your posture during every waking moment. Make it your goal for someone who doesn’t know you to accuse you of being a dancer! Great posture will also make you appear more confident and approachable; and everyone looks better when they’re standing tall. What could be better?] I digress… If there are 1 or 2 things you are really focusing on, try to do them for 10-15 minutes every day, particularly immediately after you learn them (or review them with a coach), because that’s when the correct movement is freshest in your mind. It is tempting to wait until the day before (or the day of!) a lesson before practicing; but you will have forgotten a lot in the 6 or so days since your last lesson. Right after a lesson or class, when you get home, spend a few minutes and see if you can re-create what you were just working on. Then spend a few minutes the next day and see if you can do it again; and so on, each day until your next lesson. A little mindfulness each day will take you a long way.