I’ll be completely honest; I have mixed feelings about hacks. I’m all in favor of time and energy saving tools and habits, because life is crazy and who doesn’t wish they had a couple more hours in their day? But I’m not in favor of skimping on the things that lead to great growth. As the saying goes, "no mud, no lotus." Meaning, we’ve gotta go through some muck before we blossom and bloom.
Dance technique falls into the latter category. I don’t really believe there’s any way to "hack" better technique. Any dancer with years of experience under their belt already knows this.
But I do believe there is something dancers can do to fast track their technique, and ironically enough, it has nothing to do with TheraBands, ice baths, or Pilates. This hack has nothing to do with dance technique or conditioning, and everything to do with your brain.
It’s mindset. Too often in dance, our thoughts get stuck along the lines of "I can’t," "this is hard", or "that sucked." Dwelling in thoughts like this won’t do anything to improve your technique or performance. In fact, it can actually inhibit you from making progress. Our mood and beliefs are shaped by the thoughts we think. If you want to hack and fast track your technique, your best bet is to check the thoughts you allow into your brain.
The next time you notice yourself starting to repeat negative thoughts about your abilities or about yourself, pause, take a breath, and make an intentional choice to think a new, more positive and helpful thought. Here are some phrases to try:
I focus on progress, not perfection.
This may take more time and practice to master.
I don’t have it quite yet.
I can try this a different way.
I can do hard things.
I’ve figured out hard things before, I will figure this out too.
Doing this mindset work takes the pressure off of dancers to get it "right" or "perfect," and gives the mind and body space to experiment while staying non-judgmental, two key elements to progressing technique and performance.
Mindset work is something I think all dancers, and all dance educators should teach in their classes; it’s an element of emotional wellness, and something we all need in our lives right now, considering the stress of being in a global pandemic. If you’re a teacher, or a dancer who’s still feeling a bit "off" as we navigate this new normal, I encourage you to check out mental and emotional wellness skills.
This simple hack has a profound ripple effect, in our dance classes, and beyond. Easy and effective? That’s my definition of a hack, and that’s something I can get behind! How about you? Do you use mindset work in your classes or to boost your dance confidence? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
Katrena Cohea is the CEO of Different Drummer Dance, a studio and online community dedicated to building body-positive dancers and educators. Katrena is a California native and danced professionally in the San Francisco Bay Area for many years before moving to upstate New York with her husband. She teaches body positivity and dancer wellness courses for dance educators and when she’s not dancing or teaching enjoys hiking, cooking, baking and brewing the perfect cup of coffee.
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