Why Dancers Should be Spending More Time Outside of the Dance Studio
By Kristin Deiss
Do you currently subscribe to the belief that to be the best dancer you can be, you should simply be dancing all of the time? Read the article below to learn why dancers should be spending more time outside of the dance studio and how that can help improve both performance and artistry!
How do you get better at any craft?
Most people would answer, “Spend lots of time on it.” And they would be right.
In fact, Malcolm Gladwell has posited in one of his best-selling books, Outliers, that it takes 10,000 hours of practice at something before one becomes a master at it.
But once you achieve that master level, one must maintain a sense of commitment to that craft, otherwise the skill falls away.
And any dancer knows, that in order to work on and maintain technique and artistry, one must practice, practice, and then practice some more.
Oh yea, and then practice even more.
But what if I told you that there was one special ingredient missing from this mastery recipe? And what if I said that one thing that is the exact opposite of what we’ve all come to believe is the only way to become great at something.
Want to be a better dancer and a better artist? Spend some more time outside of the studio away from your craft.
I know, I know. You think I’ve lost my marbles. But I think I’m just beginning to find them.
And I’m not alone.
Laura Di Orio, of Dance Informa, interviewed three professional dancers about their lives off the stage. And each of them, in their own way, said the same thing.
They all said that the key to becoming better on stage is by spending a fuller life off of it.
Violeta Angelova, a soloist with Suzanne Farrell Ballet, explained that, “To have outside interests makes your life richer, makes you more empathetic, gives you a better understanding of the world, [and] broadens your social circle.” Echoing this same sentiment, Danny Ryan, a dancer with Wonderbound, stated, “As I have grown, I have learned that finding interests that are removed from dance can be rejuvenating, rewarding and relaxing, not to mention inspiring. When it comes to my free time, I really try to get as far away from the dance world as possible, which, in turn, brings me closer to dance.”
What have these dancers figured out about their self and their artistry? That to achieve the high level of artistry they are looking for as dancers, they must remember that they are more than dancers. They must remember to find balance in themselves as a whole person, not just a dancer.
This notion of balance is not a new one, and in fact we hear a lot about it in the work-life balance discussion. I would argue that dancers who are serious about their craft treat dance as work in that equation. And far too often, that equation becomes lop-sided with work getting all of the resources and life being left with very little.
What happens as a result of that lop-sidedness? Chronic stress and burnout. Yikes.
What happens when that equation is more balanced? More productivity and motivation. Amazing!
We have all felt the effects of stress and burnout in the studio. Wouldn’t it be amazing to feel more productive and motivated each time we stepped into class, rehearsal, or on stage?
But rest and time away from dance benefits more than just motivation and productivity. It also helps to activate creativity.
In his book Rest, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang explains that rest enables the unconscious mind to become alive, and as a result, sparks more inspiration and creativity. And when those two things are firing, look out!
Now, I know many of you may be reading this having a hard time accepting that time away from the studio can have such a tremendously beneficial effect on your time at the studio. Especially as it probably runs counter to much of what the dance world has taught us. But hear me when I say developing yourself as a full person can never be a detriment to developing yourself as a dancer or as an artist.
What is art but a reflection of the world in which we live? Of the emotions that we feel and experience? And of stories that affect all of humanity? And how can you brilliantly add to and be part of that art without understanding and experiencing those things?
So, the next time you find yourself at a loss as to how to improve yourself as an artist, try engaging in a hobby outside of dance and see how much it can bring to your dancing and artistry.
What do you love to do outside of the studio? Share with the community by letting us know below!
Kristin Deiss is a dancer, educator, yogi, healer, and mom trying to live her best life through helping others improve theirs.
She holds an MFA in Dance Performance and Choreography from Tisch School of the Arts at NYU and is a certified yoga teacher, Reiki Master, and Integrated Energy Practitioner.
Kristin is currently the Commercial Dance Chair at Hussian College Los Angeles, the co-founder of Danscend- Mental Wellness for Dancers, and writes about overcoming failure on Stir the Sage. For more resources to support the mental wellness of dancers, be sure to check out Danscend’s offerings as well as follow them on Instagram!