De-Fog the Brain

*this post was originally written for 8Count Audio*

Do you ever leave class or rehearsal and think “that was fun, but I don’t feel like I got anywhere new today?” That’s never a good sign. A good dancer is always trying and working to improve and raise their personal “best” to the next level. Sometimes we get tired, or frustrated, or stressed, and before we know it, class is over and we don’t remember anything we learned.

But don’t worry. There are ways to avoid that.

1.      Eat at least an hour before class. You can’t think or dance if you don’t have gas in the fuel tank. End of story. Complex carbohydrates and complete proteins are the best. So, pbj anyone?

2.      Before class, drink water. Water improves your brain function and keeps you from feeling sluggish and tired. It gives your muscles and shock absorbers more flexibility and life. It also starts the rehydration before you get too behind. Don’t forget to keep drinking water during class! Don’t wait until you’re thirsty: by then it’s already too late.

3.      Don’t let your mind wander. Studies have shown that people who go through the motions while thinking about something else don’t get nearly as much out of the exercise as those who are focused and attentive during their work-out. This is because you fully engage the muscles rather than just doing enough to accomplish the movement.

4.      After class, write it down. Try to remember the corrections your teacher or coach gives you, and write them down in a dance journal or diary. This forces you to recall what your teacher said, whether it be technique tips, or corrections on a number you’re rehearsing. Then, before your next session, go over your notes and keep them in your mind.

5.      Have your priorities straight. This is a tough one. For dancers who do a lot of competitions or performances, sometimes the line between being dedicated and being dangerous gets blurry. Don’t forget that if you fall apart because you aren’t getting enough sleep at night, you’re useless as a dancer. Don’t forget that if you get behind on your homework, you might not make it into dance college, no matter how flexible you are. It’s not the end of the world to skip a class to get important stuff done. With that in mind, don’t make excuses not to go to class! Figure out what the most important thing is, and make it your priority.

If for some reason you still feel like you aren’t getting anything out of dance class, talk to your teacher. You may need to go up a level—or even go down a level. If everything is too simple, you’ll get bored (however, don’t forget that even a professional dancer can get a good workout from a beginner class if they work hard). If it’s too advanced, you’ll get confused and you won’t be able to do your best because there will be too much to focus on.

Don’t be afraid to dialogue with your teacher or coach about it: they’re here to help, and they want to challenge you. And as a dancer, you need to step up to the challenge. 

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