For Parents

How Can I Help My Dancer Practice At Home?

3:36 PM

Your dancer may feel that she needs extra practice to get that one step, or increase her strength, or clean her routine... but muscle memory is an interesting thing. If your dancer practices something incorrectly, it's possible that at-home practice can actually cause more problems (especially for serious dancers). How can you as an awesome dance-mom but non-dancer help support and teach your child to improve their technique without developing bad habits?

dance mom, dance mom help, ballet, practice at home
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1. Video + Comparison

This is my go-to for most situations. If I have a student who gets a correction constantly, sometimes it's because their brain is sending the wrong instructions to the body. They might know they're dropping their arm in their turn (because you told them), but they don't see how much they're dropping it.

Until you take a picture or a video.

I often whip out my cell phone and take a quick video snip of a student doing something, and then slow it down and let them watch, pointing out exactly what I'm saying. ("See how that toe isn't pointed? See how your elbow sinks below the wrist?")

Sometimes they just have to see what they look like in order to realize "Oh, that's not what I want it to look like. I want it to look like THIS." and then boom, much better.

Photo credit: Yellow Sky Photography on Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA

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2. Visualization 

Many times when a student can't do something correctly, it's because they can't do it in their head. For example: a dancer needs to be able to have a visual picture or video in their mind's eye of what their step should look like. If the video in their head is wrong, they will execute the step wrong.

My dance teacher told a story about how she couldn't do a double attitude turn. She was capable, but unable to do it. Her teacher forced her to close her eyes and do it in her head, and really see herself doing it correctly. She claimed it took several days of practicing in her head, but when she could finally see it in her head, she could do it just fine.

Photo credit: on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Enrico Cecchetti said, "The limbs are servants to the mind." Whatever our mind tells our body to do, the body has no choice but to do it! So using visualization for students who are unable to get past a correction can sometimes be the most powerful tool.

If your dancer doesn't know what it's supposed to look like correctly, showing a video of a professional dancer doing the exercise can help. This is why watching other dancers while they practice is so valuable.

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3. Repetition and Specification

When I started ballet, my mom used her VHS video camera to record an entire ballet class. I watched (and danced) that barre and center every day for about 3 months. I saw the same corrections and heard the same corrections every time I watched that video, and it helped me remember those corrections and change them before I made the mistake. This can be a very helpful tool for a student wanting to do extra hours.

Photo credit: counterclockwise on Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-SA
4. Make them teach it to you. 

Best way to help a student remember choreography, arms, and positions? Have them teach it to you! Put on your yoga pants and let them teach you the steps and combinations they've learned. Practice their dance with them. This allows them to pick out the little things on you that they need to fix on themselves!

What I do not recommend:
I don't recommend watching youtube video tutorials to learn new steps or "learn helpful tips and tricks." Many teachers don't agree on these "tricks," and it's very easy to learn something incorrectly if there isn't a teacher there to provide assistance and personal correction.

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Now don't get me wrong, there are lots of great video tutorials out there that are suitable for students. However, not all of them are created equal! Be sure to get teacher approval before watching a tutorial.

I am currently creating a playlist on Youtube of good teacher-approved tutorials. Have one you like? leave a comment with a link and I'll take a look? Have a specific request? I'll keep my eyes open!

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