In a busy world it is easy to miss things that are around us or even within us. How much time do we spend noticing what is around us, noticing our breath, noticing how we are teaching?
Creating some space within our teaching to notice things about our teaching. To be mindful of our teaching and the people we teach is what I want to explore very briefly here.
I have been a fan of ‘less is more’ in dance teaching for a very long time. What do I mean by this? The ‘less’ refers to the amount of corrections or comments made by the teacher in any one class. Being able to identify a key correction that will enable the student dancer to improve a whole range of smaller corrections without specifically attending to each one separately, is an approach that I feel is worthwhile. In this earlier article Making corrections count I explore this is some detail.
One of the things that choosing your corrections carefully does is allow more time for your student dancers to pay attention to them effectively. As those who have worked with me know, I have used breathing and relaxation skills within my teaching for many years with good success. And part of these skills is about awareness. Awareness of the breath, awareness of posture and alignment, awareness of the freedom of the breath when dancing and moving. This awareness is something we can work at and promote during our teaching. We can become mindful of our breath – this is different to performing relaxation skills.
Within my Tension & Rigidity short online courses we explore various relaxation techniques and approaches including a full body scan for the purpose of recognising and releasing avoidable muscle tension. This type of body scan encourages focusing on and paying attention to areas of the body and noticing whether they are full of tension. This in its way is being mindful of the body and how it is at that specific moment in time. It is also possible to be mindful of the body in a more general way and within the surroundings that you are teaching or dancing in.
Mindfulness in dance teaching is not about focusing on future teaching goals. It is about awareness of the present, in the Now. It might be that instead of thinking about a future examination or a future goal as you are teaching, it is about being aware of your teaching in the present – right now as you are doing the teaching. It is about noticing your teaching and those you are teaching at the present moment in time rather than seeing it from a future perspective.
Mindfulness is about paying attention and usually in a particular and purposeful way – in the present moment (in the Now) and non-judgementally. Practising Mindfulness increases awareness and our acceptance of the present (in the Now).
Mindfulness is practical and encourages us to ‘notice’ things. This might be noticing our surroundings (perhaps the dance studio or perhaps outdoors), what we see, hear and smell (as we teach). In my book (available to download free here) Preparation for Performance, mental simulation of movement (MSM) is mentioned and in particular, mental rehearsal (pp 7 & 8). Here, imagery is used to focus mentally on say, the studio where the dancing takes place, trying to visualise everything in the studio and the music and even your feet in your dance shoes. this imagery can take place away from the studio. In contrast, Mindfulness asks you to pay attention to where you are now, the music that is playing now, the pictures on the wall now, how your feet feel in the shoes you are wearing right now. Can you see the difference between the two? In MSM you are thinking and visualising imagery to help with getting the feel of where you are going to dance or teach and in Mindfulness you notice and pay attention to the present, where you are now and what you are doing now.
In life we often find our mind wandering and this happens in dance too. Can you think of a time recently when you were teaching and found your mind wandering onto the next step or dance? Or perhaps even the next class? It can be challenging at times, to stay in the present or the Now. When teaching we can practise paying attention so we stay in the present and notice more about our teaching, our students and the studio or venue that we are teaching in.
Mindfulness is something that, I believe, can help us, as dance teachers to help our dance students. By noticing how our students are moving and dancing in a non-judgemental way (so not focusing on looking for, or making, corrections) we can become more aware of each of our students and how they stand, rest and move. Mindful dance teaching can encourage each of our dance students to notice how their body feels when moving and dancing or notice how their foot feels as he or she steps onto it without the focus always being on corrections. Having space to feel their own movement and dancing is something that can help dance students to become more aware of their body, their alignment, their control, their artistry.
Making space for Mindfulness in the dance studio
Beginning the purposeful noticing of Mindfulness might be noticing how you stand when teaching. Do you notice where your weight is when you are teaching? You are not looking for right or wrong here, just to notice how you are when you are teaching.
You can ask your students to spend a few moments noticing how a step feels or how their foot feels when transferring weight from one foot to another. You may ask them to walk gently but purposefully around the studio, noticing (without judgement) how it feels to walk.
Beginning with something like noticing standing and walking helps us to become more aware of our alignment and posture and how we move.
In time, developing awareness through noticing how we stand, rest and move can lead to improved awareness in dance performance.
Being mindful in our dance teaching is something worth exploring.
New course – Mindfulness in dance teaching
I am currently working on a new short online CPD course for dance teachers exploring Mindfulness in dance teaching. Is this a course that would interest you?
When this course is available it will be added to the list of current courses on the Short Online Courses list and also posted in the new list of course dates that is coming soon.