A breath in dance

Dancing in your head anywhereAs a young dancer I was encouraged to breathe when I danced. I am not talking about making a huge thing about breathing. Rather it was about taking a breath to enhance the step or movement I was about to perform and also to assist in making hard work in dance look reasonably calm or easy. There was no point in performing a beautiful dance but then looking as if you were about to expire from not being able to catch your breath. So breathing was part of my training and I think in many ways this training was ahead of its time in its thinking and approach.

Stamina demanding dance

Take the demands of Highland dancing as one example – a very stamina demanding form of dance. When constantly hopping and springing throughout a whole dance it is easy for the dancer to begin to look tired and out of breath. Paying attention to the breathing can help with pacing the dancer as well as stamina. If a dancer loses all of his or her breath each times she lands from a hop, spring or jump then he or she will very quickly be out of puff and this will quickly show in the carriage and poise of the dancer. Breathing well in dance will enhance good stamina rather than reducing it. Having good stamina and good breathing is a terrific combination.

As breathing was part of my training it felt natural to breath well and use the breath to enhance whatever dance genre I was performing. I found that taking a breath at the right time for me in dance made a difference to how I felt and also how the movement looked. Getting the breathing right can help to make a performance appear light, airy and effortless instead of heavy and full of effort.

Working with the breath, to me, is a vital part of dance. If you have downloaded and read my booklet Preparation for Performance then you will know that teaching breathing in dance is something I have been involved with from way back in the 1970s.

Relaxation

In addition to using breathing techniques in dance I have also been involved in teaching relaxation techniques to dancers of all ages for many years including teaching relaxation techniques in the workplace, within wellbeing workshops and stress management courses. I guess it is not surprising that my journey of the breath has taken me into mindfulness and the mindful breath too. Learning about and practising mindful breath offers yet another aspect of how the breath and the body work together.

Breathe and focus

In dance, breathing can be a good way to begin releasing tension in the body. I find that taking time to breathe (a few deep breaths in and out) before starting teaching a class or taking part in a class is a great way to focus and prepare your mind for what you are about to do. Being present in the moment when teaching and participating is a different experience to teaching whilst being distracted by something else or dancing whilst thinking of something else. Why not try, taking a few breaths to focus on what you are doing right now and see how it feels? Does it feel feel different to be fully present in the moment?

Currently my Tension & Rigidity course is running and another course that is relevant to this post is my Mindfulness in Dance Teaching. You can find out about all the short online CPD courses that I do for dance teachers by clicking here.

There are also earlier posts that you might want to read such as: Mindfulness in Dance Teaching and Highland Dancers Achieving Steady Raised Arms and Relaxation Technique. Breathing is a great topic to explore for dancers and dance teachers. It has a lot to offer for your own wellbeing as well as that of your dancers. I hope you will take a look at it in more depth and see what it has to offer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mindful moments

With the current Mindfulness in Dance Teaching course underway I have been reflecting on  a personal retreat I spent recently at Samye Ling Tibetan Buddhist Monastery and Centre for World Peace and Health on the banks of the river Esk in Scotland. Although this is a Buddhist Monastery, it is not necessary to be Buddhist or even religious in order to visit or stay at this peaceful place. I loved being close to the water and this lovely little beach with its colourful pebbles.

The photographs in this article are ones I took during my retreat. Although it was still quite wintry weather there were some dry and bright patches of weather too. You can see from the photos that there is still some snow lying on the banks of the river and pond beneath the bridge.

During my retreat I spent time joining silent meditations as well as spending time by the river enjoying some mindful moments doing mindful breathing and movement. Breathing in fresh, clean air and doing some early morning mindful movement is a great way to start the day.

Several times during my retreat I walked across the wooden bridge to the river where I spent a little time sitting on a stone enjoying a mindful moment or two in meditation. Even just a few mindful moments here and there offers benefits. I certainly felt it was beneficial doing some little and often meditation.

 

Doing little and often mindfulness is something that we can do as dance teachers for our own wellbeing. Most dance teachers are very busy people so it is not always easy finding time to switch off and relax. But once you are into the habit of spending some mindful moments for you then you should feel the benefit. In the Mindfulness in Dance Teaching course we explore ways of bringing some principles of mindfulness into our dance teaching practice. This course is not a strictly mindfulness course. Instead it explores ways of teaching dance that incorporate aspects of mindfulness such as noticing, non-judgemental observing and mindfulness in action. Exploring non-judgemental observing can be challenging for dance teachers as a lot of dance teaching can be about being judgemental. Teachers who have already taken this course report finding this aspect particularly challenging but also a very useful addition to their dance teaching toolkit.

You can read more about Mindfulness in Dance Teaching in an article posted earlier on this site. Meanwhile I am looking forward to another stay at Samye Ling’s in the not too distant future.

 

 

 

 

April Courses available to book now

 

dancing

There are three short online CPD courses available to book now. Check them out on the Book a Course page.

These short online courses are increasing in popularity with dance teachers around the world. A growing number of teachers are returning to take further courses. You can read about the course details on the Short Online Courses page and download a course information sheet there for each course too.

If you are considering taking one or more of these courses please make sure that you book by the closing date.

 

 

Mindfulness – Ruby Wax

Dance teachers are busy people. How often do we hear about how a teacher is rushing around or trying to fit in an extra class or doing some other busy thing? Below is a video of a lecture given by Ruby Wax in 2013 about Mindfulness. Continue reading

Time for teacher

Dancing in your headWith everything that dance teachers need to pay attention to today it is not surprising that it can get a bit stressful at times. In amongst making sure that students are being taught safely and effectively and risk management is in place to deal with all and sundry do we find time to look after ourselves?

Continue reading