Imagery was part of my dance training although I did not think of it as movement or dance imagery at the time. It was just something we incorporated into our training and performance. When I first took part in a movement/dance imagery workshop with Eric Franklin at an IADMS (International Association for Dance Medicine & Science) conference many years ago I was reminded of how important imagery is in dance learning and teaching.
Articles and books
In recent years there has been an increasing amount of articles and books promoting the positive use of imagery in training, rehearsal and performance. Although imagery has been around for a very long time it is still relatively new to some. We can learn a lot from the study and use of imagery in our teaching.
Mabel Todd’s wonderful book The Thinking Body, first published in 1937 (and still available today), tells us on page 295: Continue reading →
Depending on the sort of dance teaching you are involved with do you set an overall goal for each class or group of classes that you teach? What I mean is do you have an overall focus of learning and development beyond the specific content for one class?
An example of this could be in say a ballet class where you are teaching some dance technique aspects of the syllabus. The focus of the session is to develop the technique but what about a more general or overall focus that you can transport from one session to another? What about the bigger picture? An overall focus might be to add to each student’s understanding of safe dance practice (SDP). When you reflect on the class you would be able to identify not only how you introduced the technique but also how the class helped to develop the student’s understanding of safe dance practice. You can use this overall focus for a number of weeks, terms or determined length.
In an older adult class you might have set dance pieces that you want to teach or review and in addition to these you may also have an overall focus of encouraging participants to interact with each other. So in this situation the dance class has dance content goals but there is also an overall focus of increasing socialisation within the class. Over several classes there may be different dance content goals but the overall goal for the classes might be to promote wellbeing through increasing socialisation.
In a Highland class you may be working on say, the sword dance but an overall goal for the class might be to improve the use of the shoulder joint for improved carriage of the arms and upper body throughout all the Highland dances. And you bring this focus into whatever aspect of the sword dance that you are teaching. Or it may be that you want an overall focus of improving breathing and stamina. Again something that can be a focus in your Highland classes no matter what dance or steps you are teaching at individual classes.
A beginner ballroom class may being introduced to basics from the various dances but could an overall goal perhaps be for the dancers to become comfortable dancing as a couple no matter which dance they are dancing?
I am sure you get the picture whichever dance genres you teach. What are your overall goals for the learning and development of your dancers/students in addition to specific dance goals at each class or session?
Dancing in my head was the topic of a post I wrote back in 2012 and I thought it is time to say something more about this exciting topic.
What I refer to as, dancing in my head, is often called mental practise or mental rehearsal. In dance this mental practise involves imagining that one is in the dance environment performing the desired dance task or tasks. One aspect that I find works really well for me when dancing in my head, is rhythm. Going through the step or movement in rhythm in my head helps me to get the right feel of the dance, step or movement. Feeling the rhythm in my head is the same as feeling it in my feet or body when I dance it or teach it.
Mental rehearsal is a good way to get steps, movements or a dance clear in your head before you physically perform them.. Take Highland dancing for example, dancing a new step or a new link from one movement to another, in your head reduces the amount of energy needed and hopping that needs to be done. In fact, Highland is a dance genre where teaching your students about mental rehearsal or dancing in their head can really benefit their performance. Competitive Highland dancers and other competitive dancers of course, can gain from ‘dancing in their head’ as part of their training regime for competitions.
I like to explore using a variety of ways to achieve the end goal and mental rehearsal is one that you might find helps your dancers to focus on how to practise and get the most from that practise.
Whatever dance genre/s you teach why not consider encouraging ‘dancing in your head’ for your students and see what they make of doing regular, mental practise?
Remember to read my previous post on this topic for more information.
I remember when I was a young Highland dancing competitor that we all worked hard to have steady arms. With so much elevation and jumping going on in Highland it is not surprising that achieving steady arms is, for some, a real challenge. But does it need to be?
I was delighted to read on the UKA website that two funded, research projects are being carried out as part of three post-graduate Masters Physiotherapy (pre-registration) dissertations exploring the impact forces of Irish and Highland dancing and the potential influences on skeletal health, as well as quantifying their energy expenditure during their routines.
In my competitive days, (a very long time ago), it took a long time to master the art of backstepping in Highland dancing. The aim was to perform a very smooth backstepping action with all required positions reached at the right time. Backstepping back then truly was a magnificent step to watch and a very demanding one to perform well. But it was worth the effort it took to achieve some of the smoothest backsteps in town. When I see backsteps being danced today, I feel uncomfortable. Instead of a lovely smooth action, today’s backsteps are danced with such a staccato, jerky action that they no longer look like backsteps at all. And they do not have the aesthetic quality of the backsteps danced in my day.
I always think that Highland dancing is a tough, stamina demanding, highly technical form of dance. And I am conscious that it is a dance genre where the youngest dancers need to do the same as the adults. Even when young children are dancing a three-step Fling, the three steps are the same steps that adult dancers do. Adult dancers are likely to dance more steps than very young dancers but the basic steps, such as the first step of the Fling is the same for everyone. When it comes to Championship level dancers the number of steps that the 7 and under 10 years need to dance is less than those who are 10 years and over. But 10 year olds need to do the same number of steps as the adults.
You can download a free copy of my Preparation for Performance for Highland Dancers. The non dance techniques introduced in this book aim to be an effective aid to enhancing performance. If you are a dancer and want to have an edge on your fellow Highland dancing competitors then this book is for you. If you are a teacher then encourage your dancers to learn and use these non dance techniques to help them to cope with the pressures of competition.
If you do not do or teach Highland dancing then don’t worry, these non dance technique skills and tips are easily transferrable to other dance genres. And you can even use them in everyday life.
Mental training skills
Breathing and relaxation
Practical exercises using balls and bands
You can go to the website to download your free copy now.