Practice makes perfect or does it?
We’ve all heard the statement but does it actually hold up? What is your instructor truly asking of you when leaving class to practice? Well, as our dancers are approaching their end of year showcase, all of us at Expressions are asking our students to practice, and I wanted to elaborate on what we are expecting from our students. Nothing breaks our hearts more when we see a student go up on stage unprepared.
For the younger dancer:
Practice the showcase at home, whether it is with friends and family or with stuffed animals seated at the “theatre”.
Parents asking your dancer to show you what they did will help them also to retain what they are learning in class. I love when my students know their June Showcase CD songs and I get that it may be tiring to listen to over and over, but at the theatre when so many things are new and can feel overwhelming hearing the familiar songs is just one bonus to making your dancer feel ready to be a star on that stage.
For leveled students:
There are three main ways to practice as an older student: physically, mentally, and routinely.
Physical practice is exactly as it sounds with a bit more to it. Throw in your CD or earbuds and go. Dance it out and repeat. Now there can be downsides to physical practice, especially when it’s the only way a dancer practices. One is you may or may not be warmed up and can do some damage to your body, your instrument, if not properly prepped. The biggest is practicing and not thinking it through, AKA practicing it WRONG! Our bodies do go through a process that develops muscle memory (no your muscles don’t have mini brains) but a process of repeating a motion sends neurological signals from the brain to the body will increase the speed at which these signals fire, think driving in town verses on the highway. This process is super beneficial but detrimental if you are practicing wrong. Driving down the wrong highway won’t get you where you need to go.
Which brings me to mental practice; serious and methodical practice just thinking through the movements, where your spot is, the counts, and so on. Mental practice can look anything like just listening to the song and practicing in your head, writing out the routine especially a part you struggle with, or stopping the music and going over how that part in the dance was taught. Practicing in your head is a great way to ensure you understand your routine, but be weary to not rely solely on it as I mentioned earlier you need those mental highways built in from physical practice as well or else you may fall behind, literally.
The last one is routine, practicing physically all out, nothing holding you back once a month isn’t quite practicing…frankly that’s like cramming for an exam unlike studying. Going over the dance in your head right before class is a great idea, but if it’s the only time you think about your dance, it’s most likely not going to stick.
At Expressions we encourage our students to practice three times a week, hopefully incorporating mental and physical practice in those three times. Now before thinking three times is a lot, look at how long the dances are…at max they are three minutes long when completed, right now most are only half way done. Doing the math three times a week at three minutes per routine is less than it seems. Create a routine with your student, on days off come home, eat a snack, do some homework, practice and then free time with family and friends. When a student has class take that drive home as an opportunity for some mental practice talking about it or just listening to the songs and going over it one last time for the night.
There are so many opportunities for growth as a dancer and practicing is one that can’t be beat!