Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Practice snacks - making a difference to your dance in bite size chunks.

I've been thinking a lot about training and practice for class students lately.

I often catch myself telling dancers in class that the move the move they are struggling with will come... with practice. We usually drill movement in class, both while learning it and in the drills section of the class, but I don't believe it is the best use of our class time to drill a single move for an extended period until everyone has nailed it (drill-specific classes excepted); once I know my students can execute a move safely, understand what they are aiming for and have had a little time to let their bodies feel it, we usually move on. Apart from anything else a little settling time usually helps things click.

I do understand that not every class participant is going to go home and practice the material they covered in class. At all. Let alone for hours of meticulous drilling. But I am also aware that many dance students want to practice, but don't really know how.

Also I am an evil taskmaster and setting homework pleases me.

Are your toes good or naughty?

I train stupidly hard, because I love it, it's my passion, my job and I am trying to maintain a steep learning curve. I am prepared to prioritise my training and make sacrifices for it. I don't expect every student to be quite so affected. So I got to thinking about what I could advise students to do that wouldn't cut into their lives too hard, but would still make a difference to their dance.

[though if you are interested in really raising your game through intense training and practice, this is the series for you]

I'm a real fan of the idea of 10 minute practices, because most of us can find 10 minutes a couple of times a week. Or even just 2 minutes a day. A lot can be accomplished in 2 minutes a day. It could be the time while you wait for the microwave to ping your porridge in the morning, a mid-afternoon break to freshen up your brain. Schedule that time and you will do it.

So I'm going to start a new series on here of little homework snippets that make a difference.

I'll get into specifics with the next post, but for today, here's  some general ideas to get you going.

Daily drills

Use my drill generator to pick something at random, and practice it! Picking at random means you will not just practice the moves you like best! Chose one thing to practice, do it for the duration of one song.

Class technique top up

In most classes you will probably learn 2-4 new techniques or steps. Put on a song, you can use Arabic music or just something you like with a beat (I have a bit of a playlist for students here). It could even just be a plain drumbeat (I use Guy Shalom's Tablatastic for drills to specific beats or Gypsy Caravan's Caravan Rhythms). Practice your new steps for the duration of the song, first slow, then full speed. Start small and increase your range as you warm into the movement. Think about posture and isolation. If the movement is a layer, practice the separate components briefly before putting it together.

Improvisation sensation

Choose 3 dance movements or steps. You decide how loose your definition is (for instance you could choose "figure 8s" which could be any and all variations on an 8, from mayas to chest 8s and one-hip 8s, or specifically stick with one type). Put on a song you know and like. Dance to it, using only those moves. We are working on musicality and spontaneity. Whatever happens, just keep dancing.