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How To Improve Dancing Skills And Ability—Turning Lemons Into Lemonade

So from time to time, in every dancers career it’s inevitable that at some point we will find the steps too hard. It can feel frustrating, and ugly and if we don’t know how to use it to spur us on, we can leave feeling disheartened. So what do you do in that situation where a class is too hard, or in an audition when you can’t pick up all the choreography? Or how about if your technique just isn’t where you wish it were? Here is the ammo you’re going to need to hit the target of your goals head on. I’m going to address how to improve dancing skills and ability in the quickest and most effective ways, so you can turn your lemons into lemonade! Let’s feel better!

How To Improve Dancing With The Bridge Method

So first off, I’ve posted here one massive tip. This is probably one of the most powerful techniques for up-leveling your ability to handle large chunks of tricky choreography. For those of you who don’t follow the website Instagram, check out my post below:

If used well and consistently, it can seriously supercharge and up-level your progress, (and let’s be honest, who doesn’t want more of that! Yeeeeeeeah!) So now we’re all on the same page, (pardon the pun) let’s take a look at the rest!

Be Fully Present

You know that feeling when you hit the wall, because the choreo is really hard, and you start to feel your brain get scrambled, or just freeze like a YouTube video that’s still buffering? Yeah, it’s not fun. We feel like there’s too much, so what’s the point? But one of the key things here is to meet the wall head on, and not just tune out due to panic or overwhelm. So take a breath, resist the brain freeze, and focus on picking up AS MUCH AS YOU PHYSICALLY ARE CAPABLE. It’s kind of like mining for gold in terms of neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to change itself.) The very point at which you want to give up, is the exact point where you can make the most progress. When you’re in danger of giving up is where you NEED to keep going, and getting your brain to make those connections. So get those synapses firing a little bit faster. It’s will pay off, I promise!

Neuroplasticity- Put A Pin In It

I truly believe, that when it comes to dance, most of it starts with our head space. It’s a brain game. Everything, from co-ordination down to muscle memory is pretty much down to certain neurons firing over and over in our brain repeatedly. So with this in mind, what else can we do when we’re blanking or the sheer volume of information is too much? Listen closely, because if you really want to know how to improve dancing skills, neuroplasticty based tools are going to be key for you!

Any moment where you’re not being taught choreo, or as you’re being walked through the choreo- I want you to flag in your mind the first place where you seriously blank, and mentally make a note of it. You can do this by naming it with a word eg swish, kick, stomp, chaine, punch (anything that describes the move and helps you remember it.)

Then, when you get the next available second to stop, run that transition as much as you can. Do it full out if possible, as muscle memory is how the body best learns, but if not, do it mentally. After the next run through do the same thing for the next point after that, that you blank. Keep doing this for AS MUCH AS YOU CAN TAKE IN. It may be that you don’t have the capacity to pick up all of it right now, but I bet you can pick up some of it right? 🙂

Go Hard Or Go Home

This one is short but sweet. Go through things as full out as you can. This is super important as it’s how you will get things into your body memory. Practise steadily getting faster, so that when the music comes on, it’s not just a major panic.

Slow It Down So You Can Grow At Your Own Pace

Now if you’re doing a class online, at home a la quarantine style- the beauty is (as long as the class isn’t live,) you can pause it. And even if it is, you can make a note to go back through it later. At this point, the key is to STOP when you get to information overload- backtrack and force your brain to recall it. DRILL it and work on it, until you know what you’re doing. The crucial thing here is to drill those transitions (the move before you blank and the one you blank on as much as possible.) Basically use any time you’re not dancing to mark it or go over it in your brain.

This is never pointless, as the brain works in patterns. Over time, it will start to see how certain steps get put together and you will start to make those connections quicker! Oh, this is a bit like that etc. Know that repetition is the key to success if you want to know how to improve dancing ability. Neurons that fire together, wire together. A lot of time with moves, after a while you get used to a style and the way an artist choreographs and puts things together. So one of the best things you can do is expose yourself to that style and do it as often as possible. It’s the same with picking up patterns- the more you do it, the quicker you’ll get at picking things up.

With each section you grasp, you can then carry on. Ultimately to get better we have a choice. And you will have to make this choice over and over again. You can either affirm that you can do it, or affirm that you can’t. So which one do you want to make true for you? Remember, it’s like the saying: whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.

What If I Don’t Know It?

If there is a section you don’t know, freestyle! Commit to it and do something different. You don’t know it, so you might as well look fabulous and style it out! It’s going to look a lot better than you being a beat behind and stumbling through parts of it. Remember you’re awesome, so show you’re fierce! This will also show great stage presence!

What About My Technique?

If things are tricky technically, pick just one thing that is tripping you up the most, and go away and work on that thing- whether it’s a scissor leap, or a turn, or knowing how to pop and lock; it doesn’t matter what, just go away and learn how to do it. A perfect example of this is once upon a time, I actually used to find shimmying pretty tricky. But now I don’t even think about it! BECAUSE I went away and worked on it and got it into my muscle memory. Learning how to improve dancing ability is 90% about dedication.

If Nothing Else, Finish Strong!

Try to pick up the ending. Where possible always finish strong as this is the last thing that’s going to be in the audience/panel’s memory. So even if there’s a chunk you can’t get, don’t sweat it! Prioritise getting a firm finish. It’s kind of like how in dancing exams, even if you fall out of your pirouette, you still have to finish it well and smile. You perform, and don’t acknowledge the muck up.

So Let’s Summarise:

— Use the bridge method: simplify things.

— Breathe and push past the wall. One bit at a time, fight for it!

— Mentally flag the moves where you blank one by one, building up slowly (and think of a word to describe them.)

— Go full out, speeding up slowly

– If at home, pause the class and go through it bit by bit until you’ve got it.

—Expose yourself to that particular style as much as possible (neurons that fire together, wire together.)

— Freestyle If you don’t know it,

— Take one thing away technically to work on, and master it,

— Know your ending

I really hope this is helpful. If this resonates with you, give these tips a go. If you’re wanting to know how to improve dancing ability, neuroplasticity really is the key. I’d love to hear how you get on in the comments below 🙂

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