Making it up as we go Along: Improvisation in Dance

In dance, improvisation usually refers to some spontaneous or semi-structured movements. Rather than learning choreography as a specific sequence of known steps to match critical points in the music, the moves are entirely random or prompted by a simple word or phrase.

One of my dance mentors shared an excellent concept that I will share with you now, that with improvisation in dance, the goal is not so much to be interesting but to be interested.

…with improvisation in dance, the goal is not so much to be interesting, but to be interested.

In theory, improvisation is simple. Make up the movement as you go along. However, many dancers find it hard to make things up on the spot in practice. The number of steps a dancer knows has no relation to their ability to create movement and dance on the spot for improvisation. Dancers can learn new steps, but improvisation is an experience in presence. 

Playing prompt games is a great way to incorporate more improvisation into your dance practice. Working in groups can do something like Simon says, where one person calls out a movement dynamic, color, phrase, and dancers use that to inspire their movement.

If you are working alone, you can still provide yourself with a sense of spontaneity, but it might take more planning. For example, you could create a list of prompts to pull from, or even write out prompts on slips of paper and pull them out of a hat.

To help you out in the prompting, I’ve created a collection of 30 words you can use to inspire your dance improvisation sessions. You can download it for free in my ko-fi shop.

I’m curious to learn more about your experience with improvisation in your dance practice. How do you approach the experience? Do you see it as more of a tool for choreography building or as an exercise in mindfulness? Please feel free yes to share your thoughts in the comments.

How to Set Smart Goals for your Dance Practice

Welcome back, dancers.

Let’s talk about setting goals for dance. When it comes to creating a solid plan to reach your dance dreams, the more specific you can get, the more likely you are to be successful. A concept I learned from my studies in social media strategy is to set S.M.A.R.T. goals. While your dance goals are likely much different than the digital marketing goals of a business, the concept can still be applied to help improve achievement and success.

What is a S.M.A.R.T. goal?

A S.M.A.R.T. goal clarifies what you expect and the measures used to determine if the goal has been reached. 

Specific: Linked to a job description, departmental goals/mission, and/or overall social media goals and strategic plans.

Measurable: The success toward meeting the goal can be measured in some way.

Attainable: Goals are realistic and can be achieved in a specific amount of time and are reasonable.

Relevant: The goals are aligned with current tasks and projects and focus in one defined area; including the expected result.

Time-Oriented: Goals have a clearly defined time frame including a target or deadline date.

Here are a couple of examples to show you how to create smarter goals:

Not a S.M.A.R.T. goal:

Join a dance company.

This goal does not identify any measurement or time frame nor why the goal is important.

S.M.A.R.T. goal:

This weekend, I will create a list of 5 to 10 local dance companies I could be a good fit for and note their audition criteria. The basic search criteria for each company will be that they perform throughout the year and offer pay so the opportunity is sustainable for my career.

Not a S.M.A.R.T. goal:

Get a higher leg extension.

What specifics might be missing from this goal?

S.M.A.R.T. goal:

Create a simple leg workout and stretch routine that I can complete 3-5 times each week. The routine will consist of strength training exercises as well as stretching so that I have a good foundation to support my leg extensions in dance class.

With SMART goals, you are more likely to know if your current approach is working or not. Think about how you might apply this process to your dance classes and practice sessions. What S.M.A.R.T. goals will you be setting?

To help you get started on setting S.M.A.R.T. goals for your dance journey, I’ve created a free S.M.A.R.T. Goals Worksheet. It is available to download in my ko-fi shop.

The Care and Keeping of Good Dance Habits

I believe every human is a dancer just as they are. If you want to build a solid foundation of physical and mental support for yourself as a professional dance career, however, it can mean a lot of training and practice. Developing consistent good habits is vital. 

Do your daily habits help you reach your dance goals? After my time on this earth as a human, I’ve accumulated plenty of habits. Some of my habits have helped me to thrive while others have evolved to protect me and end up holding me back. And the real kicker is some habits can do both!

But what are good habits for dancers?

Your habits will ideally reflect your goals as a dancer. If you have not thought about your dance goals in a while, now is a great time. For me, the path to this awareness for myself is keeping track of my habits. When I pay attention to which habits I bring into my life regularly, I can make better choices of which practices I want to hold on to and which to avoid.

Keeping track of your daily habits is as simple as writing it down. You may find a journal method that works best for you, or maybe even a digital app. Once you have an idea of your goals, you’ll know which habits can help you get there. To help you with more brainstorming, I’ve started a list of dance-related habits to get you started. 

  • Journaling
  • Practice Technique
  • Stretching
  • Conditioning
  • Drink Water
  • Eat Healthily

If you are new to tracking habits, I made a simple worksheet you can use to start paying attention two how your lifestyle can support your dance goals.

Head on over to my ko-fi shop to snag your free download. The download comes with a pre-filled version to get you started and also a blank one to make a full habit list of your own.

So tell me dancers, which daily habits are you going to keep track of?

Reflecting on your Dance Practice

Dancing is just as much of a mental sport as it is a physical one. It takes courage and confidence for anyone to attempt a step first, and self-doubt is a common enemy for many. This doubt usually comes from my feeling that my dancing might not fit in with professional expectations. One practice I use to combat this perpetual self-doubt is reflexivity.

Reflexivity refers to a process of reexamination of norms. While there may be cultural norms in the dance world, we are all individual dancers.  The benefit of incorporating regular reflection into your dance practice is that you can notice and understand which thoughts stories may be holding you back from dancing confidently. When I am consistent with my reflecting practice, I feel much more accepting of myself as a unique dancer and more respectful of the history and tradition we are all a part of, even in our uniqueness.

Planning and journaling are two of the simplest ways to practice reflexivity. You’ll just need a place to put your thoughts. Your reflection space may be a blank notebook, digital notepad, post-its, or whatever media you desire for your archive. There are also many options from dancers like myself who design custom journals and tools for tracking and reflecting on your dance practice. You may need to try a few different journaling styles before you find what works for you (which is just another chance to reflect)! I use a combination of written logs and journaling and bring a lot of reflexivity into my blogging.

Every dancer has their own unique body and soul, and a reflexive approach to dancing allows you to be fluid in developing your dance skills to your personal needs. As an anthropologist, I think it is essential for the people experiencing cultural moments to reflect on them. Your journals and dance logs will become part of the collective memory of dance. There are only so many ways we can preserve dance for the future, and leaving an archive of reflections is one of them.

Dance Reflection Resources

I practice journaling and reflection regularly as a part of my dance practice. I’ve found that I feel more connected to myself as a dancer when I check-in on my goals and experiences.

If you’d like to start your own dance diary journey, I’ve made my Diary pages available in my Ko-Fi shop.

Getting Started with Online Dance Classes

Are you looking for something fun to do while you are stuck at home? Maybe you have always wanted to try a dance class but held yourself back. When it comes to dancing, there are many benefits for both body and mind. It is also terrifying for many to get to a physical class for the first time. Enter digital dance classes! There are so many unique dance classes online now, and it is the perfect time to try one!

What are the Benefits of Taking Dance Classes Online?

There are many benefits to taking dance classes, such as improved heart and lungs, weight management, and better coordination. These benefits also apply to online dance classes. Online courses also have additional perks, such as being more accessible for your schedule, and they often cost much less than in-person classes.

Where can I find Places to Dance Online?

There are many places you can look for online dance classes. Many dance studios offer courses through their website membership programs, but you can also find many dance lessons on YouTube or social media platforms for free or donation.

Many dancers have started to use live streaming options on Facebook and Instagram to share real-time connections with their students. Regardless of your level or budget, or whether you are looking for ballroom, ballet, or belly dance, there is likely an online dance class that will work for you.

Tips for Getting Started with Online Dance Classes

Before you choose an online dance class, double-check that the level is appropriate for your current skills. Suppose the instructor has scheduled the scheduled for a specific time. In that case, you should know which time zone they live in and whether or not you will need to show up early to log in. Do not hesitate to reach out to the instructor before the class and ask about anything you may be unsure of, such as required equipment.

Online dance classes are not the same as in-person experiences, but they are a good alternative in these trying times. There is no better time than now to learn a new healthy hobby, and online dance is guaranteed to be a fun one!

Dance Reflection Resources

I practice journaling and reflection regularly as a part of my dance practice. I’ve found that I feel more connected to myself as a dancer when I check-in on my goals and experiences.

If you’d like to start your own dance diary journey, I’ve made my Diary pages available in my Ko-Fi shop.