By Kim Torrence, dedicated Joy of Motion Dance Center student
If you have been feeling an urge to take a dance class, this is the time to listen to that inner voice! When you start something new it is common to have a lot of questions or to feel nervous. Not to worry, here are my 10 tips for new dancers:
- Remember: Dance is For Everyone™. This is the motto and organizing principle of Joy of Motion Dance Center. You belong to dance, and dance belongs to you. When you are in a dance class, you 100% belong there, regardless of your dance level or ability. Dance is not about being good technically, it is about JOY. Judith Jamison says, “If you can get yourself through the door, you can take a class.” Remember this when you walk into your first dance class – you belong!
- Allow yourself to be a beginner. Too often, we expect perfection from ourselves, even when learning something entirely new. It’s not uncommon for new dancers to feel embarrassed if a movement is hard or doesn’t come easily. Expecting perfection sets you up for failure, and brings up feelings of embarrassment or frustration, which in turn can make it hard to learn. Remember to check in with yourself throughout class to monitor your inner dialogue: notice if you are being harsh with yourself. Instead, try to bring some compassion to your process, and give thanks to yourself for taking the chance to learn something new. The knowledge will come with time and practice.
- Start strong. This begins by first selecting a class that matches your interest and dance level. Nutrition is also important- you don’t want to be hungry or full when starting a class. Try to eat nutritious foods that can be easily digested no sooner than 30-45 minutes before class. Arrive a little early, so that you can sign-in before class starts. This way, you can settle in and relax your mind before class begins!
- Dress for success. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable in the clothes you are wearing. In most dance classes, anything goes. You will see a range of attire from more formal leotards and tights, to baggy pants and t-shirts. There are some classes that require certain footwear or attire. Be sure to take a look at the class description to see if there are any recommendations from the teacher. If you have any questions, you can always call in advance and the front desk will help you out.
- Stand in the front. Don’t hide in the back of the class! The tendency for new dancers is to hide out in the back of the class, but actually, the front is where it’s at. Make sure you can easily see the teacher. This will help you to visually follow what the teacher is demonstrating for the class.
- Pay close attention. There are many ways that we learn to dance: visually, auditory, kinesthetically, through repetition, etc. Every student has their own learning style, and in time you will determine yours. Open all of your senses and try to listen to what transpires in class with your whole body. Do yourself the favor of listening to everything the teacher says- even if it’s feedback to another student, it is valuable information that applies to the whole class. Be patient and observant, and over time you will pick up material quickly and with more ease.
- Smile and make eye contact with your classmates. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and make friends, and chat before or after class. Even though you may have never met your classmates before, you already share something in common with everyone in your class. They, too, made the effort to put that dance class on their schedule. These dance friendships can be a rich source of inspiration, joy, and wisdom that will support you in your dance journey for the years to come.
- Dance like no one is watching. The truth is, they aren’t watching – they are watching themselves! You don’t have to worry about being analyzed or judged. Dancers are too busy concentrating on their own dance – as you should be!
- Practice at home. A great way to get the most out of your dance class experience is to pick at least one movement or exercise that you really liked and practice it. In any given dance class there is a lot of material to take in and absorb and it takes time and repetition to attain mastery. Keep it simple by picking just one or two moves to practice. Over time you will see how it becomes a part of you!
- Come back! Remember -the more you put into it, the more you get out of it! Put dance class on your schedule as a non-negotiable time for yourself, a time for self-care, that you simply won’t compromise, despite all your never-ending responsibilities. You have to make time for the things you love, that bring you joy. Dance class is usually the first thing that goes out the window when we are juggling a packed schedule – don’t give in to being busy. Just this simple act of committing to one class each week is a statement of self-love. The benefits of dancing are endless: stress relief, improved mood, greater physical fitness, positive social engagement and beyond.
In my own life, following the above steps have helped me to make regular space for dance class in my life, something that gives me great joy. As a mental health therapist and director of a dance company, I spend most of my time in a teaching or counseling role, and this can sometimes leave me feeling depleted. I made the decision to take a class once a week, as a non-negotiable commitment to myself. Every week I go, I have 90 minutes where I’m learning, laughing, and growing. It fills my cup and leaves me feeling renewed. It is something I look forward to every week. I wish the same joy for you! Life will always include unforeseen twists and turns, ups and downs. Learn how to move through life with grace and you’ll never look back. See you in class.