Anybody can visualize their own dancing with some practice. When you're around excellent dancers during practice time, you'll see them rehearsing a sequence in their head, similar to "marking it" where you practice a routine without doing it full out. It's common to see athletes and performers running their game plan in their head just before an important event.
As a musician, when I hear music, I can easily imagine myself behind a set of drums, and I see myself playing the music as I'm listening. Of course, I have spent thousands of hours behind a set of drums, so that's easy for me.
As a dancer, I'm working the similar process for dancing and it's obvious to me that the better dancers are seeing the dance in their head. The music's playing and they close their eyes and watch the dance in their mind. They take small or minimal steps, sometimes turning and making smaller movements but clearly dancing it in their head as if they were dancing full out.
They know the material so well, they can watch the dance unfold in their mind, in real time or at different speeds. Stronger performers also use this visualization technique to learn and practice new materials, rather than just review well rehearsed moves.
What about you?
Have you closed your eyes and imagined an exercise or dance move in your head? If you've never tried it, start with music playing (a style you like), and imagine yourself dancing. Once that works, try it with both the music and the dance in your mind. It's one of the practicing "secrets" of the more experienced dancers.
If you're a partner dancer, try leading or following a cross-body lead. See yourself working simple moves and some foundational footwork. If you're a lead, try working a few more complicated sequences in your head. Feel free to slow them down if appropriate, seeing the details in your minds eye. Or practiced the latest moves from a class, YouTube clip or DVD As a follow, try practicing your styling moves as if a lead was going through a series of moves with music, or your solo turns and footwork. Anything you might do in a class or dance floor is fair game.
Start the process today. Stop reading this article now (OK, after this paragraph), and try doing a basic move in your head. Play some music to prime the pump if that's helpful.
Because it's all in your head, you can also change perspectives. You might try playing out the scene from your viewpoint, or see yourself in a mirror, or even from the point of view of a person in front or behind you.
(Try it yourself now! Shut your eyes and do a few simple moves, or if you're more advanced, try a sequence from a different point of view. I'll wait and you can finish the article after your practice.)
Some people will find it very easy to do, others will find it not so easy. It doesn't matter where you start today, if you do it regularly, you can get better at it and it pays off over time. You'll dance better sooner, with less wear and tear on your body. Over time you'll learn faster than you did in the past, partially because you can practice more.
Injured dancers and athletes use these techniques all the time, and the best use it when they are fully healthy too. You can also replace some of your physical practice with this mental practice, and when done well it's very effective.
See yourself doing basic and try imagining the steps in your head. The more senses you engage the better. The more you practice in your mind, the better you get at it.
Learning to see your performance in your head is a time-honored technique used by dancers, world-class athletes, martial artists, and many others.
You can practice dancing anyplace in your head when you have a sliver of quiet time. You don't need a large dance studio; your bathroom is large enough to make this happen. Avoid doing it while driving, on a first date, operating heavy machinery or taking extra strength drugs. Otherwise, almost anyplace is fair game.
A couple hints you should consider:
- The more realistic you make it in your mind's eye, the better
- Start simply by doing simple footwork or movements and build from there
- See yourself dancing with someone you enjoy if you're partner dancing
- Visualize the club, practice room, or dance studio with mirrors
- Hear the music in your head as you practice the movements
- Feel free to slow the music down, doing each step perfectly, or correcting yourself if you make a mistake
- Try the same moves at different speeds, ranging from painfully slow to blistering fast
The author (Don Greene) is a performance coach who works with Olympic athletes, world-class musicians and others. (Read his impressive bio with the books above.) While he discusses seeing movement in your head, he goes way beyond and has some great insights into higher performance and learning.
The "Fight Your Fear..." title was my third I read because I thought, "I'm not afraid..." While I don't love the title, it has some outstanding tips for being a better student, teacher and social dancer. All three are worth the read, but I'd start with Fight Your Fear or Performance Success first, then read the others.
Social dancing is for fun, and many of us generate our own self pressure to be better. (Not a bad thing unless taken to an extreme.) If you want to advance a faster and make more progress in less time, the visualization techniques used by experienced dancers, Olympic athletes, and advanced musicians provide interesting models for dancers.
Let me know how seeing the dance in your head works for you via the comments link below.
The insurance man told me that the accident policy covered falling off the roof,
but not hitting ground.
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