Daydream Your Way to Success!

4758088139_bc751bedf3_zIn addition to physical practice, visualization can help you overcome those tricky steps

Have you ever been stumped by a specific element of ballet technique? Perhaps you struggle with a bad habit, such as constantly looking at the ground while dancing. Maybe you dread a specific step in petit allegro, simply because you’ve consistently practiced but still can’t perform the step correctly.

Since dance is all about physical movement, practicing is the key to success. However, sometimes constant practice leads to stress and defeat. If a step is particularly tricky, practice can become tedious. However, there is a way to combat this frustration: visualization.

In her book, Dance Anatomy, Jacqui Greene Haas defines visualization as “creating a picture in your mind without doing the physical activity.” This method of practice requires no additional physical movement but includes positive, daydream-like focus on the step in your mind.

Visualization is easily executed, as long as you understand the technique of the step that is troubling you. Carefully watch the teacher in class as he or she performs the step, and if necessary, ask for the teacher to repeat the step. Be sure that you understand exactly what the body must do and which muscles create the movement.

Then, later in the day, spend time repeatedly imagining the step. Picture the teacher executing the step and then imagine how it would feel if you copied this movement. Imagine the muscle usage, studio surroundings from your vantage point, and musical rhythm. Continue this visualization technique for a few days. When you return to the step in class, keep a calm mindset and refer to the images you created while mentally focusing on the step. Generating positive feelings and decreasing stress, mental imagery will help you approach the step from a new perspective and lead you to success.

Expanding beyond a specific movement, this technique is extremely useful in my own career and helps me overcome the effects of stage fright. In some cases, when I was nervous about a specific role, I spent weeks prior to the performance imaging the character’s traits and expressions. In some cases, anxiety inspired by anticipated audience size or family or friend attendance may have inspired negative effects.

When I expected the presence of nervous butterflies flitting around in my stomach, I would prepare with mental visualization. Days before performing, I would imagine the intricate details; specific sections of choreography that I challenged me, the stage view of the full house, or a loved one’s face in the audience. I would increase the detail of my imagery, so that I would be absolutely prepared for the show. By repeatedly thinking ahead to the actual performance, I was able to transform nervous anxiety into bubbling energy. By mentally preparing myself, all the fears that may have overcome me during the performance became useful tools to enhance my dancing!

Whether you are performing for a crowd or enjoying a technique class, I encourage you to try the visualization method for yourself. You can read an excerpt of Haas’s book online.

Image via Flickr User Rodrigo Denúbila

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