Happy New Year, dancers! We officially ushered in 2017. And a new calendar year means a fresh start, right?
I don’t like to think of a new year as being an end or a beginning, I like to think of it as an opportunity to reflect—a time to learn from the past, live in the present, and build toward the future.
The most common way people build toward said future is by making New Year’s Resolutions. Statistically though, only 45% of Americans usually make a New Year’s resolutions and only 8% of those people are successful in achieving their resolutions. However as dancers, we have many new year’s resolutions (or what we should refer to as goals) – perhaps to work harder, jump higher, get that perfect arabesque, eat better, dance more, and so on. So how can you meet your own goals and expectations this New Year?
Make a list of your goals. Take time to think about what you would like to improve on as a dancer and write your goals down. Then, pick one goal and focus on it. Don’t hold yourself to so many expectations – just choose ONE. One resolution that is realistic for YOU.
Now, break that goal down into smaller pieces. If you have a plan with smaller tasks and goals, you are far more likely to be successful in achieving your resolutions. If you hit that New Year’s Resolution before next year, go to the next goal that is on your list.
Here are examples of common dancer resolutions and how they can be broken down into even smaller goals:
1. Increase Flexibility (aka getting your splits).
Flexibility is necessary for dancers and sometimes one side is more flexible than the other. If you want to increase your flexibility you’ll need to stretch more daily (on each side). Set a goal of stretching an extra ten minutes a day. Once you’ve met that goal, increase the amount of time you stretch; or perhaps you decide to stretch twice a day instead of just once. Each goal you meet is a step in the right direction. Don’t forget to make it fun and change up the types of stretches you do—perhaps you set a goal to learn a new stretch once a month. Keep at it and the results will show.
This advice will also hold true for getting stronger (aka strengthening your core), only you’ll have to do extra core exercises instead of stretching.
2. Get out of your comfort zone.
Maybe this means trying a new style of dance. Why not try that Hip-Hop class or that Irish Step class? Taking a new class, even if it’s only for a couple of weeks to a month, will teach you more than just dance moves—you’ll learn more about yourself as an artist.
Perhaps getting out of your comfort zone is taking ten minutes a day to do some improvisation dance, going for an extra pirouette, standing at a different barre, taking your hand off the barre to test your balance sooner, standing in the front line during adagio, or going in the first group during center work. Think about the things that would challenge your comfort zone and try to set small exercises or goals for yourself. You might just find you are more courageous than you think.
3. Face Your Perfectionist Tendencies and Remember to have Fun.
Dancers are often focused on getting everything correct—and there is nothing wrong with striving to be the best you can be. We’re organized, driven, and goal-oriented. However, we need the learn how to recognize the difference between healthy self-criticism (which helps you grow) and unhealthy perfectionism (which beats you down).
When I was in dance class I found myself being so much of a perfectionist when I danced that I would forget to have fun with it. I think sometimes we associate ‘professional’ dancers with ‘no mistakes.’ Don’t forget that even professionals are still learning—that’s how you grow as an artist. When I would tell myself to just let loose and enjoy a class, it was so much easier to do the movement.
If this is one of your resolutions, it’ll be easier to achieve if you pick one class a week to be mindful of your inner dialogue and let yourself just live in the moment with the movement. If you’re anything like me, you might even have to start by picking one part of that one class. Having fun doesn’t mean you aren’t working hard or aren’t mindful of your technique or the corrections you receive, it just means you let go of the worry of being correct and the fear of doing something wrong.
If you have some goals in mind but don’t know where to begin, or if you want to know what you can do to improve in each of your classes, then you should talk to your teachers. Don’t be afraid to open a dialogue with them. They are part of your support system and want to help you achieve your goals.
Just remember that you have the ability to achieve any goal you set for yourself—make a plan, set smaller goals within your bigger goal, and know that every journey begins with a single step.