Happy new year, friends! Hoping to take your dancing to the next level in 2018? Of course you are—and we've got you covered. Here are 12 dance resolutions, one to tackle each month, all culled from the pages of Dance Spirit. They'll help you hit the "refresh" button on your training.
Listen to pain.
When you come back to class after holiday break, be sure not to overdo it. Sprains, strains, and fractures are your body's way of forcing you to rest. Never push through the sudden onset of pain, something that feels sharp or cracking, or pain that persists for more than a few days. Resolve to tell your teacher or coach when something hurts, instead of shrugging it off. That kind of communication doesn't mean you're whiny or weak. You're taking responsibility for your own career and training.
See more dance.
Don't get stuck in a dance training bubble! Make an active effort to see performances in unfamiliar dance styles, or to see your idols dance live. (And always ask about discounted student tickets.) "It's important for me to see what [other dancers] are doing," says Mark Morris Dance Group dancer Sam Black. "Supporting other people helps me to be a part of the bigger dance community."
Work on your "bad" side.
It's tempting to practice the things you're good at over and over—but that can lead to serious imbalances in your technique. "It's important to work both sides equally, even if one feels better than the other," says choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler. "If your right leg is stronger, pretend you're a lefty—give that side the attention it deserves."
Find the food that best fuels your body.
Hungry, cranky dancers can't focus, are more prone to injury, and can't recover properly. Experiment with your meals to find foods that satisfy you emotionally (chocolate), nutritionally (broccoli) or both (mmm...STRAWBERRIES!). Take a peek at these four pros, who've found the right combinations to power through busy rehearsal and performance schedules.
Do one more pirouette.
Solid doubles are nice and all, but this month, push for more. "Don't be satisfied with two!" says Boston Ballet principal Lia Ciro. "You'll feel great when you get that third or fourth rotation."
Reign in perfectionist tendencies.
Lots of dancers are "type A." We're organized, driven, and goal-oriented. Learn to recognize the difference between healthy self-criticism (which helps you grow) and unhealthy perfectionism (which beats you down). "Sometimes I find myself being so much of a perfectionist when I'm dancing that I forget to have fun with it," says Broadway dancer Shonica Gooden. "When I tell myself to just let loose and enjoy a class, it's so much easier to do the movement."
Conquer stage fright.
Just in time for Nationals! Say it loud, say it proud: "This year I will not be paralyzed by stage fright." And you can do it, by identifying what level of fright you have, and then taking concrete steps to address it. A few butterflies in your stomach before you perform are totally normal. Even pros still get nervous! But if your stage fright is interfering with your love of dance, it's time to tackle it head-on.
Take time to recharge.
During the quiet days at the end of summer, ramp down your dancing a bit and explore your non-dance interests. "Remind yourself to be a 'colorful' person," Blankenbuehler says. "Really live your life outside of dance—enjoy going out to eat and spending time with your friends and the people you love. All those experiences will make your dancing so much richer."
Ballet is the foundation for the rest of your technique. Take it seriously, whether or not you're interested in a professional ballet career. "Every dancer needs ballet, even if her specialty is salsa!" says ballroom pro Janette Manrara. "The ballet vocabulary is the ABCs of dance. It makes you hyper-aware of all your muscles, so you feel every inch of your body working."
Don't hold back.
As George Balanchine famously said: "What are you waiting for? What are you saving for? Now is all there is." And nobody becomes a better dancer by marking their way through rehearsals. "I'm working on becoming more bold in my dancing, and doing my best with conviction whether I feel confident about it or not," says Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's Alice Klock. "If you just put out everything you have in rehearsal, that's when you can be the most productive."
Take an acting class.
Every dance, even if it's plotless, tells a story, and you need to be able to convey that story effectively. "Acting can seem scary at first, but believe me—it's a life changer," says commercial dancer, actor, and choreographer Misha Gabriel. "Even if you're not planning to enter the acting world, it'll make your dance performances stronger."
Stick to a sleep schedule.
You won't be able to survive Nutcracker season without adequate sleep. "If you're not sleeping enough, your whole body suffers," Cirio says. "Getting on a good schedule is key."
Here's to a happy, healthy, dance-filled 2018!