Susan Pilarre leading a class at the School of American Ballet (Ellen Crane, courtesy SAB)

6 Things That'll Take Your Dancing to the Next Level This Year

As dancers, we're always trying to take our dancing up a notch, to improve our technique and artistry. Here are six crucial things that'll make all the difference in your training this year. Check them out!

1. Schedule time off.

Sounds crazy, right? But we're serious. If you want to get stronger this year, you have to take care of your body, and that means taking time off. Our instincts are to always be pushing ourselves, but there comes a time when your body is too depleted to function, and at that point injuries are inevitable.

According to research published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, women who take time off are less likely to become tense, depressed, or tired. And guys, that's for regular jobs! Imagine the wonders a little bit of time off could do for your dancing.

Take a couple weeks each year to relax and live a life that will inform your movement when you get back to the studio. Trust us, you'll come back refreshed and ready to grow.

Pacific Northwest Ballet's Nancy Casciano on vacation. (via @pacificnorthwestballet on Instagram)

2. Do both classical and mainstream competitions.

Whether you're a bunhead or a comp kid–we're talking to you!

Nothing can help you grow quite like prepping for a big competition. The intention changes as you focus on your short-term goal, and you are consequently propelled forward in your dancing.

By doing both classical and mainstream competitions, you'll challenge yourself to grow in an area of dance you don't consider yourself an expert in. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but by the time competition season ends, you'll be both a stronger technician and a more compelling mover.

Sarah Pippin and Jake Tribus (courtesy New York City Dance Alliance)

3. Do a solo.

We cannot emphasize this enough. DO A SOLO!

First, solos allow you to have one-on-one time with choreographers. During this time you'll not only get to learn from their expertise, but also to develop relationships that'll help you book jobs in the future. And in the dance world, connections are everything.

Second, during solo rehearsal you have your teacher's undivided attention, so they can correct the smallest details of your dancing. That intense focus will help you grow.

Third, the more you perform, the better you get at it. Doing a solo allows you more stage time throughout the year, and your confidence as a dancer and entertainer will improve.

Now we recognize that some dancers don't do solos because they can't afford to hire an outside choreographer. We have a solution! Choreographing your own solo is a great way to improve a wide-variety of skills. You'll get to grow as dancer and as a choreographer. Its a win-win!

Ali Deucher (courtesy New York City Dance Alliance)

4. Attend a classical ballet summer intensive.

It can be tricky to find time for a summer intensive amidst Nationals and other summer plans, but if you can make it work, we highly recommend attending a ballet summer intensive. They change lives!

Why? Because these summer intensives really live up to their name–they're intense. The time spent honing your classical art and developing relationships with companies and dancers will be well worth it.

Ellison Ballet Students (Rachel Neville, courtesy Ellison Ballet)

5. Get in five days of ballet each week.

I once heard Dana Wilson tell a room full of dancers that the great thing about dance is, if you practice, you'll get better. And that's especially true of ballet.

Ballet is the foundation upon which all of your other dancing is built. It doesn't matter if you love it or not: Ballet training is necessary for you to reach your full potential as a performer. Don't shortchange yourself by skipping class.


6. Take voice lessons.

So many auditions will require you to have some basic singing skills. It'd be a real bummer to get cut for a role you're totally perfect for because you can't sing.

Voice lessons will also help you connect to your musicality as a dancer by teaching you more about rhythm and timing. The days of hearing your teacher yell, "You're rushing," will be behind you!


Take these six tips and get ready to grow, people! It's gonna be a good year.

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