Dear Katie: My Dance Classes Aren't Challenging Me!
(photo by Jayme Thornton)
I think I'm ready to move up a level—my dance classes aren't challenging me. But how can I talk to my teacher about that? I'm nervous.
Good for you for taking your training into your own hands! But I understand your anxiety—these situations can be delicate. I'd suggest approaching your teacher in a way that puts this all squarely on you. You could say, “My dancing isn't improving the way I want it to, and I feel as though I need to challenge myself more. Would it be possible for me to take a class or two in a higher level?" That'll carry more weight with your teacher than anything that implies blame—“You're not challenging me" or “The classes aren't hard enough." If you show your teacher that you're ambitious and self-motivated, odds are good that she'll be willing to give you a shot at a higher level.
Sauts de chat are so much fun, but I can't get the same height in my grands jetés. What's the secret?
Grand jeté and saut de chat may look similar in the air, but the grand jeté takeoff is completely different than the saut de chat takeoff. First, make sure you're really using your plié. Push hard off the back leg, which will help launch your body into the air. Then, think about getting the front leg to 90 degrees as quickly as you can. A lot of dancers are slow getting that leg up, which keeps them from achieving good height at the apex of the jump. You should essentially initiate your jeté with a high grand battement.
The other grand jeté secret is to think “out," not “up." Sauts de chat go “up" thanks to the rapid développé of the front leg, which gives them their distinctive pop. But because you brush rather than développé your front leg in grand jeté, you have to think about moving “out" over that leg to be able to achieve a full split in the air. Yes, you want height, but you also want to travel!
I have a bad stress fracture in one of my metatarsals, and the doctor says the only way to heal it is to stop dancing for at least a month. I can't imagine doing that! Do I need to give up dance cold turkey? What can I do to keep up my technique?
Injuries are the most frustrating things in the world—especially ones you can't do anything about. But if your doctor says you need to rest, you must rest. It's the only way you'll heal. Difficult as it is, put your time away from dance in context by thinking of your career long-term. If you don't stop now, you could be setting yourself up for a much more serious injury in the future.
You may not be able to dance, but there are still physical activities that don't put any pressure on that injured foot, and they'll help you stay in tune with your body. Swimming, Pilates mat work and arm exercises could be great options for you. (I swore by Pilates every time I was injured.) If you keep your muscles and joints strong and stretched, you'll find that once you're allowed to return to the studio, you'll be able regain your technique relatively quickly.
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
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Dancers are naturally "in their heads" all the time—but not always in productive ways. Long days of receiving and applying corrections, taking class, and performing can get to even the most composed individuals. What should you do when you feel like your mind is just as busy as your rehearsal schedule? Try meditation. Dance Spirit turned to Adreanna Limbach, a head teacher at NYC-based meditation studio MNDFL, for a breakdown of this highly beneficial practice.
Liz Imperio teaching at Hollywood Vibe, Courtesy of Hollywood Vibe
It's an increasingly common scenario: A talented dancer wins big at a competition, is offered an assistantship with a famous faculty member, and ends up leaving her hometown studio to travel with a convention. Convention-hopping has obvious benefits. Every event generates new content for dancers to post on social media, gives them a better shot at ending up on their favorite choreographers' accounts, lets them learn from the best of the best, and helps them make valuable connections. "Traveling is a great way for dancers to gain admirers around the country," says Jen Jarnot, owner of Artistic Fusion Dance Academy in Thornton, CO. "That's something every dancer craves." So it's no surprise that weekend FOMO has been blazing through studios like wildfire.
But is this jet-setter lifestyle really the most effective road to take? Can weekends of dancing with top talent truly replace the bread and butter of daily work at your home studio? The answer, according to most industry experts, is no. We asked five pros to explain why.