Contributor Stacey Pepper Schwartz is back today to share some insights about what makes a good dance performance–
What makes a great performance? Is it performing the dance steps perfectly? Is it dancing without mistakes? Dancing in perfect unison or keeping a specific formation? What about expression? What about movement quality?
When I teach dance, my students mainly focus on performing the steps accurately. It is hard to teach them that performing to the best of their ability goes far beyond the execution of steps. I actually think it has little to do with precision and more to do with being in the moment. If you focus only on counts, steps and spacing then it’s like painting by number. You haven’t put anything of yourself into the performance. There is no heart.
Teaching how to perform is just as important as teaching how to do a pirouette. The trick is unlocking the brain. When a person is afraid of making a mistake on a test he will usually tense up and not do as well as if he was relaxed. The same goes for dance but even more so. Dancers can tend to judge themselves on how well they perform a single step instead of looking at the dance in its entirety.
Answer these questions or have your students answer them:
- Did you stay in the moment?
- Were you aware of the other dancers on stage and did you relate to them?
- Did you focus on the quality of the movements as well as the technical execution of the movements?
- How was your use of transitions?
- If you made a mistake with the choreography did you stop dancing? Did you do your best to improvise and stay focused?
- Were you constantly thinking about the steps or were you also focused on the technical aspect of the steps, quality and expression?
- Did you do your best? Did you enjoy performing?
I always tell the dancers I work with that a great performance is not one in which you don’t make a mistake but a performance where if/when you make a mistake you are able to stay in the moment and perform the spirit of the dance. We are not robots or perfect human beings. Humans are vulnerable. That is what is so magical about dance. The art is created by imperfect beings that lets the audience tap into all sides of themselves.
So, how do you teach this or practice this?
In class when you make a mistake don’t stop. Don’t criticize or judge. Keep dancing. Flub, trip, fall and get up and keep going. Keep the quality of movement, idea or concept of the dance. And if a teacher tells you that you must be perfect know that perfection can only be obtained when you make mistakes. A perfect dance has mistakes and it also has heart, life, vibrancy and a human performer.
BIO: Stacey received her BFA in dance performance at Montclair State University and her MA in dance education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She has taught as an artist in residency and guest artist in public and private schools for over twelve years.
Stacey is the Founder and Director of Leaping Legs Creative Movement Programs. The focus of Leaping Legs Creative Movement Programs is to help people regardless of age, experience or ability, become educated about their movement potential, develop kinesthetic awareness, and become more physically fit and healthy together as a family, and community.
Leaping Legs promotes its goal through the original Up Down & All Around DVD. The DVD received Dr. Toy’s 100 Best Children’s Products Award and 10 Best Active Products Award. The DVD has also been featured in many magazines including Dance Retailer News, The National Dance Teachers Association dance journal dancematters, and Dance Teacher.
Before embarking on dance education, Stacey was a professional dancer and choreographer in New York City.