by Karen Musey
It is amazing how fast the end of the dance season has arrived! Just when the challenges of the year are met, suddenly Nationals season arrives. For many studios it is just the beginning of a fast paced, intense week that will live on in studios’ and families’ memories for years to come.
A few tips on getting the most out of your week(s):
Rest. Make sure dancers/teachers/parents take some time out to recuperate from the year, before rehearsals and preparation for Nationals begin. After the intensity of the dance and school year and other personal challenges everyone faces, a little time off beforehand recharges students, faculty and families for the thrilling and energetic week that is Nationals. This is especially important if your studio registers for more than one Nationals. A little rest will recharge everyone’s body and spirit to be able to refocus on goals for the end of the season.
Update your goal. At the end of the season, sometimes dancers find themselves having already achieved their goals, and sometimes challenges come up that force dancers to rethink their goals. Maybe the achieved goal was to complete a clean triple pirouette. The new goal could be to make sure the movement before, during and after the triple stays emotionally connected to the piece. Make sure every team player knows what the overall team goal is, and recommit energy and focus to it. Share with each other specific, measurable goals that will feel like great achievements regardless of marks or placement.
Find time for play! This might sound counter productive/intuitive, especially if dancers are extremely focused and are determined to achieve certain goals. If a dancer is too tightly wound up with expectations, they won’t be dancing their best. The more relaxed and at ease a dancer is, the faster they will be able to focus on their goals. Having balance is very important, and allowing time for play often feels like one isn’t “working hard enough”. Finding a healthy and fun way to release pent up energy will allow the dancer to refocus on their target, having worked off nervous energy.
Visualize. Research has demonstrated that it pays to work your mental muscle as well as your physical ones. When dancers need a break, get them to put their earphones in, close their eyes and work through their piece. Creating a mental map of the dance helps keep a dancer’s head in the game by working through the elements and corrections they are aiming to achieve.
Roll with it. It is hard not getting pressured into wanting and trying to replicate a winning performance experience again for Nationals. Know that every day is different and no two performances are alike. Obstacles that come up often create the best performances. In that moment of “oh no!” the stakes are raised and the performer has to boldly dig deeper to reground themselves, and bring their best self forward. Do the work, then let go and trust that the work will show up to support the performance. That’s what the pros do!
Watch. This is such a big one. Every opportunity dancers have to witness other dancers and new styles is a step forward in advancing their own artistry. My favorite thing growing up was watching how dancers approached movement differently; it gave me ideas and inspired me to be better. Whether it is the convention dance assistant, another dancer from another studio, or someone from your own studio who really steps it up – clues to how each dancer can evolve further are all around.
Reach out, speak up. When judging, I always relay this story from my early dancing days. Since I was about 8, there was always one girl in my age group who I always faced off with. There wasn’t a bitter rivalry between us, but I never got to know her because she was my “competitor” and dancers from other studios didn’t really talk to each other. Fast forward to my late teens, I ended up at a new studio…and guess who was also there! We became close friends and still are to this day. I always reflect how different our experience could have been growing up – instead of having a competitor I could have had a friend inspiring me forward.
So – if someone dances in a way that motivates and inspires you, tell them!
It is too easy to get locked into our heads and be self conscious about what our worth is. I know every time someone came up to me and told me how much they enjoyed my performance, it made my day! Many studios have evolved by giving congratulatory buttons to outside studio dancers who inspire them, which is a wonderful idea. Creating MVPs in studio for outstanding dancers and parents who really contribute also helps create connection and offers acknowledgement within the team. Anything that can be done to create a supportive and positive environment encourages everyone to show up to do their best.
~~~ Finally- This is the last time your team will create this particular collection of smiles, stories and successes. Families may move away and seniors will graduate. Potential new members and faculty will take your team in a fresh direction next season. Enjoy what is, who you are now, and who you are with in this moment. Live it and leave it all on the dance floor. No day like today!
Contributor Karen Musey is a dynamic Canadian born, New York based performer, teacher and dance adjudicator. Her training includes study at Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet Professional Division, The Banff Centre, EDGE PAC (LA), Upright Citizen’s Brigade, The Barrow Group, Kimball Studio, Canada’s National Voice Intensive, Comic Strip Live and more.
Karen Musey judges national and regional dance competitions and festivals across the United States and Canada. She was a Director/Choreographer Observership Candidate during the 2011/12 season with Stage Directors and Choreographers Union and has served as a rehearsal director and dance captain for KOBA Family Entertainment. Karen Musey is an ABT® Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the ABT® Teacher Training Intensive in Pre-Primary through Level 5 of the ABT® National Training Curriculum. She is a U.S. Member of the International Dance Council CID, recognized by UNESCO.
Performing highlights – PHISH at Madison Square Garden; World Premiere of the Canadian Opera Company’s Das Rheingold (Wagner Ring Cycle); National Artist Program Gala for the 2003 Canada Winter Games; for HRH Queen Elizabeth II during the Golden Jubliee Tour; Chicago (Rainbow Stage); comedy short Foreign Exchange (72 Hour Asian American Film Shootout); music videos for The Guards and Malynda Hale; international tours and performances with The Young Americans, J.A.R. Productions and KOBA Family Entertainment; stand up and sketch comedy around New York; Bravo! documentaries, films and more. She is currently co-writing a play. www.karenmusey.com