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  • Emma Acton

How Dance Makes Us Better People

Dancers are a special breed of human. It takes a great amount of skill to equally mix art and athleticism and come out with something beautiful. People recognise dance as a form of exercise and a form of artistic expression, but these are just two of the many, many benefits of taking dance classes. We as dancers are extremely lucky to train in something that will ultimately provide us with a skill set to become proactive and successful human beings.


Discipline

Listening to and respecting our teachers is expected in ballet class. However, the self-discipline to continue executing difficult and at times painful tasks over and over again is a trait that is rarely seen at this level. This type of determination requires tremendous will-power and commitment to the task at hand. Discipline in dance also demands incredible focus. Dancers are taught from a young age to leave any outside issues at the door, so that when they enter the studio their mind is completely focused on improving their craft. Discipline is also essential when learning to manage your time. For young dancers, there are so many fun things at each stage of life they will want to participate in; however becoming successful in dance requires some sacrifices in the way that you spend your time.


Discipline for me has always been one of the easier skills to conquer in my dance practice, because I love what I do. If we are truly invested in what we are trying to achieve, it isn’t necessarily difficult to discipline ourselves to work hard. For all dancers, there will be days that are harder than others to be motivated to push yourself, but if you remain focused on your goals and actively keep yourself inspired, then self-discipline will assist you not only to improve in dance, but in achieving all of your life goals.


©BreakTheBarre

Commitment

Being reliable is something that is becoming more and more rare. It’s difficult to find employees, students or even friends who can always be relied upon to fulfil their needs. When a student joins a dance school they are invited into a team. With this comes the wonderful benefits of comradery, friendship and support. However, it also comes with the responsibility to commit. Dancers are relied upon by their coach to remember choreography and to always perform it with enthusiasm. Dancers rely on each other to be present and to be committed to making themselves and each other look the very best they can on stage.


If it comes to show day and one dancer falls ill or injured, it’s up to another reliable dancer to be able to take their place and make the piece look seamless. Being the committed and reliable dancer who knows many roles and has been present for every rehearsal will ultimately benefit you in the long run. Teachers, choreographers and directors will come to know you as the ‘go-to dancer’ who can do anything. Being able to thoroughly commit to a task and become known as reliable will serve you well in almost any life situation.


Photo by National Photography for Melbourne City Ballet

Persistence

‘If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again’ - this is a phrase quoted by many people and often by dance educators, which holds a key lesson that all dancers must learn. Failures are an inevitable part of life that we all must learn to overcome. Persistence and perseverance are skills that will make you stronger and wiser. It can be frustrating when we feel that accomplishing a goal is far beyond our reach. However, accepting that each failure holds a new opportunity to grow will save you much disappointment and assist in building who you are as a person.


Persistence is key in anything worth accomplishing and dance is no exception. Not one professional dancer would ever say their journey was easy and that they made it to where they are without a single struggle. Every dancer will face obstacles and personal limitations obstructing their goals. It is the fiercely persistent dancers who will turn their failures into opportunities and reap the rewards of perseverance. Life in general is full of road blocks and sticky situations - learning to be persistent with your purpose will open so many doors and allow you to choose your path in life.


Creativity

Art comes in many forms and each form utilises a different facet of creativity. Dance is a special form of art because with it comes so many different opportunities to create. Musicality and rhythm show the astounding ability that some dancers have to activate their bodies in a way that blends so well with music - it’s as if their movement is creating the sound. Choreographing a dance piece ignites originality and uniqueness, which is then accompanied by mixing patterns, formations, shapes and movement to create a piece of live art. Performing a piece allows a dancer to creatively express emotions and communicate by telling a story. Being creative is an asset that will compliment thousands of career choices and almost every real-life environment.


Creativity runs deep within my veins, as I’m sure it does with most dancers! Hearing a piece of music for the first time and immediately imagining the type of movement that could compliment the accents, is just one of the many ways my mind is creatively stimulated in the world of dance. I use creativity every single day, whether it be to dance, choreograph, write, sing, draw or just think differently to others. Dance was my first creative outlet and I will forever be grateful for the skills I’ve learned in releasing emotion, communication and musicality.


Self-confidence

To bare one’s soul on stage in front of potentially hundreds or more people takes a unique type of self-confidence. Dancers can stare at their reflections for hours a day and be scrutinised for each small thing that is ‘wrong’ with their body, and yet they are still required to have enough self-belief to share their craft on a very large platform. Learning to recognise and celebrate when we’ve done something well develops and nurtures the belief that we have the potential to succeed in whatever we may try next. This is a mindset that will assist in often creating positive outcomes.

Photo by National Photography for Melbourne City Ballet

As a student I was told over and over again that I needed to have more confidence. However, I struggled to understand the criticism because I felt that I did believe in myself and my abilities most of the time. What I realise now is that although I may have felt content, I was not outwardly portraying confidence in my persona and my movement quality every time that I danced. I have learned that self-confidence is not just a permanent state of being, but in dance, it needs to be accessible whenever we go to perform. I have developed techniques and strategies that allow me to tap in to my self-confidence when it is most necessary. This is a skill that I am constantly grateful for in my everyday life when dealing with situations where I need to put myself out of my comfort zone.


Strength

Strength of body and strength of mind are two qualities that dance develops. The athleticism that is required to successfully complete an hour and half ballet class will build strength in every muscle in your body, as well as increase stamina, flexibility, muscle awareness and reflexes. The specific type of movement will improve posture and develop spacial awareness. The discipline to control your muscles and the determination to achieve certain movements will also develop a strong and focused mind. All ballet exercises follow some sort of pattern - sometimes the pattern is easy to understand, sometimes it’s extremely complicated and uses syncopated musical accents. Training the mind to understand rhythmical patterns and retain long sections of choreography at a time are useful and unique qualities to possess.


I still often surprise myself with how much I have learned about myself because of dance. I understand my body and the way it works. I know how to activate specific muscles on cue. I’ve learned about anatomical function, injury prevention and rehabilitation. I’ve also learned an entire language - although I’m technically not bi-lingual - I know the language of dance. I understand French words thrown together in a pattern that creates a combination of movements. I also understand musical rhythms and accents. Perhaps most relevant to real-world experience is the understanding I now have of my capabilities and limitations. I believe that dance has made me a much stronger person in every aspect.


Photo for Melbourne City Ballet

To live in a way that we experience fulfilment is to live as an active member of society. To do this we must become the very best versions of ourselves. Dance creates a platform to develop numerous life skills and qualities. With these skills comes the opportunity to experience and succeed in whatever situations life may throw at us.


Emma Cheeseman

Sep 1st, 2018

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