Sometimes it feels like there’s simply not enough time to prepare for the next performance/competition/major. That’s why it’s important to: a) start your preparations early and give yourself enough time to polish everything out and b) organize your studio time wisely so that you get the most out of it.
Here are seven suggestions of good practice at the studio, especially if you are on your own, without a teacher, or even as a part of your practice routine that you do at home.
Depending on the time you have and how close the competition or performance is, between 10 and 20 minutes of warm up is optimal. Check out Ciara Sexton and Paula Goulding’s warm up programs here on Diddlyi for some great tips and ideas.
Once you’re all warmed up and stretched, go once through your whole dance. The focus here is on remembering the steps and movements across the stage, and noticing the parts of your dance that need working on.
Now go through each part of your dance separately, first without the music and then with music, at least three to five times, paying attention to technique, turn-out, rhythm, cross-over and posture. If you are struggling with moving from one step into another, make sure you do that transition several times as well. A good thing is to set yourself a mini goal – for example, doing the same bit of a step five times consecutively without making a mistake before moving on to drilling the next movement.
Now do your dance again, making sure you’re applying all the corrections you made in the previous part of your training. Do it as if you were dancing on the stage, like you only have that one shot to impress the audience or the judge – dance your best. This is also a part of your practice where you focus on your facial expressions – the feis smile! Very often we forget that we also perform with our faces. So don’t forget to smile while you dance.
This is to help you work on your stamina. If you practice doing your dance twice in a row, without losing your smile, the height in your jumps and without hunching, it will make it much easier to perform just once on the stage. It will make the desired impression we want to see in Irish dancing, that it’s all easy and that gravity has no effect on us.
Take a short break, then repeat your dance twice again.
You’ve just been through your whole dance four times, you deserve it. Have an energy bar or some fruit and enjoy a couple of minutes of rest. And of course, don’t forget to drink LOTS of fluid during your work out.
After you have chilled for a couple of minutes, do another 15 to 20 minutes of stretching. Again, you’ll find lots of useful stretching ideas here on Diddlyi.
You need your energy and your strength so two days before the competition or the performance, don’t do the strenuous work out. What’s done is done, your muscle memory will have to do the work now, and all you need to do now is make sure you don’t forget the steps. Not everybody is the same, but I usually don’t dance a day before the competition – I simply mark the steps or even dance them with my hands. It helps me stay focused but it also keeps me safe from exhaustion, sore muscles and injuries.
Of course, you could make your own plan and work according to it. The most important thing is that you don’t waste your energy doing the whole dance every time but focus on the parts of the dance that need working on. You only need to do the whole dance five times in your daily work out, if you invest your time and energy wisely.
Photo credit: Image is courtesy of and belongs to blog author.
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