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Focusing On The Positives

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Cara Sutherland is an Open Champion dancer from Cleveland, Ohio, USA. She is currently studying Exercise Science and is involved with the Performing Arts at John Carroll University.

Beyond all of the physical challenges of Irish dancing, the sport is also very mentally demanding. There are many steps to memorize, and an unlimited amount of feedback from teachers. I know many dancers who consistently receive the same criticisms on their steps, but say that they sometimes have difficulty applying those comments their next time doing the steps; I’ve had the same problem myself.
We spend hours every week being corrected and critiqued, sometimes in not-so-nice words, and it can sometimes feel discouraging. Teachers only have a few seconds to shout out a comment while watching steps, and it can feel like repetitive negative feedback. However, it’s important to remember that the comments and critiques are intended to make you a better dancer, and your teacher wants to help you improve.
Sometimes the toughest teachers produce the greatest results, but it also depends on the commitment and determination of the student, as well as the student’s learning style.
Many dancers work harder to please the teacher and stop receiving the comment, or hope to receive positive reinforcement either from a teacher or their results at a competitive level.
While it is important to focus on fixing the critiques, dancers should also know what they are doing well [there are benefits, it’ll help keep you motivated ..]
I highly recommend keeping a dance journal (if you do not already) and recording the comments received after class. In addition to what did not work well, also write down what did work well. When recording some short notes, ask yourself some of the following questions:

What did not work?
What comments did I receive?
What was I trying to fix/work on?
What did I do well?
What did I fix?
What should I practice and work on next time?

Here is an example of a dance journal recording:

Oct. 21, Reel
Comments: 1st step timing, sharper points, crossover in 2nd step
Good stamina, high kicks
Need to practice turns in 2nd step
Try to take in some of the cons with pros and keep a plan of action in order to stay focused and motivated.
Photo credit: Ursula Celano Designs, Pink Dancers Notebook A6, €8.00

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