The well-known key to success in dance is practice, practice, practice. But what makes effective practice? Daily class can become monotonous, especially if you’re training at home, and while that is something that dancers come to love, there are times when it’s easy to lose focus. An interesting fact, the average human attention span is declining - down from 12 seconds (in 2000) to 8 seconds (in 2018), according to a study by Microsoft. Obviously, it takes some will power and planning to focus for an hour and a half ballet class, plus whatever additional rehearsals or classes might follow it!
Here are my top 5 tips for staying focused and present in class:
- Eat something 30 min. - 1 hour before class. Fueling your body with ample time to digest prevents brain fog - that groggy tired feeling where you’re trying to listen to your teacher but can’t - and will limit distraction coming from hunger. I have had so many teachers say, “Think about the combination, not what you’re having for dinner,” but it’s pretty hard to do that if you’re hungry!
- Plan your outfit and hair accordingly. One of my biggest distractions is my hair on those days when it can’t be coerced into a French twist. Worrying about your hair or your leotard (this goes for boys too - I’ve seen several cases of men in sweatpants that they have to pull up in the middle of a variation) when you could be fully present, learning combinations, and hearing corrections. If you feel like you’re struggling with focus, bring a simple outfit - tights, leotard, maybe a skirt or warm up that you usually wear and are comfortable in - and use some hairspray.
- Listen to your teacher. This is a no-brainer, but sometimes as we become more comfortable with a teacher and the class they give, it’s easy to let our mind wander as they’re giving a combination. Use the sound of their voice to pull you back in the room, like a mediation exercise, clearing your mind and challenging yourself to stay present. Also, even when your teacher is correcting someone else, listen to them. Every word and adjustment, intended for you or someone else in the class, can lead to productive thought (ex. “Am I making that same mistake? I should check my shoulder placement.”)
- Set goals for yourself though the course of the class. Another way we lose focus is by trying to fix everything at once. I unfortunately struggled with this for years because I felt like there was so much to correct. This also prevents you from staying mentally in the class, as your mind observes everything you’re doing wrong. It’s important to be able to self-assess as you dance, but if it’s pulling your focus, sometimes thinking just about your turnout or just about engaging your core can bring your awareness back into your body. It can be helpful if a teacher establishes goals for each combination, but if that’s not their style and you need some help coming up with small things to work on, you can always ask them for guidance.
- Lastly - DO NOT USE YOUR PHONE DURING CLASS. Just… don’t do it. We all know notifications and messages distract us - that’s probably what’s contributing to the overall human attention span decrease. If your teachers don’t already have rules against phones in the studio, be disciplined. The only time I find it productive to use a phone is filming when practicing steps on my own after class. If you like filming yourself after class or maybe during a rehearsal for a variation, put your phone on do not disturb so when you’re reviewing, you’re not tempted to check social media.
I hope you found this helpful - focusing in class will not only yield results technically, it will also help you feel more confident in yourself, allowing you to relax after a job well done! If you have anything you’re looking to learn or improve, whether it’s a hairstyle or a certain step, let me know! Comment here or message me via Instagram @beamandbarre or @lswarting