Top 5 Ways To Help You Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone + 1 Bonus!
Regardless of age or ability, all dancers are at risk of falling into a rut. When we fall into our routines and get too comfortable with our teachers, we risk not improving as much. We all need to make a conscious effort to get out of our comfort zones a bit more often. We should do this not only to challenge ourselves to become better dancers, but to help us grow as individuals in our personal and professional goals. Here are a few easy ways to push ourselves and get a little uncomfortable.
1. Stand in a different spot in class.
I love to hide in the back of the studio—even if I’m taking class with a familiar instructor. Sometimes I stand in the back due to a lack of confidence; other times I do so because I don’t like to fight everyone pushing to get in the front of the class. It’s my safe spot in the classroom. Whether you are at a studio or taking a professional class, you are paying to be there! So who cares if you make a mistake in front of everyone while standing in the front row? It happens. For those of you who love to stand in the front, try standing in the back a couple times. Why? Because in an audition, you may not be able to score a spot in the front row. Or choreographers and casting directors may ask you to switch lines in a class or audition setting. Now is the time to get a feel for what it is like to learn a combination in the back. I can assure you this has happened to every dancer. Switching where you stand in class is an easy way to challenge yourself and an effective way to keep from falling into a rut.
2. Turn Around
As many of us know, when we are in a dance class and we learn a combination we are then usually split into groups. Then the smaller groups go onto the floor one at a time so they have more space to dance. So tell me. While you wait your turn, what are you doing? Are you just standing there? Are you going over the combination? What I love to do is turn around so I am facing the back of the room (i.e., opposite the direction in which I learned the combination) to test myself to see if I really know the combination. Throwing off your sense of direction is a good thing. This also gives you the opportunity to confirm that you truly know the combination without needing to rely on anyone else. Try this next time you are in class. It may be disorienting. But after all, that’s the point.
3. Take A Different Style
I mean really take a different style, one you have never done before. I notice that a lot of competition dancers don’t have much training in popping, footwork, African, ballroom, Cunningham, and so on. If you’re one of those dancers, try a new class when you get the chance. Try a style that is completely out of your comfort zone. You will feel like a fish out of water, and that’s okay. No one expects you to be the best right away. This is a good exercise for the body and the brain.
4. Talk To Someone New
Especially at the professional level, dancers frequently take class by themselves. More often than not, I know no one in my class. I may see familiar faces, but I don’t actually know them. Try chatting with someone before going into class, or simply tell someone they did an amazing job if you loved the way they danced. The dance community is very small and trying to be a professional dancer is hard. Making connections and growing your network is worth the discomfort of speaking to someone new. While the dance world can be cutthroat, dancers don’t have to behave in a malicious way towards each other. Make a friend or just be a supportive classmate.
5. Work On Your Flaw
Honestly, I need to take my own advice on this one. Try to work on your flaw(s) every day, or at least a couple times a week. I don’t mean just trying to make your technique better. Think about those things with which you personally struggle. It could be flexibility, stamina, performance quality, freestyle, looking down, not having enough flow, not having resistance while bringing your leg down from a battement, and so on. It could be anything. Work on that everyday. Growing up, I struggled with flexibility. Because I wanted to get better, I practiced the center splits every single day. At first, I practiced for only a few minutes each day. But as my flexibility improved, I increased the time spent practicing. Thinking about our flaws can be unsettling and working to climb those mountains is difficult. But doing so will only help us in the long run.
BONUS – Create Your Own Combination
Making your own combinations is not only fun, but it is also an opportunity to exercise your creativity. I find that when I am creating combinations just for myself, it allows me to rekindle my joy for dance. It gives me the chance not to take things so seriously. When creating for yourself, you may also discover some previously unknown limitations in your own body. Work on those and keep them in the back of your mind while you continue your training.