Top 9 Things To Do If You Aren’t The Best Dancer At Your Studio
As performers, it is natural for us to want attention and praise—even the humblest of dancers. It is reassuring and gratifying to know that your efforts are recognized and that your hard work is paying off. But what happens when you might not be getting all the praise and aren’t the best dancer in your level or age group? How do you deal with not “being the best”? If you truly want to get better, then I will assume that your answer isn’t “hide under the covers and feel sorry for myself.”
When you realize you aren’t the best dancer at the studio you have already compared yourself to your peers. Competition among dancers can hinder friendships, but it shouldn’t. Don’t let it. The competition days are a prime time in your life to make memories and perform because you love to dance. For the parents reading, try not to get caught up in the cattiness of studio politics. None of that matters once your dancer graduates from the studio. At the end of the day, it’s dance. It’s not a competition of who gets a life saving surgery. But there is nothing wrong with wanting to get better. And while everyone in the world can’t be the best at everything they do, we can always strive to be better. Even that dancer who you think is amazing and wins all the time.
First, let’s define the term “best.” Being the class favorite could mean many things. For our purposes, let’s assume that the “best” dancer is the most technical dancer who is in the front of every dance. You want their spot in formations. If simply showing up to class and listening to your instructor isn’t getting you that spot, then here are a few things you can do to help you become a better and smarter dancer to take your training to the next level:
1. Apply Corrections Not Given To You
Any time a correction is given to you, apply it. Any time a correction is given to someone else in the room, apply it to yourself. Take the notes given to another dancer and evaluate yourself. You may be making the same mistakes. Depending on the number of dancers in the room, it may be impossible for the teacher to fix every mistake made by every dancer. So pay attention to all pieces of constructive criticism, not just those directed at you. It is the dancer’s responsibility to apply the corrections given and to make corrections for himself/herself. That is also why there are mirrors in class!
2. Finish Your Across-The-Floor Combinations
The size of your classroom does not matter. Whether you can fit the across-the-floor combination in once, twice, or two and half times, use all the space you are given. If you fall or mess up on that last little bit of the combo, who cares? You have to make mistakes to improve. Figure out why you failed, or assess the little things that need to be adjusted. Use all your space. Don’t be that person who walks to the other side of the room after doing the across-the-floor combination once.
3. Stand Next To The Best Dancer In The Room
If you struggle with hitting clean lines, try to get your arms to match theirs in the mirror. If you struggle to dance with texture, match theirs. If you tend to dance small, try to dance bigger than them. It’s not about becoming them. It’s about taking your technique to the next level. Beyond that, learning to match other dancers is an important skill to master if you’re interested in dancing professionally. Backup dancers, for example, need to be able to match one anther to a certain extent. Consider this an exercise in basic mirroring. Please don’t become a carbon copy of that person; we still need to see your personality.
4. Take Class Somewhere Else
No two teachers are alike. Different instructors will be able to provide you with different feedback. Try taking a class with a new teacher. He/she might give you a correction or might explain something in a different way that clicks with you. This does not require you to switch studios entirely. Just a class here or there can make a difference. Getting out of your normal studio and not worrying about what’s going on with your friends will allow you to focus solely on you and your training.
5. Videotape Yourself
I’m not talking about videotaping the cool combination that you do to post on your Instagram. Oh no. I’m talking about videotaping your barre warm up in ballet class, your center floor rond de jambes and battements in jazz class, your grooves in hip hop class, and so on. I would suggest doing this once every six months. You can learn so much from watching and critiquing yourself.
6. Cross Train
Simply put, having a stronger body will allow you to have more control over your movements. You don’t need to become a body builder. But one or two strength training sessions per week, or even a high-intensity elliptical workout to improve endurance, can go a long way.
7. Private Lessons
If you truly feel like you aren’t getting the one-on-one attention you need in class, schedule a private. If you are struggling with one specific thing that you need to workshop over and over again, schedule a private. With a dance teacher’s focus solely on you, you are bound to receive more individualized feedback. As I’m sure you all know, private lessons are not cheap. Warm up beforehand and arrive at your lesson ready to go. Given the cost of private lessons, you will want to utilize every minute.
8. Take More Classes
That’s honestly it. Take more and a variety of different types of classes.
9. Take A Notebook With You To Class
Write down your corrections and anything the teacher said that you might find useful again. Review your notes later that night, a week from then, or even a month from then. It’s always good to revisit and reassess at a later date to see where you’ve improved and where you still need work. Don’t be disruptive with the notebook; but if you have a free moment—say, between barre and center floor in your ballet class—write down your notes. If you can’t bring a notebook into class, then write down your corrections after class.