Thursday, May 31, 2012

The psychology of pirouettes

All I have to do is watch you turn.

You're having a bad day.  I can tell.  You're stressed, tense, distracted.  Results: your weight is back in your hips and knees so you clunk down on your heel.  You hop up on your releve instead of pressing up into it.  You spot with your shoulder not your head. You put too much force into it and end up spinning.  And worst of all?  You don't take corrections to fix any of it. 

Yup, you're having a lousy day.

Our moods most definitely affect our dancing and where it's all revealed is in a simple en dehors pirouette.  Sometimes when we're unhappy, we don't even want to look at ourselves in the mirror so we can't see what's happening and we don't want to spot ourselves. It's difficult to feel what's out of whack when we're so tense.  And it's harder still to correct anything when we're overwhelmed or distracted by Outside Studio Thoughts.

As a teacher, when I see a student having a bad day, I do what I can to help take her mind off it.  As I've said many times, I see the studio as a refuge from the Real World.  I want my class to be a safe place where a student can relax and not worry about being judged by others, where she can try new things without fear of failure, and where she can receive positive encouragement from me and fellow students.

So I do what I can. A joke, a fun piece of music, an extra word of support, or just leaving the student alone to contemplate whatever is in her head by herself. Personally, I find class to be a great place to work out problems. The combination of music, creative movement, and endorphins (not to mention positive energy from others) can really help me come up with solutions to writing blocks or other non-dance related things.

So how can you fix your pirouette when you're having a crummy day? You take it one step at a time.  Just like we do with class - plie to tendu to degage to grand battement - you approach your pirouette the same way.  Examine your plie, your arms, your knees, etc. Sometimes, just by doing that, you will leave your Outside Studio Thoughts where they need to be - outside the studio - and you will rediscover the enjoyment and relaxation you get from dance.

You're having a great day.  I can tell that too. You aren't frantic or desperate.  You gather your arms to first position instead of jerking them into place.  You're exhaling when you turn instead of holding your breath. You fondu softly instead of fall.

Relax.  Enjoy. Happy dancing~


iT said...

Wow. Perceptive.
I forwarded this to my business associate (an Affective Neurobiology therapist), I know for sure he will use your writing to support his publication.

Thank you again for another good read!

Leigh Purtill said...

Inge, this is all very fascinating to me too!! If your friend has more info, I'd love to read it.