Monday, January 9, 2017

Nobody's Perfect! How to Take Corrections

Got a goal for the new year? I do! It's to perform consistent triple pirouettes. Maybe yours is to get on stage or to dance en pointe or to take an extra class each week. Whatever it is, you probably want to improve something about your dancing or technique. In order to do that, you'll probably need guidance.

No matter how experienced you are, there is always room to improve. Even professionals who have danced their entire lives have coaches, especially for specific roles they've been cast in. There is nuance and shading to a character, a little more oomph to eke out of an arabesque, or new ways of connecting with a partner.

George Balanchine giving a correction to a student.

But for many beginning dancers, corrections are often the kind of attention they think they don't want. They may not realize it's a good thing to be noticed when they're doing something wrong. So here are a few suggestions on how to take corrections when they are offered by a teacher:

1. Understand that a correction is a sign you have potential to improve. 
Talk to any teacher, whether it's dance or an academic subject, and they will tell you they spend more time with students they believe have the ability to improve. No one wants to give time and attention to a student who will ignore it.

2. Try to stay "in the moment" when you are receiving the correction.
If it's at the barre or center and the teacher has stopped the combination to address a correction on you, focus on the words she's saying rather than the message in your head ("Oh my god, everyone's looking at me!"). No one is judging you. In fact, they want to be in your place, getting the correction. And if you have an instructor who delivers corrections in a harsh tone, understand that your fellow dancers are all looking on with empathy.

3. If you are asked to repeat a step with the given correction, it's okay if you can't replicate it perfectly. 
Teachers want to see the correction on you to see if it works for you. If it doesn't work for you, then they will want to adjust the correction for you. If it will work but you haven't quite grasped it, they will keep an eye on that for future reference.

4. If you are being given a correction during class, that is not the time to argue or to question.
A correction is not an invitation to a dialogue. I give corrections three ways: 1) during a combination at the barre, I will make a personal adjustment on your body and then move on; 2) between combinations at the barre, I may use a student as an example to show a correction to everyone; and 3) during center, I may pull someone aside when they are between groups. In every one of those instances, my goal is to get the class moving again. I don't want to stop and have a discussion that will disrupt the flow. If you are given a correction during class that you just don't understand, it's okay to ask the teacher after class if she has time for clarification. If she doesn't, respect her time and ask if she could address the correction to the group next time in class.

5. After class, make a mental note of the correction you were given so you'll remember for next time.
Young children are encouraged to keep journals of corrections so they can see if they are given the same ones over and over again. The act of writing them down also helps to imprint them on their brains. You don't need to write them down, but it will definitely help you for next time if you take a moment to stop and recall what the teacher said to you.

6. Understand that a correction may take months or years to work for you.
There are corrections I can remember from a dozen years ago, from various teachers who saw something in me and offered guidance, but I wasn't in a place to take it in and apply it properly. You may hear a correction from a teacher today that you can't make work but in a month or three, you will suddenly have an "a-ha!" moment and realize what she meant.

7. Finally, no matter what your level, you can learn from every single correction that is given to another student.

And to those students who do not wish to receive corrections, it's okay to tell your teacher that in advance of class. For whatever reason, you may not wish to participate in class in that manner. Be polite and explain why and your teacher will understand. The worst thing for a teacher is to have her corrections ignored. That's when I stop giving them to a student. 

Happy dancing~

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