Obsessing over your body in class?
Only seeing what’s wrong?
From the start of your dance training, the focus was put on your body. This is linked to the focus on perfecting technique, but somewhere along the line, attention might have shifted. If you have started thinking more about the look and size of your body than perfecting your technique and artistry, here are some ways to bring your mind back to what really matters.
Let’s start with why this shift may have happened in the first place…
Technique goals feel overwhelming; body goals seem simple.
You’ve heard that to change your body or to make yourself smaller, you have to “eat less, move more.” This sounds so simple. Just cut back on food and up the exercise. You’ll reach your body goals in no time, and you’ll instantly be a better dancer.
The reality is diets don’t work. The concept of eating less and moving more is not sustainable and is easily taken to extremes.
When you look at things you want to improve as a dancer, it’s often big stuff! You might see areas of improvement in petit allegro, pirouettes, or adagio. Each of those encompasses so many steps, not to mention movement quality, port de bras, and more. It’s easy to feel really overwhelmed and take an extreme stance: “I’m bad at X. I’ll never get better.”
“If only my body were different, I would instantly be a better dancer.”
My personal approach throughout my career was some sort of short-term diet leading up to my next audition or show to feel better about myself. And it stalled my growth as an artist and dancer. I thought changing my body was the key to career advancement.
Shockingly, I’ve improved more since I stopped pursuing dance professionally than I did in the last couple years of my professional career. It’s hard to imagine, especially for me, because I had teachers who said there was an age cut off for improvement. As with many of the things my teachers said, I fully believed them. So when I started to improve my technique in my 30s, I was totally surprised.
You have to take the focus off of your body and bring it back to the technique goals.
To do this, identify super small things to focus on within each area. Let’s use petit allegro as an example.
To improve petit allegro, you can bring your attention to:
- Each step within petit allegro (e.g., pas de chat, glissade, changement, and so on).
- Foot articulation to truly point and stretch your feet in each movement.
- Turnout in plié so you’re landing and transitioning as precisely as you can.
- Tight fifth position for more precision through the steps.
This is a very intentional way to work in class. Yes, from class to class you’re getting corrections and making adjustments, but most dancers stay in overwhelm. Start to break down your approach and remind yourself of your mini goals in each section of class.
As you start to do that consistently, your mind will be busy. The mental focus and attention on technique will start to take away some of the body pressure. If you’re struggling to improve body image, and you’d like some additional suggestions, check out this recent article I wrote for Pointe Magazine. It provides 3 actionable suggestions to shift your body image on a consistent basis.