The Art of Perpetual Practice

On a previous post, Bran Mydwynter asked me about how I practice.

I touched on my practice habits a bit back in this post about the mind-body connection, but I’ll tell you a secret: I don’t go home after work and practice for hours every day. And I don’t get up before work and do an hour of yoga and then an hour of drills. Frankly, I just don’t have time. And I suspect most of you don’t have that sort of time, either.

Here’s how I practice: I hardly ever stop thinking about dance.

By this, I mean that during my work day I stretch my shoulders and arms, my hips, and back. I take a moment here, a moment there to reconnect with my body. I circle my wrists, ankles, and neck when they’re stiff.

I’m a big fan of the incremental practice. I don’t have a dance studio at home, and therefore, I don’t have a dedicated practice space. (Surprise!) Most of my practice is spent in the moments waiting for the elevator, sitting in my car on my way to and from work (excellent for glute squeezes), and in my seat at work as I listen to my performance music on my iPod over and over again. I also try to take advantage of my workplace’s exercise policy – we are allowed several hours of excused leave a week to exercise in the office building’s gym. We’re lucky enough to have an aerobics room with full-length mirrors, so I spend some time practicing there when I can get away from my desk.

And of course, I imagine myself dancing quite often. The brain is amazingly powerful in this regard, so even when I’m tired or feeling sick, I can still run through movements in my head. Mental practice, however, only really works when you know how to properly execute the physical movement. You can’t imagine yourself doing a particular movement if you don’t know how to actually DO the movement.

Also, I try to get to yoga regularly to keep up my strength, flexibility, stamina, and overall well-being.

What makes a successful practice? I’m not sure. I feel as though my practice is ongoing, perpetual, neverending. I don’t feel like there’s any end to my practice. I don’t go into the studio, practice for an hour or two, call it a day and go home.

Basically, I never forget that I am a dancer and that I need to keep in my mind in touch with my body and muscles all the time.

 

Comments: 7

Leave a reply »

 
 
 

I used to tap dance in the line at the grocery store, or waiting for the kettle to boil, or surreptitiously in my seat on the bus. I think it’s much the same. I used to do my favorite pas de bourre-grande jete-assemble combination every time I found a wide-open space.

Now, however, I’ve got to do a little more to get the blood pumping on a regular basis or my efficient-in-cold-weather physique starts to creep up on me. Plus, sweating and aching feels good; there’s a tremendous sense of accomplishment after a workout well done.

So what do you do when you feel the need to kick some ass? Yoga? Suhaila drills? Beat up a crash-test dummy?

(Should I stop asking questions? I’m afraid that’s one of my most insidious habits of all…)

 

Reply

     

    Please don’t stop asking questions!

    When I need to get my own ass kicked, I usually do the Suhaila “warm-up”, which takes about 45 minutes to an hour. :)

     

    Reply

 

Elevator, Asharah?! You don’t take the stairs?! No ways! hehehehehe
kidding :) love, Becca :)

 

Reply

 

oh, i need to get my ass kicked for sure and i have plans to start (this week, really, come ON ebony) using your dvd to drill with.

 

Reply

 

I am a musician who has taken a recent interest in belly dance and I found this particular article very interesting.

I just thought I’d suggest reading the book Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks. In this book he mentions that brain mapping shows when you *think* about practicing (whether you’re a dancer or a musician) your brain goes through the exact same process. Even the motor section of your brain is activated as if you were actually moving. So there’s some scientific validity to your mental practice suggestion. :)

 

Reply

 

I’m so glad you said this! I was wondering if the only way I would ever improve would be to dance 3-4 hours 4 times a week or something like that–and I can really only get those 3+ hour practices in once a week. But I do shimmy in the shower and while brushing my teeth or really any time I pass a mirror for a moment, I’ll check on some muscle isolation or other.
But it’s been those odd mini-sessions where I’ve suddenly discovered slightly-more-correct posture or where I was doing something wrong (and there’s always these incremental improvements), so I can’t knock the 5 minute practice throughout because it does help.

 

Reply

 
Leave a Reply
 
  (will not be published)