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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

7 Habits of Creative Freedom for Dancers

At a writers' conference this year, I was given a list of the 7 Habits of Creative Freedom by Dara Lurie (inspired, of course, by Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People). Lurie's list was intended for writers, but I find it equally applicable to dancers. So I've elaborated on each of her headings to create 7 Habits of Creative Freedom for Dancers. Applying these seven habits to your dancing will propel you further and faster along your own growth path.

1. Be open to not-knowing.
I'm always surprised when people contact me for a private lesson before taking their first group class. It seems they think they should already know something even to call themselves a beginner. The truth is each of us should always be in a state of not-knowing. It's only from that state that you can learn.Too often students who think they know what they are doing are unable to adapt. This is what creates bad habits. But if you are open to not-knowing you are open to learning.

2. Be willing to suspend judgment.
We are our harshest critic. Make dance class the no-judgment zone. In fact, don't even think, "This is right" or "This is wrong." Instead think: "This is what I've got right now." You'll be surprised at how much faster you can improve if you don't get stuck in judging your ability.

3. Allow yourself to make mistakes (you are a work-in-progress).
I love this! Remember Swing Dancing has been around since the late 1920's and many of the moves originated as mistakes. There are no mistakes, just innovations. Make a "mistake" and we might be teaching it as your cool move in the next class!

4. Forgive yourself for any perceived failures.
Ditto above. If you don't fail you can't succeed.

5. Allow your ideas to percolate.
This is where the dance starts to become really exciting. Start to add your own personality to the dance and incorporate your own ideas.

6. Acknowledge your fear of failure and keep moving.
Nobody is looking at you in class except the teachers. If all of you saw what we see, you'd realize you have nothing to worry about. You're not the only one "not getting it." Fear of "doing it wrong" can be paralyzing. Just go for it.

7. Tell the truth. Hiding it takes too much energy.
This is interesting. I once failed a dance audition quite spectacularly. I was so nervous I couldn't stop shaking, which greatly inhibited my ability to follow what my partner was leading. I was nervous mostly because I wasn't practicing any of the habits I've itemized here. In fact, I was doing the exact opposite--judging myself, afraid to make mistakes, feeling like a failure, and pretending I could learn quicker than I can--what a disaster! It was probably the most painful experience of my life. After the audition, the director said I should "Face the truth about my dancing." And at that moment I realized how wrong he was, that the "truth" about my dancing had nothing to do with what he saw at the audition. The audition had absolutely nothing to do with my dance ability. It had only to do with the crap in my head that was keeping me from displaying the truth about my dancing. So if you don't get something, it's worse to pretend you do. Everyone learns at his or her own pace and in his or her own way. I will always envy dancers who can see something once and replicate it perfectly. I am not that kind of a learner. I'm more of the fine wine variety. I get better with time.

See you on the dance floor!