EVEN though corrections are meant to be constructive, students often interpret them as criticisms. Sometimes they can seem tiresomeand negative.
The way you interpret corrections is directly related to your own emotional state. On days when you go to class feeling postive and motivated and with your own goals in mind, you will most likely interpret your teacher’s corrections as helpful and constructive. For example, you might think: “the teacher thinks I can improve if I do it this way”, or “the teacher is watching me a lot today”. But if you’re feeling tired or a bit down, and don’t approach class with a sense of purpose, you might interpret those same corrections as negative, personal attacks: “the teacher thinks I’m hopeless”, “the teacher is picking on me today”, or “the teacher doesn’t like me”.
Try to be aware of your emotional state before entering the studio. If you’re feeling negative, you will need to put some work into your approach to class (this may take some mental effort):
• Think about what you want to get out of the class and remind yourself why you’re there. Are you there for fun, to work toward a dance career, to be with friends?
• Try to leave any problems outside the studio – in a box in the change room is an excellent place to leave problems! Remember, dance class is your time to enjoy yourself, to enjoy moving to music, to enjoy the physical challenge of dance, to be creative.
• Realise that even if you’re not feeling on top of the world, you can still get involved in your dance class; you can still learn and improve. Most people feel a bit down at times, but it doesn’t mean you can’t put in effort and focus, particularly when it comes to things you love.
• Finally, put an effort into the positive aspects of corrections during the class – corrections are meant to make your dancing feel better in the long runand, of course, you’ll enjoy your dancing even more when you achieve your corrections!
But sometimes teachers do give corrections in a negative and destructive way. If this happens continually, you have a choice as to whether you should stay with the teacher or try a different one. If it only happens occasionally, then maybe the teacher is stressed or upset (they are human too). How we interpret communication largely influenced by body language and tone of voice. If a teacher leans toward you with his or hands on her hips and speaks very loudly, you’re likely to take more notice of the emotion surrounding the message than the actual message. In these types of situations, try to focus on what is said rather than how it’s said.
How should you respond to corrections?
Imagine you are a dance teacher. How would you like students to react when you corrected them? What type of reactions would encourage you to help your students even more? Would you feel like helping a student who avoided eye contact, who walked away when you spoke to them or who looked angry, bored or uninterested? Your response in terms of body language, facial expressions and eye contact can have an enormous impact on your teacher and how your teacher relates to you. If you engage positively with your teacher and respond with interest and enthusiasm it’s highly likely you’ll get even more corrections.
OBVIOUSLY you should try to put the correction into effect. And make sure you don’t forget the correction the next time you do the same exercise. It’s also important to apply a correction across a range of similar exercises. For example, if the teacher corrects the placement of your knees and feet in demi-plie at the barre, then you need to apply that correction throughout the class right up to your landings in jumps. Teachers understand that it might take you a while to master a correction, and they are usually pleased to see you trying to put a correction into practice. However, it can be frustrating if they have to repeat the same correction over and over, simply because you’ve forgotten it.
If you don’t understand a correction or you’re having trouble with it, ask for help.
If the lesson allows for the teacher to show you in class, the other pupils will benefit from watching. If there is no time in class, ask the teacher to put aside some time before or after class to show you what she or he means.
Use your corrections to set goals for your dance classes. For example, if your teacher has told you that you tend to dance behind the music in jumps youcould set a goal related to this correction:
• My goal is to keep up with the musical beat, particularly in allegro. Then you need strategies to help you achieve that goal:
• Learn the counts for all allegro exercises (ask a classmate for help).
• Focus on listening to the music during the exercises (don’t get distracted by worrying about remembering the allegro sequence)
• Anticipate the music (rather than waiting to hear it before moving).
Remember that you are still learning, and won’t get everything perfectly straightaway. Dance is a life-time’s learning, and even top professionals still need and expect corrections. Remember that corrections are an aid to your improvement. You might not get it this time, but you will be better next time!
Lucinda Sharp is the psychologist and counsellor for the Australian Ballet School. Listen to corrections given to other pupils. You can learn a lot by watching your classmates, but just be careful that the correction applies to your body type, style or technique. And listening to others’ corrections will help you remember that everyone gets corrected, not just you!
This article was first published in the April/May 2007 issue of Dance Australia