The beginning of a New Year brings with it many opportunities. Not only can you improve on the previous year, but you can also start afresh, set new goals and prepare to achieve the success you desire. Smart dancers know how important it is to consider all aspects of their dance training, especially when preparing to return to classes after the Christmas break. This includes spending some time thinking about what you want to achieve in the New Year, and what to do if challenges arise.

Here are a few tips to take you into the new year.

Paint a picture
If we don’t give our brains a “picture’ of what we want to achieve, it will happily focus energy on other things. It is important that we can clearly “see”, or visualise, all the things that we hope to achieve, and imagine ourselves doing them successfully. Fast-forward to December 2009 and imagine you have achieved everything you wanted to achieve – what would they be? Allow your brain to consider anything – don’t limit your possibilities!

Setting goals
Goals are really important to our efforts to improve as dancers, whether physically, technically or mentally. Goals provide direction, help us to stay motivated and can significantly affect how we feel about ourselves (as both dancers and people (i.e. your self-esteem). Setting goals is an important step in working towards your “picture” becoming a reality. You need to be S.M.A.R.T. – Specific, Measurable, regularly Assessed, Realistic and Time-Based. While “outcome goals” are valuable in giving you an end result to work towards (such as passing an exam or winning a competition), the most effective goals are “progress goals” – goals that focus on how you get there (such as improving your technique or developing your artistry).

Work smart
When coming back to dance classes after a break, make sure you pace yourself. Rest and recovery are very important but all the rest can be undone if you come rushing back from holidays into class instead of returning to your pre-holiday level gradually. This is when dancers often injure themselves, as they haven’t given their bodies or their brains time to get back to speed.

Keeping the passion alive
Sometimes it can be challenging to stay motivated throughout the year, particularly if you have many other things like school, university and part-time work competing for your energy.

To keep your passion alive, it is important to:

• Remember why you started dancing in the first place – usually it was because you loved it!

• Regularly review and evaluate your goals – how you’re going, what you’ve achieved – and make sure you celebrate your successes, especially with your progress goals.

• Keep a healthy balance between your dance training, time with friends and family, and other commitments. All elite performers need time away from their training, both physically
and mentally!

The New Year is the next part of your dance journey. Make sure you make the most of it by preparing ahead.

Dr Gene Moyle is an ex-ballet dancer turned psychologist working for the Australian Institute of sport, as the Sport Psychology Coordinator at the Queensland Academy of Sport, and with performing artists and elite athletes in her private practice. She lectures in performance psychology at QUT Creative Industries – Dance and additionally works as an organisational psychologist in the corporate business sector within Australian and overseas.


This article was first published in the February/March 2009 issue of Dance Australia

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