Are you trying too hard?

By Anastasia Woolmer

You sweat it out class after class, feel like you work as hard as you can.  You take in what the teacher is saying… but somehow feel like you are not improving as fast as you would like?
You might be trying too hard.
Yes you read it right. Too hard.
Don’t worry, even some professional dancers do this.  Mea culpa. I am definitely guilty. 
But in the long run it is a good thing - this trait does lead to greater improvement.
So what is the deal? 
It’s all about how you try. Trying hard is good, but there is a caveat. 
From my own experience when I am trying super hard a few things can happen.
1. I hold my breath.
2. I tend to go too quickly and subsequently not make the most of the movement.
3. I feel overwhelmed trying to put EVERY correction into my body immediately.
4. Subsequently I don’t enjoy dancing as much. (which is also visible)
Thankfully, these above problems are simple to correct, you can try hard but do it in a smart way. 
1. Breathe.  Obvious, I hear you say.
It sounds simple but sometimes when you are trying hard you might need to remind yourself to breathe. It is a natural consequence of trying hard to perform a physical thing. It is something little kids do all the time when they are putting in maximum effort.  So take the time to breathe. It can be useful to concentrate on where in the movement you will breathe out, I find it is often on fondu/plie (bend of the knee) style moves. Taking breaths in can be really useful when you are suspending into some sort of fall off balance. Play with this in your dancing and you will find you have not only more energy, but the moves will look more fluid, elastic and well, just better.
2. Don’t speed through the movement.
This is often fixed by working on your breathing, and just relaxing a bit. It can also help to pay good attention to any counts that are set and make yourself stay with them.
3. You don’t need to absorb EVERY correction. 
If there are a lot of corrections it can be a good idea to focus on absorbing just a couple for a whole class or two.  When they start to become natural then you can add some more. This does not mean you don’t pay attention to all of the corrections. You might just like to make note of them for later. A corrections bank.
4. RELAX and ENJOY. 
At the end of the day movement and dance should be enjoyable. So if there is a piece of music or exercise you love, let yourself enjoy it. Even if it means getting bits wrong and missing some corrections. In the long run you will enjoy your classes more and dance better.
So next time you feel like you are sweating it out but getting nowhere – try hard, but smart hard. 
Breathe, choose your corrections wisely, relax and you just might see both your enjoyment and skills take off.

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