Over 20 years leading research in Attentional Focus for high performance – Dr Gabriele Wulf

We can all relate to the central role that mental and attentional training plays in high level sports. We easily recognise that the difference between a high performer – just think of Roger Federer – and one that perhaps did not quite make the grade is not about having more muscles, more physical training or more skills knowledge – but rather the wisdom of their choice of focus and attention under pressure and the essential ability to reset the mind when all seems to go off plan.

In the last twenty years sports science has indeed made tremendous advances in harnessing the make or break power of the mind and the attention to enhance performance. Trainers in elite sports deploy attentional strategies to give high performers ‘the edge’ in their discipline.

Attentional focus training is perhaps the most relevant study that sports science and Eastern movement practice can bring to dance.

Clare Guss-West

So what about dance training? – we seem to have, for the most part over looked what is actually going on in a dancers mind – how well they are able to filter distractions or sustain attentional focus and assimilate an overload of potentially incongruous information.

Dr Gabriele Wulf, a Distinguished professor of the University of Nevada is fascinated by the translation of her research findings to address the more complex attentional challenges of dance performance. Dr Wulf has been supporting this adaption for professional dance by Clare Guss-West. She suggests its perhaps only natural, given the physical nature of the art form, that dance training focuses primarily on physical mastery and control of technique before the development of mindful attention. However, sport science and traditional Eastern movement practice both concur that focusing on physical and muscular control in the absence of attention and focus training means that performers are working inefficiently. A recent study of professional ballet dancers reveals that some dancers are overthinking whilst dancing in order to try to consciously interfere and control body parts rather than reaping the benefits that a trained optimal attention would bring. (Guss-West and Wulf 2016).

Join us in a short introductory workshop on Attentional Focus for dancers and discover the basics of this new frontier for dance. Meet Dr Gabriele Wulf side by side (virtually) with Clare Guss-West as we translate research findings into dance practice. Virtual workshop: Wednesday 11th November 5pm CET/11 am EST – Registration required for this free event – limited places reserved on a ‘first come first served’ basis. Registration here

Guss-West, Clare, and Gabriele Wulf. 2016. “Attentional Focus in Classical Ballet: A Survey of Professional Dancers.” Journal of Dance Medicine & Science 20.1: 23-29.

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