‘Aha’ moments all round – even for the professionals

We were around 80 dancers and teachers from across the globe from Malaysia, New Zealand and Australia through Europe: France, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK to Canada and the US who came together Wednesday 11th November for the virtual introduction to Attention and Focus in Dance. Colleagues joined from Dutch National Ballet, Scottish, Monaco and Houston Ballets as well as teaching faculty from the ISTD, RAD, Université du Quebec à Montreal, L’Ecole Superieure de Ballet de Quebec, Pôle Superieure National de Danse Rosella Hightower . . . Super exciting that there is such interest in this new frontier for dance – a vast unexplored territory of possible further performance enhancement by focusing attention on our attentional skills and the mind in performance. Thank you to all who joined with a mind open to experience new possibilities and/or confirm long held intuitive beliefs.

We came together all nationalities and cultures on common ground with Dance Health Finland and some of the Finnish National Ballet team in search of a common understanding to empower individual dancers and shed light on aspects of effortful training that had hitherto seemed so unfathomable. A warm welcome from Finnish National Ballet Artistic Director, Madeleine Onne got us off to a good start and researcher and author Dr Gabriele Wulf herself answered questions on the application of research findings in the chat simultaneously. Psychiatrist and dancer Dr Andrew McWilliams confirmed dancer’s current attentional challenges from information overload and recommended developing awareness and an attentional strategy.

“It was brilliant. OMG, everything Clare said was just ringing so true!”

I invited everyone in the workshop to revisit absolute basics with fresh eyes – we explored how the wording of our own cues can completely alter a simple balance – to mean that we are using unnecessary effort. The wording of our own cures even interferes with essential functions such as breathing and listening . . . Extensions in space, fabulously demonstrated by Finnish National Ballet dancers were rendered lighter and more fluid with a simple shift of attention, to function on minimum optimal muscular engagement, immediately increasing stamina and strength.

” . . . a wonderful combination of research highlights and practical applications. I can hardly wait to use this in the dance studio”.

Johanna Osmala, Head Physiotherapist at Finnish National Ballet shared how this understand impacts not only the dancers in training and performance but even affects micro-adjustments in her practice to enhance dancer’s rehabilitation outcomes. Sharing a common attentional language with artistic and teaching staff, she adds strengthens and unifies the team to further enhance performance outcome and rendering their interdisciplinary process more dancer-centric and dancer-friendly.

” . . . so many links and connections, especially the power of the breath and the coordination of the pirouettes which I had started to approach in a very similar way lately, the perception of the space around you. Awesome experience.”

Revisiting the familiar and the habitual with fresh eyes and daring to experiment even at professional level with new ways of initiating and seeing, brings an immediate boost of fresh energy into our dancing. We explored shifting our attention to the movement of the breath and the potential use of reverse breathing from Eastern movement practice as an effective pirouette preparation for an explosive start. Jin energy provides preparatory resistance like pressing a ball into the water . . .

“I had a ball and am so inspired and impressed by the fully fleshed out information.”

And closed with ideas to develop a personal ritual that brings the attention to closing off energy centers when we are done with our dancing session to protect against energy exhaustion, exposure and depletion.

Over the next months I’ll share tips and techniques to explore and integrate into your dance practice to support this shift of attention in your training and teaching. Although the attentional strategies are like a new language and grow stronger and more effective with practice – effects are palpable and visible immediately. Join with me here to explore your own attentional process with me and take your training and teaching to the next level to become the best ‘dancing’ you possible.

“The ideas that Clare explore are some that have definitely played a big part in my career (both in helpful and unhelpful ways) but I was previously never able to understand or articulate them, and taking part in the workshop was a huge “aha!” moment for me!”

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