This is the start of a series of articles on Being A Better Dancer. The series will consist of articles on how to become a better dancer through the examination of learning process, creative process, and performance improvement.
I recall back when I started dancing I toted around a little spiral notebook with me to all the classes and workshops I attended. In it I jotted down notes, steps, counts, sequences and feedback. Anything that would help me along as a dancer.
It was a repository for my progress as a dancer and while some may disdain the use of journals or writing dance steps out, it helped me navigate a new domain of movement and remember the intense amount of information presented in classes and workshops.
Mine was just a spiral bound notebook and a pen, but today, with the ease of video, audio and photo capture, it can be much more. A digital dance journal may comprise dance videos of steps you have learned, voice memos of feedback, written out counts to a step, inspirational videos and songs, and the list goes on.
Create a capture process
Once you make the decision to have a dance journal, you need to establish a habit of capturing the feedback, reflections and inspirations in a way that works for you.
If you are a writer you’ll be used to toting around a notebook and pen. If you are a photographer you are used to having a camera on you. If you are nearly anyone in the digital age, you’ve got a cell phone with a camera in it. You may use a single capture medium, but more likely you will use a collection of tools to capture information for your dance journal.
The most important part of the process is to create the capture habit and maintain it. Without a consistent habit of note taking (in whatever form) you will lack the critical data you will use to reflect on later.
Create an organization process
The capture process gives you the data, the organization process makes that data meaningful.
In the organization process you may use a series of folders on your computer, mind mapping software, project management tools, or straightforward text files. The goal is to take the captured data and place it into an overarching domain map or structure.
The domain map is a theoretical structure of the practice of dance. The map is for your own benefit so structure it as you will, but there will most likely be a few principle categories that tree or web out into other sub-categories.
In each domain place or link the corresponding data that you collected in your capture process. This gives your feedback a place in the meta-view of your domain.
Don’t be afraid to move data around or add it in multiple spaces. There are many options for how you can structure your own data so it is meaningful to you. The most important part of this process is that you create a domain map or structure that makes sense for you and that you can place captured data into that map for later review.
Create a review process
The organization process makes data meaningful by placing it within your domain map, the review process creates a space to engage and work with that data.
Once you have an established domain map with various categories and sub-categories and you have begun placing data into the map you can begin a review process.
The importance of the categories and sub-categories in your domain map is that you can break apart a specific portion of the data to review and engage with without having to confront the sheer density of information in the whole domain.
Deliberate practice requires that one identify certain sharply defined elements of performance that need to be improved, and then work intently on them.
– Geoff Colvin
In your review, take a specific set of elements or sub-category and engage with it alone.
Data Object: Learn a specific rhythm.
- Breakdown and identify the rhythm from the data.
- Build up the rhythm slowly from steps you already know.
- Perform rhythm
- Film yourself performing rhythm
- Compare to example from data.
- Repeat while fine-tuning rhythm to match data.
The review process is the most difficult and yet the most rewarding part of the journaling process. Identifying and engaging with the elements of your feedback process that push you just outside of your comfort zone will accelerate your learning process.
The journaling process is a cyclical process. As you proceed from capture to organize to review, you will notice that you will be capturing, reorganizing and reviewing alongside each step. This is an essential part of the process.
At each stage you will be improving not only the various aspects of your dancing, but also the very process by which you improve your dancing. This metacognition of your learning process and your dance domain is essential to exceptional performance.
Flickr photo by StarbucksGuy.