It never stops. It really doesn’t. And I love it.
I remember one of my teachers in school once said it. I was horrified at the time 🙂 Learning.. for ever and ever with no way out?? No way!
Of course then, I only knew learning in its school-form. Get out your books and almost mindlessly try to transfer what’s in there into your head to be able to reproduce it the next day. Now I know that there’s a difference between studying and learning (but even the concept of studying has changed since growing up 🙂 )
I am happy to have been able to take a couple of workshops with the wonderful Mme Raqia Hassan last weekend, at Leyla Jouvana‘s festival, in which she also insisted on perpetual learning.
The problem is that we often get frustrated because we want to learn things quickly, we want to be able to do things instantly, and perfectly. But learning takes time. Changing habits takes time. We often get frustrated when we don’t get things right from the start, or we get overwhelmed when we realize how much there is to learn and how much time it actually takes.
One thing you have to remember is that practice does not make perfect. Once this tiny sentence made it into my mind, it made everything better. Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes progress. Acknowledging this makes learning much more enjoyable and less overwhelming, because any amount of time spent on deliberate practice makes progress.
Don’t practice to be perfect. Practice to be better. And have fun while you’re at it 🙂
On our dance journey, we often are confronted with feelings of failure. Watching a performance video and cringing at what you considered a good idea at the time… and we end up beating ourselves up because we don’t like what we see.
It’s part of the learning process. We love this dance and we know what we like and what we don’t like. In other dancers, we can tell if they have good technique or not. Watching ourselves on video on any given moment in our learning career, is confronting because we can see that our technique of this and that move is not yet how it should be, or we would want our expression to be different or more profound… and that is where a lot of dancers give up. They don’t push through this awkwardness by working on these issues, instead they are overwhelmed because the mind knows how it should be, and the body doesn’t always follow the mind.
This is where mindful or deliberate practice comes in. I believe in ‘planting seeds’ in your mind 🙂 Anytime you practice, pay attention to the thing you want to work on: your posture, your arms, your expression, your range of motion, or even just being more relaxed. Go slowly and correct yourself whenever you notice a loss of intention. Take this to daily life as well – don’t be a dancer for a couple of hours per week. You ARE a dancer, there is no on/off switch. Be, act, behave like a dancer – always.
The seeds in your mind will grow as connections between your brain and your body. A good and inspiring book about this is The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle (thank you, Khalida!).
Try to think of learning and practicing as something you get to do. You don’t have to do it. You get to do it. You get to make a better person and a better dancer of yourself. Once you get this mindset, practice will be more enjoyable and interesting, and your progress will be exponential. While you’re having fun 🙂