Do you ever feel like your teacher is making you practice things painfully slow?
Maybe you are a dance student who just loves to move at a fast pace and find it difficult to slow down. Perhaps you are eager to try the more advanced or faster version and don’t like it when your dance instructor holds you back.
Possibly it annoys you. You wonder what’s wrong with you or what’s wrong with your teacher that you have to work through things so slowly. Maybe you even begin to think he or she is just being mean or controlling. Perhaps you want to scream,
“Why are we going so slowly?!?”
Speaking as a teacher, let me tell you your feelings are very normal. I’ve seen that frustration in the eyes of students plenty of times. It is unlikely that your teacher is making you go slowly to be mean or controlling. Cross my heart, it’s true!
Why does your teacher want you to take things slow?
To improve your skills as a dancer!
How does going slower and taking time to advance or move on help you improve?
It helps you move with clarity (clear, crisp, articulate)
If your teacher is asking you to slow down, he may see that something could be cleaner and wants to help you master the movement.
Think of it this way: if you fill out the answers on a quiz as fast as you can, you may get a lot of them right but there are details you may have missed or questions you misunderstood because you did not take your time. If you never slow down to soak up the details, you might take the test again and again and never get a 100 percent.
The same is true for your movement. Going fast, you might be missing important stuff. Working slowly means you have time to get the hang of the skill, or pattern, or pathway. This makes 100% possible at any speed!
It encourages you to have good body sense
Common sense is showing awareness and good judgment in everyday situations. Body sense is showing awareness and good judgment concerning the body.
Working slowly gives you time to pay more attention to what you are doing (see above) and also how you are doing it. You feel the muscles working more and, with your teacher as a guide, you can figure out or sense when something is not working or needs adjusting. You will learn to understand and “listen” to your own body. This listening skill will save you from injury and will help you to move in a more coordinated and organized way overall.
(Teacher’s note: Check these articles on the health benefits of moving slowly and the relationship between good body sense and athletic/academic performance)
It allows you to practice and develop control, which you’ll need as a dancer (even when moving fast)
You are in the driver’s seat when you can move in a way that looks wild and out of control without losing track of where your body is in space. You are in control when, instead of needing to come down from your double pirouette, you choose to land it (see a famous dancer make that choice after an undecuple pirouette – that’s 11 of ’em – in this video).
Fast or slow, having control over your body takes physical strength. But when you are moving quickly it is easier to “hide” any weakness, even from yourself. For example, falling out of a super fast spin can look and feel like a choice if you snatch that landing. And your balance as you promenade on one leg feels less wobbly if you move quickly around.
Going slowly keeps you from cheating yourself, allowing you to build your strength. It also helps you learn the difference between making a choice and making the best of whatever is going on. (It’s not that there’s something wrong with making the best of things, that is an important skill too, but it is always nice to have the power to choose.)
If you can do a movement with clarity, awareness, and control slowly, doing it fast will come more naturally!
That may answer your questions about moving slowly, but what about advancing slowly?
Why would a dance teacher “hold you back?”
So that you can move forward with confidence.
“Learning ballet is like learning geometry. You begin with the first theorem, master it, and then go on to the next. If you haven’t learned to solve the first problem, you won’t be able to tackle the one that follows.” ~ Fernando Alonso, Dance Magazine
Slowing down physically helps you to move with clarity and control. In a similar way, advancing slowly provides time to gather all the important details and to master skills so that you can take these with you to the next level. Moving up or on to the next thing before your body or mind is ready puts you at a disadvantage. Sometimes progress in dance feels slow enough and you may be frustrated that your teacher is “holding you back.” Try to think of going slow as a gift instead. Your teacher is giving you the tools and the time you need to move forward with more confidence in your abilities and ready to tackle the next problem.
Are there other things your teacher does or doesn’t do that are frustrating to you?
Is there something you do in class that you just don’t understand?
What are some other reasons a teacher might ask you to go slowly?
Nichelle Suzanne is a writer specializing in dance and online content. She is also a dance instructor with over 20 years experience teaching in dance studios, community programs, and colleges. She began Dance Advantage in 2008, equipped with a passion for movement education and an intuitive sense that a blog could bring dancers together. As a Houston-based dance writer, Nichelle covers dance performance for Dance Source Houston, Arts+Culture Texas, and other publications. She is a leader in social media within the dance community and has presented on blogging for dance organizations, including Dance/USA. Nichelle provides web consulting and writing services for dancers, dance schools and studios, and those beyond the dance world. Read Nichelle’s posts.