Fixed vs Growth Mindset

This week, I’d like to share a bit I’ve learned about fixed vs. growth mindsets.  Here’s an image that summarizes the two:

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A growth mindset is important for dancers, because most of what Dance asks of our bodies is not natural!  Yes, some people have an easier time with flexibility, balance, etc, but what we ask of our bodies during dance class is beyond what they were built to do.  If we have a fixed mindset, we will be easily frustrated-but with a positive growth mindset we can embrace challenges and learn to work in a smarter way to achieve our goals.  We learn in so many different ways-by watching the teacher or dancers who’s technique or stage presence we admire, by listening to and applying the teacher’s corrections, or through practice and repetition.  If we can embrace a new challenge, try our best, and not give up, there isn’t anything we can’t achieve!

Tell us in the comments-which mindset do you think you have?  What are some ways you can swap your thinking in order to have more of a growth mindset?

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The role of games in dance class

Sometimes I hear parents mention how many games the students are playing when they are watching their young child’s dance class.  We do play games in dance class, so I thought I’d take a moment to explain why!

Games serve a purpose in dance class-not just because they are fun!  They can break up the class a bit and give the dancers some time to express themselves so they are ready to focus on the teacher again, much like recess in school!  And they also help us teach the dancers.  For example, a popular game is freeze dance, where the dancers dance freely, and then freeze when the music stops.  This game teaches the dancers to listen carefully to the music while dancing, and teaches them to be in control of their bodies so that they can stop instantaneously when the music freezes.  This past week I was working with my younger dancers on pathways, so while the music was on I was giving them directions such as “move in a zigzag pattern” or “move only in straight lines.”  Sometimes during freeze dance we might instruct dancers to dance like animals, or superheroes which sparks their imagination and helps them think about other ways of moving!  Another favorite game of mine is “Late Last Night.”  During this song, dancers are instructed to pretend to sleep, and then dream about having different kinds of shoes on-cowboy boots, space boots, ballet slippers, etc-and then they must get up and dance as if they have those shoes on their feet!  This game also encourages the dancers to be creative and think about ways to move, and also allows us to practice what we’ve learned that day-for instance while they are dreaming about their ballet slippers, I might ask them to show me a step we’ve worked on that class.

Our older dancers sometimes play games too as a special treat!  One game I like to play with my tap classes involves the dancers standing in a circle.  They go around the circle and count, starting from 1.  The only catch is that if it’s your turn and your number would include a 3, 6, or 9, you must make a sound (clap, stamp, etc) instead of saying the number.  You must also keep time and not hesitate or rush when saying your number.  This teaches musicality and focus.  Other games focus on teaching terminology or working on improvisation, which is also very important for dancers.

I also feel like games are an important time for me to make a personal connection with the dancers, without having to instruct or correct them.  Games are a time where I can dance freely with them so that they can see my love of dance and we can just be a bit silly together!  Them being able to tell me their ideas about how a lion might dance, without there being a right or wrong answer or without judgement, builds trust between us which is important in class!

So if you see us playing games in class, don’t worry!  There is a reason for each activity the teacher has chosen, and if you’re unsure what it is, just ask!

Being Brave

When I first set up this blog, I couldn’t resist selecting this template.  Does the cover photo look familiar to you?  It’s a picture of Trolltunga, in Norway, where Andy and I got engaged this past June!  Trolltunga, meaning “troll’s tongue” is a grueling hike in the heart of the fjords, and from the minute we decided to go to Norway we knew we had to go.  I mean, just look at the photo!  How could you not?  Now, as some of you know, Andy is a pretty tremendous athlete.  He was a track and cross country star in high school and college, and he is one of those people that enjoys things like triathlons, Tough Mudders, and any other sort of crazy challenge that make other people cringe.  Sometimes he carries a 50 lb bag of sand in his backpack when he goes hiking-just because.  Crazy, right?  I enjoy hiking but don’t have too much experience beyond some hikes in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with my family or Andy.  So here we are, planning to take on this 10-12 hour hike.  And I’m feeling pretty good about it.  And then we get to Norway and the day of the hike is approaching.  We flew into Bergen, and the lady at the car rental said “are you hiking Trolltunga?  They have to rescue a lot of hikers every year with the helicopter, so be careful.” Which was pretty much my cue to go in to full scale panic mode.  Like, ohmygodwhatamidoingi’mgoingtoplummetoffacliffintoafjord panic mode.  I couldn’t eat at all the day before, or the morning of the hike.  I started off with the biggest knot in my stomach, but as we hiked, and hiked, and hiked, it just started to go away.  Thoughts of plummeting to my doom were replaced with thoughts of “oh my gosh!  I’m doing it! I’m doing it!”  After 6 hours we reached the top, and it was there that I got to say yes to Andy, who was by my side the entire time during all the freaking out- cheering me on, telling me to take my time, step here, keep going, you can do it.

So why am I telling you all this?  I was at NUVO this past weekend with some of our dancers, and it struck me just how BRAVE we have to be as dancers.  It’s incredibly brave to dance onstage in front of three people who’s job it is to judge you.  It’s brave to take a class in a style you might not have ever really studied before.  It’s brave to try a new step that seems scary or completely impossible, and it’s brave to attempt that step in front of your teacher or classmates.  Seriously, these are scary things!  One of the things that I love most about dance is how freeing it is.  Because, we can and should strive to be perfect, but let’s face it-we can’t be perfect.  Someone’s leg is always going to go higher than yours, someone can always do one more turn than you can, someone can always oversplit more than you (ouch!).  But you know what you can be?  You can be brave.  And you can be YOU.  And who can be more perfect at being you than you?  No one!  It’s not possible for someone to be better at being you than you are, right?  So you can be brave and you can be you, and that’s perfect.  That’s enough for me.  You, in all your wonderful, weird, wacky glory, are enough for me, because you are the ONLY you.  So dance full out, even if you have no idea what you’re doing, perform onstage even though the butterflies in your stomach are out of control, hike a mountain, answer a question in class even though you might be wrong, or be like Andy and trek around with 50lbs of sand in your backpack.  Nope, I take that last one back.  Don’t do that, that’s crazy.  But you get my point.  Be Brave, and surround yourself with people who make you feel brave.  You never know where it might take you.