Dance Tips 101: Keep Looking Up
There's a habit that plagues a lot of us dancers: the habit of looking down. It's as if our eyes fall hostage to the focus we are spending on the task before us. Unfortunately, there are a few problems that can creep upon you when your gaze falls to the floor. Firstly, as we look down our heads often angle downward as well, our posture following. When this happens our balance and core strength are jeopardized. Also, when it comes to partner dancing, we lose connection. Ultimately, it is a trap. But still, no matter how many times we are told to not look down, that is so often where our eyes go.
Thus, I suggest rather than focusing on not looking down, adopt the habit of looking up. Not only will this help get us past some key barriers, it will allow us to see beyond them, to see the forest through the trees: the fun of dancing through the steps, patterns, and concepts.
Learning is a hard thing to do. It stretches us beyond comfort zones and exposes us to insecurities, mistakes, and growing pains. Along this path, many get stuck on one small thing.
I had an instance when a student was so determined to perfect a pattern he fell deaf to the music and my counsel. While practicing at home, he had belabored the steps until they were unrecognizable to us both. When I was eventually able to draw his gaze up from the floor something almost magical happened. All of the overthinking and frustration melted away. The pattern became clear, easy, and fun.
As a dance teacher I have found that when a student is becoming frustrated and is struggling with balance, connection, or the ability to move quickly, where their eyes go is commonly part of the barrier. Coupled with that is overthinking. But as soon as they look up, things fall into place. So in your dance lessons, instead of watching your next step, feel your next step and learn to trust in that over what you see. And if you find yourself off balance, overthinking, frustrated, and your gaze has drifted down, ask yourself if you are looking to the forest...