April 24, 2014 by Nicole
A question to begin this blog: what is your immediate reaction when you’re asked to take a new/different class? Or when your normal teacher isn’t there?
Why do I ask? It’s something I’ve noticed in different facilities and even in myself, that when we’re asked to step out of our comfort zone, either directly or by circumstance, we can hesitate. Or even actively resist.
I’m the first to admit, I’m a creature of habit, but also of comfort. I like doing things I’m comfortable doing. For example, when I find a teacher I like (be it yoga, spinning or dance), I tend to want to stick with that teacher. I know what to expect and I’ve built a good relationship with that person. Or with that class – if I find a particular class/discipline I like, I can be resistant to trying another.
But that can be limiting when it comes to class (and life really, when you think about it).
For example, maybe I really love going to Miss Ballet’s class. Miss Ballet knows me, we get along. I know what to expect and what she expects me to be able to do. I know I can rock that class. That’s wonderful. We should all cultivate those relationships and honor our genuine interests and what makes us feel good.
However, I should also be just as happy and willing to go to Miss Modern’s class, even if I don’t know what to expect or if I’ll be as good at it. Or Miss Ballet’s class when she has a substitute. Or a new class level, if suggested/recommended. That’s how we grow, in general but especially as dancers.
When I say “if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you”, that doesn’t just mean in a physical sense. It also means challenging yourself to be open-minded, to try new things, new styles, new teachers. Dance is just as mental as it is physical. As dancers, we are asked to challenge both our minds and our bodies to get comfortable living outside that comfort zone. And that all starts in and with class.
It’s a skill you’re going to need in your dance life – adaptability is key to your career. The more comfortable you are walking into new rooms, with new instructors, peers, etc, the more comfortable and prepared you’re going to be to tackle auditioning.
It also boosts your confidence, and that’s something you can take with you throughout life. On more than one occasion, I’ve had friends comment on how I’m not afraid to stand in front in a class (like Zumba or yoga). It’s because dance prepared me for that.
I know it can be hard for younger dancers to understand the value in this kind of cross-training, especially if they’ve bonded with a teacher. For example, when it comes time to move up a level, that can sometimes mean leaving a favorite teacher behind. But I think it’s possible to help them reframe the situation and find a more positive perspective. Reminding them that their favorite teacher is proud to promote them and that moving up is a reward – it’s recognition for progress and improvements they’ve made – may keep them from feeling like it was a punishment. And in time, they’ll develop working relationships with their new teachers. My recommendation would be just remain supportive and positive and talk it out with them. Let them voice their concern/discomfort but try to keep bringing them around to the positive. And remember they’re learning a skill that’s going to help them as a dancer and in adulthood.
Is it hard for you to step out of your comfort zone? What helped you overcome reluctance to take new or different classes?