by Aerin Holt
Most adults have had experience or were at one time heavily involved in a sport, an art or a study that requires dedication, commitment and practice. Maybe it was the tennis team or the drama club, but whatever it was, you were most probably required to attend every day after school.
As a coach, one favorite book that I often refer to is entitled “The Talent Code: Unlocking the Secret of Skill in Maths, Art, Music, Sport, and Just about Everything Else” written by Daniel Coyle. The book describes techniques for learning, what Cole calls, “Deep Practice”. Perhaps you would have stayed on the tennis team had you “known” that there was scientific data to back up and reemphasize the age old mantra: “Practice Makes Perfect.” And through Coyle’s research, that by extensive practicing, the brain’s nerve connections actually remember the “correct” way to do something – whether it’s how to sing, swing a tennis racket or perform a pirouette, etc. And after extensive repetition, our brains react quicker, and most importantly, correctly.
Coyle visited hot beds of talented groups and studied how they worked and what were their most successful actions in training. He studied winning football teams, coaches and schools that produced high numbers of students that became professional, working actors, singers, musicians and dancers.
One important rule is to practice every single day. And if you think about it, anything that you do well, you also do it daily. I know that cooking is something I do better when I am consistently making my families meals. In fact even our work-a-day jobs require daily practice and by spending eight hours a day performing repetitive actions you are improving the functions of your daily work tasks until they become second nature. It is generally thought that children should go to school every day because of the vast amount of material to get through, but really, it is because they can’t get through the material without the daily practice.
A young dancer has to develop the physical memory and also the mental memory and capacity. The mind and body must perform in perfect synchronization. As students reach intermediate training, a lot of new material is introduced which is best studied daily to become proficient. The deep practice for dancers is particularly important for one to achieve any real standard. While younger students may do just fine with twice a week practice, as students mature, the daily practice may be essential. For ballet dancers, it’s possible that going through the daily ritual exercises at the ballet barre may be a more important factor of success then how well each exercise is actually performed (but that leads to another deep practice rule that I will write about next time).
During the school year, students are under stress from school, homework, family obligations and getting to dance classes and rehearsals on time. Summer provides the perfect stress-less opportunity for the deep practice of daily classes and daily use of the many other deep practice techniques. Our camps and intensives provide a depth of understanding and application of the material that lacks appropriate time during the rest of the year. When students learn and improve they get very, very excited! When children get excited toward a directional path that they are perusing, they have an experience of monumental enjoyment. An experience unrelated to one’s directional path can still be fun, but in its somewhat idol nature, it may have comparatively limited value.
We have had many students graduate an entire level over summer. A few students have even graduated two levels in the course of our summer intensive! But most importantly, happiness is the pursuit of one’s dreams! The summer delivers the perfect opportunity for our students to live, breathe and dance the dream for an extended time and provides your child with a priceless sense of purpose and accomplishment.
What could be more exciting or more valuable?