I’ve been home for 2 months - now what? Student Edition!

"It's just for a week. Or two. That's it. A couple of weeks."

"They'll fly by! It will be April before we know it and then we'll be back in the studio and dancing with our friends."

And then it was April and we realized, uh-oh, this is going to be much longer than 2 weeks...

Courtesy Denise Krebs, CC Lic

As dancers, we discovered the joy of connecting with other dancers around the world, of taking classes with French teachers and Russian ballerinas, of trying hip-hop and contemporary and Zumba and yoga. Look at all these classes online! Look at all the dancers in their kitchens! Look at all the--

Oops! Look out for the lamp! And the dog!

It was fun for a month or so as we adjusted to a new way of training at home. We built our home studios and we set aside quiet time for ourselves (if we could) and closed the door (if we could) and tried to put our minds back into the studio while our bodies were stuffed into a corner of a living room or perched on the chair in the kitchen nook.

And then reality set in. Oh we thought we were in a new reality but this was the real reality. The reality that we weren't with our friends and our teachers; we weren't getting corrections like we were used to getting; we weren't really training.

We were just...trying really really hard to not kick the dog or smack our hand on the lamp. (I personally have done both many times.)

So right around the 2 month mark, true frustration has set in. Enough of the experimentation with all things new and different! Give us the same old stuff!

We might be in this place for a while longer, depending on where you live. You might go back to your work place but the dance studio will still be closed, which means you're in your home studio for a bit longer. Okay...let's be honest about what you can work on at home. Here is some advice I have for you, as both the teacher who wants to see you mentally healthy and physically able to get back to the regular class and the student who is also stuck at home.

First of all, focus on one thing at a time. Consider each class in your home as an opportunity to work on a step or an arm or a head, etc. You won't have this chance again in the future, unless you do private lessons.

Some things you could focus on:

1. Balance - practice flat or releve, with foot in coup de pied or retire or attitude
2. Stability - practice promenade in any position; developpe; shifting from fourth position to retire as in a pirouette en dehors
3. Port de bras - practice moving through the space and feeling the 3-dimensionality of your hand and fingers tracing the arc in the air
4. Epaulement - practice tilting the head, opening the chest, lifting the sternum and collarbones, rotating the shoulder
5. Calf strength - releves on one leg with the barre and without, use your Theraband with releves in first position

Second, use the rewind button - a lot. If you're not doing a live class, go ahead and hit the back button on a particularly challenging step or a complex combination. Watch it over and over again, study the teacher, and copy it as best you can. When will you ever be able to do that in real life?

Hint: learn new vocabulary by watching a more advanced class and studying the steps and hearing the words.

Third, spend this time to work on muscle memory. Most likely you don't have a kitchen with mirrors so you are doing this on your own. Take this time to feel the movement and get it into your body.

Hint: if you have a small portable mirror, place it somewhere that you can see to check a correct position and then feel what that looks like in your body.

Fourth, practice choreography. This sounds impossible, I know. You're at home with very little room and no mirrors. How can you possibly practice choreography? I would argue this is the perfect time to do it. We rely so much on mirrors and other people that sometimes we don't even pay attention, let alone learn the choreography. So why not use this opportunity to focus on picking things up?

How do you do that? The number one thing to know about learning choreography is that it's different for every person. When I was studying pedagogy in college, the most valuable thing I learned was about how people learn. Some dancers need music, some need to see the combination. Some need the names of the steps or the counts. Do you know how you learn best? Well, why not find out now!

Some hints:

1. Repetition
2. Break a combination up into small chunks
3. Say the names of the steps
4. Count out the music
5. Listen to the music
6. Video yourself doing the combination and then watch it!

Fifth, cross-train.

~Do you have a pool? Swimming builds shoulder and back muscles and increases stamina.
~Do you enjoy walking or running? Put on your sneakers and walk or jog a few times a week for cardio benefits and leg strength.
~Is your town open to hiking? Enjoy nature while you're climbing a hill.
~Yoga and Pilates mat classes are also online and a great way to work in parallel and build core muscles.
~Lift weights if you have them or use objects that can simulate weights.
~Ride a bike, stationary or an actual bike.

Sixth, read. That's right: read. There are a ton of great dance books out there, both fiction and non-fiction (contact me if you need some titles or visit Dance Advantage for my reviews). If you're just not feeling the love of ballet right now because it's just too darn hard to negotiate for space in your home or you're finding it hard to be motivated, you might enjoy reading something that will inspire you or comfort you or educate you. Learn new vocabulary or dance history; check out a memoir of a famous or not-so-famous dancer. Study up on the big ballets and their composers - or choreographers - or costume designers.

Don't despair. We'll get through this.

Whatever you do, know that you are not alone.
As with all social media, what we see may not be what is.
Other dancers may appear to be doing ALL THE THINGS but they're not.
Or maybe they are.
But what does that matter? You are you.
And we are dancers.