Mental Drilling

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Ok, full disclosure. I do not physically drill as often as I should. Some weeks are better than others and overall it's something I'm working on.

Belly dancers talk about mental drilling sometimes (Sarah Kate from Copper Clock Dance mentions it here and Asharah talks about it here and here) and it's something I do constantly. I have a long commute to work--about an hour each way if I'm lucky, and I spend most of it each day mentally rehearsing layered movements, combinations and choreography.

Obviously I'm not flailing my arms around all willy nilly on the subway, but I do the smaller movements like glute squeezes, abdominal work and focus on really pulling my shoulders back and down. A pet peeve of mine is dancers who overshoot their isolations so I also imagine drilling really tiny movements all the time helps create subtler movement for me too. Lately I'm trying to create more stability when I work in relevé so I try to work in some subtle drilling on that too.

The first benefit to this is that here is no shortage of research suggesting that mental rehearsal maps the same neural patterns as physically doing, so there is tangible benefit (and I believe that I do see it) to me drilling choreography on the streetcar or at the supermarket.

Asharah refers to this as "perpetual practice" and says:

Here’s how I practice: I hardly ever stop thinking about dance.

I get that. These days it feels like every part of my life is impacted by dance. I pretty much eat, live and breathe it and a lot of actions that I don't even account for reflect the choice to focus on that. My partner Jay moved to Toronto for an awesome job but I felt like I had to be here because I needed to be here to work towards that goal. So I put a lot of pressure (maybe sometimes too much) on myself to work hard and make something of that choice. On the other hand, I feel like I'm accomplishing some stuff so I am super motivated. I feel a little more strongly every day that it was the right choice.

That pressure also keeps me on my toes (lately, quite literally) because I don't stand still without doing some hips on the up or fixing my posture. I do chest slides at my desk. The other night when I was cooking I decided to floreo the oil into the pan. Some went in my sleeve. It was awesome.

The final verdict is that I don't officially count mental/perpetual rehearsal as practicing in my dance journal but deep down I am very aware that it contributes significantly to my improvement and perhaps more importantly that it keeps my focus turned towards dancing all the time. I've never been a particularly focused person, more of a procrastinator and maybe even a slacker so that can be a pretty intense experience for me.


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