strong feelings about practicing

Here's what I think about practice and dance. Not even what to practice, when or how often. Just the concept itself. This obviously doesn't apply to people taking a class for fun, or for cross-training or just to try it out. I'm thinking more about the ever-growing number of us who more or less live for dance. And I know that there are a lot of us.

I'm grateful to my parents for continuously telling me, all through my childhood, that there's no point dedicating your time and resources to an activity if you are unwilling to practice.

Honestly, it sometimes felt like nagging when I was being dragged away from "fun" things to practice the piano, but what it taught me was that I wasn't that passionate about the piano after all. So after talking it over, I stopped playing. With dance, I was told consistently that I needed to practice, but I never, ever felt like I was being dragged away from something more interesting. Dance was the most interesting thing. Which is how I knew it was my thing.

I feel like it just might be the most valuable practical tool I ever developed. Not just the sheer will to practice, even when I super don't feel like it physically, emotionally or mentally; but the understanding of why that is important.

PRACTICE IS IMPORTANT. It is the most important thing. It is more important than getting onstage, it is more important than costumes, it is more important than knowing the right people or being in the right shows. In many ways, practice is more important than class. Practice is more important than anyone having heard of you, it is more important than having really awesome pictures on Facebook that 234,864 people "liked".

Why? Because if practice is less important to you than any one of those things, you're probably in this for the wrong reasons, and one day you're going to quit. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but one day it will fall apart, or it will be too much, or not enough. And there won't be anything to fall back on. Not in the sense of "being really good" because maybe you are and maybe you aren't, but nothing in the sense of having any real, lasting, personal connection with your own work. With the thing you care about the most.

At the end of the day, when the show is over and the students go home and it's just you, your own dance is what you're going to have left. And your connection with your personal practice is the foundation of that. It's about love. Not in a wishy-washy or flaky new age-y kind of way, in a literal, executable way. Practice is about loving your dance. It's about loving dance so much you dance all the time; loving dance so much that you want to be better and better; loving dance so much that dancing itself makes you a happier, more complete person.

It's also about taking the time to know your body, your art, your technique, inside and out. Not just trying to nail a fancy new movement or layer or combination, but going back to basics, consistently and with total intention. Feeling centered because every moment spent practicing is a moment spent improving incrementally and understanding your own dance better.

It feels like everyone else understands this already and we're late to the party or something. Classical musicians practice basic scales every time they practice, which is every single day. Ballet dancers always practice at the barre (every day!) Marital artists practice basic, simple katas, EVERY DAY. Not just once in awhile, but every day.

We are not too good to practice. We are not too advanced to practice. Practice isn't even necessarily about being good or advanced or whatever. It's about spending time with what it is that you do. And we're supposed to love that.


  1. Awesome and inspiring, thank you Heather :) Equus

  2. Maybe this is in a different post I haven't read yet - but I'd love to hear about your practice. What do you do EVERY DAY? You have a great teacher and access to a studio. Do you practice there, or at home too? I've got me, 6 ft sq and a mirror. Always looking for practice advice!

  3. I think my comment got eaten. I was wondering what your daily practice was like? Do you practice at the studio or at home? I've got 6 ft sq and a mirror, and whatever music is on my computer. I'm always looking for practice advice!
    Thanks - L

  4. Hey Laura, that's an awesome question and something I'm thinking about a lot lately myself, I'm definitely on this...!

  5. (Also your comment didn't get eaten, blogger makes me approve comments on posts after they've been live for a month, so your comments didn't go live until I pushed the button :P) Weird!


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