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“How I Became A Dancer” – Michael Cornell, Founder of Align Ballet Method

It doesn’t matter how you get there; what matters is that you can. Someday, you’ll establish a relationship with your body’s movement so that when you hear music, you’ll have precise control of your dance. But you might ask yourself, what do I need to do to get there?

Here’s a list of things I did, and I’ve seen work for others:

  1. Listen. A dancer needs to absorb ideas. Some of the concepts presented in your class may be esoteric. Often, great instruction comes with a bit of vagueness or open space for the dancer to explore their own interpretation. When we truly listen to these ideas and internalize them, dancers begin to develop in new directions.
  2. Be open. Everyone deserves boundaries, and we support them. But there’s a difference between having boundaries and rejecting new ideas. In class, be open to taking chances, ignoring your fears, embracing change, listening to differing opinions, exploring new movements, and moving in ways you’ve never considered. Your development as a dancer is a process. The more you explore, the faster you’ll progress.
  3. Be prepared. Ensure your attire is in order. Arrive early to class. Warm up. Take five minutes to center yourself mentally. Practice breathing and relaxation techniques. Review past corrections or choreography you’re working on. If it’s a second rehearsal, no one expects to spend 30 minutes reviewing the first rehearsal. Know your material.
  4. Don’t worry about others’ opinions. Negative people aren’t your problem. Many will try to discourage you, but true friends will support you. Don’t let discouragement from people or circumstances hold you back. You can do this!
  5. Have a dance hero. Who inspires you? Watch and study their work. The digital age makes it easy to study great dancers. I remember Sunday trips to the local library to flip through the single row of dance books containing still photos.
  6. Enjoy your strengths but focus on your weaknesses. My development was tedious. I had to work on my sickled feet, flexibility, line, and flow. Turning and jumping came naturally, but my poor line deterred attention. Focusing on the details in my lines provided me with a career. If I hadn’t delved deeply into what I didn’t do well, I would never have become the artist I am today.
  7. Attend class regularly. Dancers learn by dancing. Often, it’s simply a matter of putting in the time. I wish I could tell you differently, but great dancers practice extensively.
  8. Take responsibility. It’s not the instructor’s job to make you dance well, entertain, or stroke your ego. Personally, I don’t believe there’s such a thing as a “bad dance class.” If I’m in a class, I’m going to gain something from it. I never blame the teacher for my experience because if I’m in a dance class, I make it a great experience for myself. I’ve been studying Argentine tango for years, and there hasn’t been a single class where I haven’t found a benefit. Many dancers fall into the trap of only studying with teachers who make them feel comfortable. I enjoy teachers who inspire and challenge me, as long as they keep it positive.

So, that’s my two cents. My final recommendation would be to be kind to yourself along the way and enjoy the journey. Great dancers keep pushing forward. If you don’t believe me, watch Fred Astaire at the 1970 Oscars. Imagine Fred, old and feeling irrelevant, yet he comes out on stage and delivers an incredibly cool and timely performance well into his 70s. My advice to you: Don’t stop! Fred starts below at about 3:30.

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