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The Importance of Slowing Down in Dance Training

Slow down—this would be the best single piece of advice I could give to any dance student. Oddly enough, it is also the most common note I receive from my own instructors while working on my tango.

Slowing down is a completely underappreciated approach. If you cannot produce a movement slowly, I promise it will not generally improve when you add speed.

As a professional dancer, I spent the majority of my time breaking movements apart and putting them back together. Personally, I had to go through motions very slowly for the choreography to sink into my body. As I worked on material slowly, I would often notice how the movements could link together energetically or even in opposition. There would often be something in the phrases that anchored the separate pieces together. I could describe it similarly to how a skyscraper is built; each beam is placed but needs to be welded together. Mentally breaking down a phrase slowly allowed my mind to weld the separate parts into a cohesive whole.

I highly recommend slowly breaking down single movements into parts. A developpé to the front is a good example. This motion can be done fluidly in a single brisk motion, or you can take it from coupé, to passé, to extending, holding, lowering, and finally closing to 5th. All the steps in ballet can be broken into pieces, and each dancer should not skip this effort, as your technique is literally built upon the ability to understand the mechanics of movement.

Does anyone ever look good when they’re in a rush? Maybe Batman because he has a super cool car. But generally speaking, no one looks good in the middle of being hurried, and it’s dangerous—this is when accidents happen.

When we approach a movement, slowing down allows us the opportunity to sense the material in a relaxed state. I encourage you to practice movement slowly while simultaneously considering your breathing, areas where you may hold tension, and your balance. Slowing down allows us to sense many different elements of movement.

The great thing about being a dancer is that when we dance, we live in the present moment. Our job is to not be mentally in the past or the future; our job is to be in the music. Slowing down forces us to maintain our mental concentration on our work, uninterrupted, for an extended period of time. I do not concentrate that well sitting in a chair reading text; often my mind will wander. But for some reason, if you get me up and moving my body, my focus becomes completely dialed in. My point is that slowing down may improve your concentration levels, which are crucial for your long-term progress.

No one looks bad going slowly. No one gets hurt going slowly. Often we need to take three steps backward before we suddenly leap five steps forward. Dance training is a messy, nonlinear process. If you enjoy the process, you will make progress with your process. Slowing down has tremendous benefits for your body, mind, and spirit.

Thank you for reading my thoughts. If you have any questions or topics you would like me to discuss, please email Subscribe to our weekly newsletter below.

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