Mind Over Matter: Know thyself

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts called “Mind Over Matter” that explore the importance and relevance of the psychological aspects of dancing.

In the last two posts in this series, I discussed the challenges of focusing on what not to do and trying to focus on too many things.

Of course, any instruction is ineffective if the student is not in tune with his or her own body. If you can’t tell if or when you’re doing something right, how can you consistently maintain or practice it?

Self-awareness is vital to self-improvement. Self-awareness informs us when we’re doing something wrong, helps us work towards developing a new habit, and hopefully helps us distinguish between the two. Feedback from your partner can be helpful and informative, but it can also be misleading, and it may not help to fix problems. Knowledge of yourself and your own movement provides a different kind of independent feedback that allows for self-correction.
Self-awareness is tied to being present or being in tune with what your body is doing and how it feels. Even if you can’t identify what exactly is happening, recognizing how different positions or movements feel is important for making adjustments. And, as with any physical movement, self-awareness requires practice to improve and become more comfortable with it. 
Of course, self-awareness can be a very internally-focused endeavor in a dance that involves a lot of external activities: leading and following, floorcraft, the music, etc. Finding the right balance between internal and external focus can feel schizophrenic. This is why I often suggest students practice self-awareness when practicing by themselves or in class, where the external distractions are limited.
How aware are you of your own movements when you dance? How has this changed over time? What has helped to improve your self-awareness? Teachers, how do you help your students become more self-aware?


  1. I very much agree with the importance of self awareness. It is a huge driver of personal growth. I record myself practicing dancing on my own, watch it (slightly painful!) and think about how I want to look vs. how I actually look.

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