However, what I didn't necessarily expect to happen is that taking dance lessons makes me a better Pilates teacher, Alex. He is not only a great dancer and teacher, but he’s really smart (former engineer). His lessons are well planned, organized and effective. Three things that I strive for with my teaching too.
It is really hard to do something new. Stepping into a dance studio was way out of my comfort zone. Alex shows me a move and he makes it looks smooth and graceful. Then I try it and it looks nothing like what Alex just did. But as I say to my Pilates clients, “it’s about progress not perfection”.
Taking dance lessons reminds me how intimidating it can be for someone to step out of their comfort zone and take that first step into the Pilates studio. It reminds me what it feels like to be a “newbie”.
"Information Overload" can hinder the learning process. Being a student of dance reminds me how information overload can hinder the learning process. Sometimes when I am being taught a new move or working on progressing and an “old” move, there is too much information and my brain can’t understand it fast enough to send the message to my body. That’s when it’s time to just dance. No talking, no correcting, just figuring it out in my body. As teachers we want to pass a lot of information to our students so you can get the most out of every exercise, but sometimes we need to just stop talking and let you figure it out in your own body.
Never underestimate the power of praise. Being a student of dance reminds me of the power of praise. As Alex and I are repeating the same move over and over, trying to get it right, I find myself waiting for him to say “good job” or “that’s better”. I need that feedback to know that I am on the right track, that my body is moving at least a little better than it was a few moments before. I know that my Pilates students need to hear me say “good job” or “that’s better”. I hope my efforts to help you master an exercise are combined with praise and encouragement in the process. Any attempt is better than no attempt at all.
The lessons I have learned from Pilates students serve me very well in dance lessons. The most important connection between being a teacher of Pilates and a student of dance is what I learn from you, my Pilates students, that I take to my lessons. When I teach you a new exercise, especially an advanced exercise, I know you aren’t going to master it right away. Your spine might not articulate smoothly, or you might twist when you are supposed to bend or you forget part of the movement. I see how great your attempt was and it makes me happy. I see how well you executed the movement based on your level experience in Pilates and I realize that you are learning and I get to be involved in it. That really encourages me as I dance. Of course when the dance teachers demonstrate a move it looks totally different from when I do it. I am not discouraged, I remember all of my wonderful Pilates students. I remind myself of your continued progress. I remind myself how much better your body moves after a month or year of Pilates compared to the first day. I tell myself to keep at it. I will probably never dance as well as Alex and the other teachers, but I will definitely dance better than I did when my husband and I first started.
Dance requires concentration, focus, precision, control, flow, and whole body movement. Every Pilates principle applies to dance as well! I love how I can use what I have learned from my Pilates practice and apply it while dancing and I love how I can take what I learned from being a student of dance and apply it as a Pilates Teacher.
Strive for progress, not for perfection, in every area of your life. Pass it on.