I’m not sure when or how marking in class became a thing. During my generation, this was an act one never contemplated, whether in class or rehearsals. Everything was expected to be done full out, with feeling. Every. Single. Time. In fact, it was interpreted as an act of disrespect or laziness to dare to water down and mark through the gift of the movement your teacher and choreographer were bestowing upon you. Somewhere down the line this has somehow waned and dancers today are somewhat prone to marking through the steps or attempting them on autopilot.
Now, let me preface that unless a teacher gives the go-ahead to, “walk through it,” for musicality purposes or figuring out counts, then that’s a completely different thing, but when we are teaching our dancers, we should be instilling a habit of going at things 100% consistently or not at all. Here’s a few important reasons why...
1. Injury Prevention: This seems evident but it holds a lot of truth. This truth should be a serious consideration for all teachers. Dancers who are not engaging their bodies fully either in warm-up, during class or rehearsals are risking potential injury, plain and simple. The body needs time to warm-up, to come to understand what it is you want it to do. If dancers are continually marking they are not allowing the body to take those messages and signals from the brain to do so. Furthermore, if any complex choreography involves such things as partnering, level changes, elevations, quick tempos, etc., leaving it to last minute to perform these movements full out also presents great risk to the muscles, bones, joints and spine. When we dance full out, all the time, we are allowing our bodies and our minds to join in, create heat in the muscles and create passageways so our motor skills become in tune with proper alignment and execution.
2. Repetition Creates Habit: As with any form of practice, mindful repetition is essential to achieve consistency and understanding. This is no different for bodies moving through space. When a dancer marks or dances full out inconsistently, they are not allowing or prompting the body and mind to nurture good habit. When the body is engaged in consistent dancing at optimal capacity, it allows the body a chance towork outside the comfort zone to progress and become accustomed to what it is you want it do. It also lends itself to a dancer’s progress and perfecting a skill. The bottom line is nobody is ever going to improve on doing something half-heartedly. 100% effort, 100% of the time will evoke change and that is when repetitive behavior and dancing takes center stage.
3. Stamina- physically and performance wise: We all have all come across dance students with the mentality of, “I’ll do it full out when I get on stage.” To be blunt, if a dancer thinks they can mark in class or rehearsals and get onstage and believe they are going to deliver their best performance, they are sadly mistaken. This is especially true with choreography that commands endurance and or strength. Every piece should be able to be performed three times in a row, full out without exhaustion or intense, labored breathing to, “have it in their bodies.” Try it. Your dancers will most likely be fatigued at first, but you will see how important it is to building stamina. If a dancer can dance full out and achieve that successfully, then performing it once onstage will be a breeze. They will feel confident, not winded and able to enjoy their performance while not gasping for air because they simply marked in the studio. It frees them up to just dance and engage in living in their performance and that is something marking will just not allow a dancer to achieve.
See you in the dance studio,
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