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Attention and Focus in Practice: Give Me a Clear Vision

This is an excerpt from Attention and Focus in Dance by Clare Guss-West.

By Sorella Englund, international coach and ballet master, former principal dancer of The Royal Danish Ballet

If there is information coming from the outside all the time, from your teacher, your coach, your ballet master, there is no time to get in to yourself – and you are the one who is going to go out there, the one communicating what you have in your heart. It’s so important to give dancers keys to trust their own ‘voice’.

A new story ballet often starts with the drama and the relationship and then the physical demands take over. So, the story and intentions can get lost as we focus on perfecting. Dancers get physical information right up until the curtain goes – it’s too much. We need time to explore ‘What are we actually saying with this step?’ So often dancers simply don’t know where to focus.

I worked very intensely once with a dancer on the physicality, the drama, the passion of the role and then just before ‘curtain up’ on the premier, she spontaneously said ‘Give me a vision!’ No time to think, I just trusted what came out. I said ‘freedom’. Before every performance she came to me, ‘So what’s for tonight?’ and I suggested ‘breathing the music’, ‘generosity’ or ‘sharing your vision’. I could see the focus helped her. All the corrections are in there; you don’t need to think about them just before you perform. Follow a clear vision and let the music carry you.

We aim for the perfect all the time and that’s fine to aim for something that makes us grow, but nobody is perfect. As long as we are human beings, we are not perfect and will never be. We need another image to go deeper, to be more honest, to dare to be true to ourselves and to the role we are developing. I think the word developing would be very good to take instead of perfecting. This ‘perfect’ business is killing the art.

Figure 8.2 Dancer Kailey using the single cue word ‘freedom’.
Figure 8.2 Dancer Kailey using the single cue word ‘freedom’.