Attention and Focus in Dance
Enhancing Power, Precision, and Artistry
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Attention and Focus in Dance, a how-to book rooted in the 20 years of attentional focus findings of researcher Gabriele Wulf, will help dancers unlock their power and stamina reserves, enabling efficient movement, heightening their sensory perception and releasing their dance potential. Author Clare Guss-West—a professional dancer, choreographer, teacher and holistic practitioner—presents a systematic, science-based approach to the mental work of dance. Her approach helps dancers hone the skills of attention, focus and self-cueing to replenish energy and enhance their physical and artistic performance.
A Unique, Research-Based Approach
Here is what Attention and Focus in Dance offers readers:
- A unique approach, connecting the foundations of Eastern movement with Western movement forms
- Research-based teaching practices in diverse contexts, including professional dance companies, private studios, and programmes for dancers with special needs or movement challenges
- Testimonies and tips from international professional dancers and dance educators who use the book’s approach in their training and teaching
- A dance-centric focus that can be easily integrated into existing training and teaching practice, in rehearsal, or in rehabilitation contexts to provide immediate and long-term benefits
“Many dancers are using excessive energy deployment and significant counterproductive effort, and that can lead to a global movement dysfunction, lack of stamina and an increased risk of injury,” says Guss-West. “Attentional focus training is the most relevant study that sport science and Eastern-movement practice can bring to dance.”
The text is organised into two parts. Part I guides dancers in looking at the attentional challenges and information overload that many professional dancers suffer from. It outlines the need for a systematic attention and focus strategy, and it explains how scientific research on attentional focus relates to dance practice. This part also examines the ways in which Eastern-movement principles intersect with and complement scientific findings, and it examines how the Eastern and scientific concepts can breathe new life into basic dance elements such as posture, turnout and port de bras. Attention and focus techniques are included for replenishing energy and protecting against energy depletion and exhaustion.
Part II presents attention and focus strategies for teaching, self-coaching and cueing. It addresses attentional focus cues for beginners and for more advanced dancers and professionals, and it places attentional focus in the broader context of holistic teaching strategies.
Maximising Dance Potential
“Whether cueing others or yourself, cueing for high performance is an art,” Guss-West says. “Readers will discover how to format cues and feedback to facilitate effective neuromuscular response and enhance dancer recall of information and accessibility while dancing.”
Attention and Focus in Dance offers an abundance of research-backed concepts and inspirational ideas that can help dancers in their learning and performance. This book aids readers in filtering information and directing their focus for optimal physical effect. Ultimately, it guides dancers and teachers in being the best version of themselves and maximising their potential in dance.
AudienceProfessional reference for dancers, choreographers and dance educators
Gabriele Wulf, PhD
Recent scientific research findings: “An external focus of attention is key to optimal performance and learning.”
Part I. Shifting Attention
Chapter 1. Attentional Focus Challenges of Dancers
Explores the multitasking demands and information overload of dancers today and the need for a systematic attention and focus strategy in dance training and performance.
Chapter 2. Attentional Focus: A Scientific Perspective
Looks at how scientific attentional focus research relates to dance practice, translating attentional focus findings into dance vocabulary for practical dance contexts.
Chapter 3. Attention and Focus: The Intersection of Eastern and Western Movement
Investigates attention and focus in Eastern movement practice where it intersects with recent scientific findings to provide depth and alternative attentional tools for the dancer.
Chapter 4. Attentional Focus: Enhancing Power, Precision and Artistry
Revisits dance foundations with attention and focus techniques that renew meaning and develop energy, stamina and speed for specific dance challenges.
Chapter 5. Refocus Mind, Replenish Energy
Introduces remedial attention and focus techniques for performers and teachers to clear the mind and replenish energy in motion to protect from energy depletion and exhaustion.
Part II. Cueing Attention
Chapter 6. Teaching With External Attentional Focus
Presents practical attentional strategies for teaching, self-coaching and optimal cueing from beginner skills to refining of movement with advanced and professional dancers.
Chapter 7. Beyond Attentional Focus
Places attentional focus in context to explore complementary holistic strategies that support the autonomy of the dancer to bring further benefits to learning and performance.
Chapter 8. Optimal Attentional Cueing
Refines the art of optimum self-cueing, teaching cueing and feedback to enable high performers’ need for powerful, efficient movement at the service of an artistic intention.
Peter Lewton—President of International Association for Dance Medicine & Science (IADMS)
“After using the Reflection Prompts from Chapter 2 and self-reflecting on how many external focus elements I use, I became so passionate that I gave a full class using only external focus. I was inspired to find new ways to guide dancers into what I want them to achieve."
Javier Torres—International teacher, choreographer, and former professional dance
"Clare is a very effective and enchanting educator. She offers elements to our practice that seem very ethereal yet are so practical; very elusive yet so easy. Enjoy discovering how less (but efficient) is sometimes more!"
Astrid Sherman, FISTD—ISTD USA representative, former professional dancer, dance educator
"I had the pleasure to come across the beautiful work of Clare Guss-West at the IADMS Conference, Seattle. The information and modalities that she has gathered to help with neural flexibility as well as assuring healthy and sensible physical engagement for dancers of all ages is presented in a open hearted and practical manner. One deceptively simple imaginary exercise introduced has proven to be an invigorating warm up in the ballet classroom. At IADMS Washington Conference she shared her insights into the way in which Qi Gong plays into dance. She has integrated her considerable understandings and skills in ways that the dancers can become more connected to their breath and increase their understanding of the origins of their movements.”
Stephanie Saland—Former professional dancer NYCB, Dance Educator
Attitude – A Glorious Circling Orbit
The Appropriate Effort
Clare Guss-West, with her inimitable clear mind and voice, has taken her myriad skill sets and wide ranging interests to the rich offerings in her new book. I have such gratitude for her having woven together the science and evidence based material that makes the shift from less skillful paradigms into those pointing to ease and deepening self knowledge and presence in movement.
I just started reading, but the feeling is, "am I every going to get to the good parts. Some folks like a lot of words for the prose skill, but it seems to me that there is a lot of repetition of ideas expressed in different (and unnecessary) ways. I may skip ahead at this point to see if it is worth continuing. This is an expensive book and I am not sure if it is worth it, yet.