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Allowing for Mindful Pause in the Dance Classroom

As a dance teacher, incorporating mindful pauses into the classroom supports your health and wellbeing and allows for greater presence, thoughtful choices, and mental/physical stamina. This post includes a few ways to incorporate pause (or the Alexander Technique principle of Inhibition) into the classroom.


Alexander Technique & Dance: Allowing for Mindful Pause in the Dance Classroom


Alexander Technique (AT) is a mind/body, educational practice where students become mindful of their daily habits and learn self-care strategies for rediscovering movement efficiency, expressivity, balance, and coordination. As a dance educator and a certified AT teacher, I find great value in threading the AT principles of Awareness, Inhibition, and Direction through the dance classroom. These principles encourage a thoughtful presence and smart choice-making, supporting the health and wellbeing of myself and my students.


Though all AT principles interconnect, “Inhibition” is by far my favorite one to highlight in the dance classroom. Inhibition is a mindful pause – a moment of presence and of “checking in” before an action. This thoughtful pause invites choice and a shift in your habitual response to a stimulus.


Did you know that your body automatically organizes around a stimulus? Consider how you react to seeing an email from your superior, learning of an early dismissal, getting cutoff by a driver, or hearing the ding of your cell phone. Your body quickly and automatically organizes around the task at hand. The same, habitual response occurs in the dance classroom (for teachers and students) based on the cueing, exercise, phrasing, and flow of the dance class. (Notice how your mind/body reacts when I say “triple pirouette” or how you respond to the plié in fourth position prior to a turn. Did you hold your breath? Are you bracing in your lower back? How can you shift this response?). Change is possible! Incorporating the AT principle of Inhibition allows for choice, freedom, self-agency, confidence, and an expanded movement palette.


Here are 5 ways for teachers to incorporate “Inhibition” and to promote mindfulness in the dance classroom:


1. Verbal Cueing – Before teaching a combination or giving feedback to a student, you may consider taking a very, brief moment to pause and check in with yourself. This moment enables you to let go of unneeded tension, reconnect, and move forward in a state of balance, ease, and confidence. You may notice a shift in the tone of your voice and/or that a particular comment is not needed or creating agitation for a student.


2. Tactile Cueing – Similar to verbal cueing, you may take a moment to pause before offering a guiding touch to your student. This moment allows you to sense your surroundings and notice your breath before connecting with a student. Think of these moments of “touch” as a duet. You do not want to transfer your tension to a student.


3. Fixing vs. Empathy – When connecting with a student, you may notice an inner desire to “fix” the student, but what if you first approach these interactions with pause and empathy? Allowing for empathy of your student and of yourself offers an opportunity for mutual pause, thoughtful redirection, and harmonious change. This state of empathy also teaches your students that you value their uniqueness and honor process.


4. Phrasing – Do you often begin combinations on the “1” or “& 1” count? What happens if you begin the exercise on the “2?” This one-count “pause” at the beginning, which could also be in the middle or conclusion of an exercise, may shed light on any preparatory habits or holding patterns. For example, students may notice a slight holding of breath, gripping in the feet or back, or protruding of the chin when mindfully pausing. Teachers may also consider altering the phrasing of a sequence and or allowing their students to add improvisatory pauses in a combination. A millisecond of pause may offer a moment of choice, shifting habits and leading to healthy change.


These are just a few ways to incorporate a mindful pause into the dance classroom. I invite you to explore these options and to create your own. Let go of trying to “get it right.” Instead, allow for self-empathy, laugh, and be curious.


For resources and/or more reading on AT in the dance classroom, I recommend the following:


Barsky, M. (2010). The Alexander Technique and contemporary dance: an interview between

Marsha and Robert Barsky. AmeriQuests, 7(2). https://doi.org/10.15695/amqst.v7i2.211


Gilmore, R. (2005). What Every Dancer Needs to Know About the Body: A Workbook of Body

Mapping and the Alexander Technique. Portland, Oregon: Andover Press.


Nettl-Fiol, R. (2006). Alexander Technique and dance technique: applications in the studio.

Journal of Dance Education, 6(3), 78-85.


Vanier, L., & Nettl-Fiol, R. (2011). Dance and the Alexander Technique: Exploring the Missing

Link. Urbana, Chicago, and Springfield, Illinois: University of Illinois Press.


Thank you and enjoy!


Nicole



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