Why All Performing Dancers Need a Dance Coach
by Najia Marlyz
posted June 11, 2010
What was it that the police officer said in that movie? I think he said, “Badge? I don’t need no stinkin’ badge!” Well, perhaps not, and it is certain that because you have an outstanding dance teacher, you dance beautifully, and get plenty of gigs too, therefore, you might think you don’t need no stinkin’ dance coach either…
…However, as a dancer and dance coach, I ask you to imagine what you might accomplish if you only were aware some part of what it is that has not yet entered your realm of consciousness…
Generally, people will not tell you the truth, you know.
- If they think your dance is lacking something, they feel sorry for you, and they will say something that they think sounds supportive and positive.
- ·If it was a truly amazing performance, they will say something that they think sounds—supportive and positive!
In other words, audience members try hard to be supportive and positive when facing a performer in person. Hopefully, they will always cheer and never boo your efforts! However, you cannot see yourself the way that another person, especially a professional dance coach, can see you.
Video is not a substitute for a coach’s input. Video not only adds ten pounds to your image but also usually subtracts the magic that is the essence of your dance. Aren’t you just a little bit curious how another looks at your dance and sees…what? Don’t you wonder sometimes if your dance is all that it could be? If you have begun to believe in your dance technique as outstanding in quality, or that your skills are substantially on the road to superior (though it might seem embarrassing to admit that aloud to very many people), it is time to engage a professional dance coach who is not your dance teacher. One person cannot fill both roles for you!
It is never too soon to find a coach who can aid you in all phases of your public performances—from costuming (Does this costume make me look voluptuous—or just show off my huge derrière?) to technique and choosing just the right musical arrangements to fit the gig.
Most performers have a great deal of untapped potential; additionally, many consider it cheating to engage a professional coach and yet, that is exactly what they would look for if this were the Olympics and they were competing for the gold!
Obtaining a performance coach to enhance whatever it is that you are best at performing is probably your next logical step in attaining your dance goals, and subsequently, renewing your inspiration. It is less publicly revealing of your little faux pas and technique deficiencies when you can work without witnesses hearing your questions or assessments of your skills and corrections of errors. Therefore, you will want to work in private with an experienced, discrete dance coach who has had a full dance career in performance skills. Additionally, you should realize that the better you are as a dancer, the more your coach and you can accomplish together!
Since the time I began to dance as an adult in 1968 and now, 2010, I have developed some unique insights into coaching Western dancers in the both creative and ethnic dance and have become a recognized coach in the field of performance dancing because of the rapid improvement others see in my clients’ dancing. I urge dancers who perform in public, and some who are preparing to begin an entire career in dance, to seek the benefits of working with an appropriate performance coach as I did for about three years when I was just beginning to perform. My coach’s insights were invaluable to me! She was not my dance teacher and was not even a
professional dancer—but she had been a life-long stage and gig performer. She billed herself as “Beatrice and Her Enchanted Violin”.
Because coaches are not primary instructors, they should never require their clients to “start over” with beginner’s dance lessons—even if it becomes evident that some of them have vast un-addressed lack of dance concepts missing from their dance knowledge. For example, a coach might recommend some classes in stage drama or costuming. Consequently, a dancer needs to enter into a sort of dance triage process. When using term “dance triage” I mean the sort of selective treatment order one might receive in a crowded emergency room of a hospital. When coaching, I take on areas of egregious neglect and need and at the same time, build upon strengths of survival that have sustained my client’s dance thus far. If some part your dance needs a tourniquet, you should understand exactly why!
Without exception, dancers who have coaches move forward from wherever they are in dance presently to a greater level of dance expression. Usually, it would not have been possible to envision this progress by the dancer alone.
However, in order to withstand the process, dancers must have a real love for moving in an extemporaneous style of composition and must have outgrown the Western need to rely on a formal choreography. Please note that the term “choreography” is defined as nothing more than a pre-planned written dance for skillful memorization. However, in my opinion, in recent years, it has come to imply an element of legitimacy in form and stature that is a false impression and a debilitating crutch. Therefore, do not expect a coach to be creating choreography for you or helping you with anyone else’s. Your coach will help your learn how to listen to music analytically and how to react to it as a unique dance artist.
The magic of Oriental dance springs from an intense desire to communicate emotional truths by moving one’s body from the inside out.
If you dance from your emotional center, I would urge you to continue your learning process by adding a coach to your dance life and career. Even though this may increase your dance involvement at least a couple of times per month, dancers should not drop classes with a current instructor, taking care that social contacts in dance are not broken. These personal contacts remain important in one’s dance advancement because they will become a part of one’s future dance networking.
Coaching is an acutely intimate process in which your ability to grow in dance, so that your inner realm and your heart’s desire for your entire life is reflected through your dance. All will come under intense scrutiny.
In order to do it right, coaching takes time, and learning to know you well enough to access the information and insights that you need will take you and your coach both time and repetition. It will also require numerous performances of all types: birthdays, recitals, festivals, etc. New paths should open for you, and one or two coaching sessions can only reveal to a coach where problems exist—only a diagnosis for you. Ongoing coaching procedures, however, can reach performers with new inspirational material and ideas. A coach can help you develop awareness of opportunities for creative tactics for stage-work and handling varied venues. Whether dance clients can enter onto those new paths securely enough depends on their intent, dedication, and follow-though—as well as the impact of an effective coach.
Ready for more?
- 3-13-08 Enduring Open Criticism: A Student’s Question about Feeling Humiliated by Najia Marlyz
What is wrong with our form of dance today is a direct result of the current trend for treating dance students as if they were in therapy or grade school (or both).
- 9-11-07 How to Avoid the Executioner: A Journey into Creative Listening by Najia Marlyz
Standardization can ruin an art form as it would the fashion industry—or any other endeavor based upon creative thinking.
- 9-15-06 The Taxim from a Dancer’s Perspective:Tarab or Tyranny? by Najia Marlyz
Sometimes, these improvisations can be quite elaborate. The effect is somewhat like modern jazz and stays within the framework of the traditional maqam or maqamat.
- 11-28-06 Back to Basics by Najia Marlyz
Belly Dance is most meaningful when we define it as a communication of mutually held emotional response and truths between people
- 12-24-03 Dancing Inside Out by Najia Marlyz
- 6-10-10 Debke, A Brief History by Tasha Banat
How does one combine Debke with Bellydance? What does that mean? In order to combine two beautiful dances, we have to first separate them and understand the different types of Arabic music
- 6-8-10 Interview with Yamil Annun, An Argentinian Belly Dancer by Martha Duran
Yamil Annum has created his own dance style and has evolved his specific style of Oriental dance by using the well established foundations of classical Ballet, Ukrainian dance, Ballroom dancing, Celtic dances, Jewish folk-dance, Bhangra, Armenian and Argentinian Tango. His elegance on the stage has revolutionized stages all over Argentina and Latin America.
- 6-7-10 There’s More to Being a Professional? by Ashiya and Naajidah
Many are the times we have heard belly dancers bemoaning the fact that there are so few venues, especially paying ones, for our art form. They long to be professional dancers, and are understandably frustrated at the lack of opportunities afforded us for acceptable venues for performances. But, does the lack of venues keep dancers from being professional, or does being unprofessional create the lack of venues?
- 6-4-10 IBCC 2010- Wednesday Stage, Opening Night Gala Performance Photos by Samira
The Opening Night Gala Performance was held April 21, 2010 at the Hungarian Canadian Cultural Centre. Video report reposted here as an introduction to the photos.
- 6-1-10 Choosing Finger Cymbals by Lara Lotze
Learning finger cymbals can be intimidating for many dancers. It is not just another prop, it is a musical instrument that should be used to enhance the dance and help accent the music. One the major barriers to learning finger cymbals is simply finding a good pair of cymbals that you like.