Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Goal-setting you dance career

Corean Beauty, Cornell University Library
We all want to become better dancers, but for every dancer, 'better' is different. Some dancers just want to be able to perform every once in awhile. Some dancers want a fun way to get fit. And some dancers want to make a career out of it. We all have our dance dreams, the little fantasies we indulge ourselves with when our teachers compliment us or we have a good performance, but do you know how to make those dreams a reality?

What Do you Want?
To start, you need to know what you want. What do you imagine when you picture your ideal dance career? Do you want to make a living from dancing or teaching? Do you just want to be able to do a backbend? Do you want to perform a set number of times a year?  Write it down, and don't worry if it sounds stupid or you're afraid you'll never accomplish it. Just seeing it, written out in front of you, will make the dream that much more real to you.

However, just writing down your fantasy doesn't mean you'll end up accomplishing it. In fact, the best way to motivate yourself is by imagining your fantasy, then imagining the consequences of not pursuing your goal. By knowing exactly what it'll cost you to not move ahead, you'll be more likely to accomplish your dreams.

Making it Real
Now, give yourself a specific deliverable. If you want to quit your job and dance full time, how do you want to accomplish that? High-end shows, teaching workshops, making and selling costumes? How much do you want to make from this? If it's a physical goal, such as mastering swordwork, what does that mean to you? Maybe you want to perform a sword piece at a big bellydance show.

Whatever your deliverable is, make it as specific as possible, so you know exactly what you're shooting for.

Now that you have that down, you need a timeframe to shoot for you, and for this, you need to make sure that it's actually possible. If you want to do Rachel Brice-like backbends but are at the chiropractor's every other day, you might be shooting for the impossible--not that you shouldn't try, but you've got to work within your own constraints. On the other side of the coin, if you want to make two grand a night performing by the end of the year and you've only been dancing for 6 months, you may have to reconsider your deliverable for the short term. If you know you want to go for the gold but aren't sure how long it's going to take, try making your short-term goal smaller. For instance, instead of living off the money you make teaching in 6 months, set a goal to make up half your regular income from teaching and start there. Whatever your goal is, make sure it's manageable, and isn't so large that you feel like it's not worth it and give up.

The Last Step
Now that you know what you want, though, isn't that enough?

Not really, no. You now need to decide how you're going to achieve that goal. If you want to be able to perform a backbend without breaking your back, write out an exercise plan to improve your back flexibility and strengthen your core muscles. Look for a yoga class to take once a week, or try strength training with plank and pushups. How much time a week are you going to have to spend on working on your backbends? Figure out when you can practice and put it in your calender. Let your friends and family know that you are practicing and can't be bothered.

If you want to get paid to perform, start looking up places to dance at. Talk to other dancers who gig for money, and find out if they can put in a good word for you. Start working on sets, research how much you should ask for, and practice, practice, practice!

Now What?
Now that you know what you want and how you're going to get it, comes the hard part: the long, slow slog to accomplishing your goal. Here, it helps to have a partner in crime. If you've got a dance friend who is trying to accomplish their own goal, buddy up with them and help each other stay on track. Check in with one another and help each other get your work done.

Another thing you can do is talk to someone who does what you want to do. If it's a teacher you admire, ask them to give you some tips and help you work out your plan. If it's a professional dancer, contact them and ask a few questions on how they do it. Or if there's just another dancer in your community who can do something physically incredible, ask them how they did it.

And whatever you do, track your progress. Just mentally looking back on all you've done will not show you results. It's better to have tangible evidence of your progress. Start a dance journal, fire up Excel, videotape your practices. Even if it's just jotting down what you did that week to accomplish your goal and reporting on your progress so far, when you read back on it it, you'll be impressed. And there's no better cure for feeling down then revisiting your progress.

So, now you know how to accomplish your dance goals. Time to get started!

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