If you’re anything like me, you plunk down a ton of money every year to learn from a variety of instructors that roll through town offering concentrated information about a particular topic. Workshops are where we peel off the layers and get to the core. We explore deeper nuance and expand our knowledge. I like to think about it in the following terms: Classes + workshops + reading + DVD’s or online tutorials + watching performances + self-critique + private lessons = a well balanced diet of the serious student. But, let me ask you this….have you ever left a workshop full of inspiration and by the time you arrive at home you’ve forgotten a significant portion of what you learned? I have. This is particularly true when it comes to choreography workshops. I learn a routine. I forget a routine. I have developed a few strategies for maximizing what I’ll get from a workshop and, who knows, maybe they’ll help you too.
1. Sit down!
I injured myself 30 minutes into a workshop with Madame Raqia Hassan and I got more out of that experience that I would have if I danced the entire time. It was a great reminder to absorb what I could with my eyes and ears without the pressure of having to keep up. I suggest watching at least once or twice and take a few notes about something that strikes you. A pause, an angle of the head, which aspects of the routine you can see yourself adapting and which are just not for you. Sit and watch – but watch actively.
2. Get the Music!
The workshops are not cheap! Spending money on the CD or digital file might seem like an unnecessary expense but, trust me on this one, it’s worth the cost. Even something as simple as playing the music in your car on the way home (or iPod on the subway) will help to reinforce what you’ve learned.
3. Record Yourself.
Whether it’s technique-based, choreography or musicality, record your practice with it while it’s fresh. Even if you record the instructor doing the movements, it’s not the same thing as recording your take on it. You can also compare it to the instructor’s version.
4. Talk About It.
Grab a coffee or a tea with a friend as close to the workshop as possible and have a critical discussion about it. Discuss what you learned, insights, what you would have liked more of, etc… Getting another perspective will reinforce the topic and may even fill in some of the gaps that you missed during a water break. Sometimes I pile in as many students as my car will fit and we chat about it the whole way home. These are the best discussions!
5. Be Selective.
Just because an instructor is from Egypt doesn’t mean you HAVE to go. Just because an instructor is someone you really enjoy watching doesn’t mean you can’t miss it. Read the workshop description and watch some performance clips. Talk to some friends who may have studied with that person. Just the other day I wrote to my friend Angelica and I said, “Help! I am over-committed to workshops and learning opportunities but this other one just came up and I need to know if it’s worth it.” Over time, you will learn whose style of teaching is a good match to your style of learning. Of course, there can be surprises. Maybe you develop a new favorite that you never would have imagined so an open mind is also a good thing.
6. Modify Your Learning Format.
Sometimes when an instructor is visiting they have time to do private lessons. I have done this with several dancers lately because it is worth everything to me to have their undivided attention so I can get the most out of my time with them. In my one hour with Luna (of Cairo) or Tamalyn Dallal, I got more amazing feedback that I ever would have in a large crowded room.
Investing in your dance training is part of the job. It fuels your love and deepens your understanding. But I think everyone needs to learn how to make it work for them.
….and speaking of workshops
Big thanks to Nahara and Josie’s International School of Dance for having me teach “A Taste of Turkish” on Monday. I had a fantastic time with all of the women.
Saturday December 13th, stay tuned for details about Rosa Noreen (of Maine) who will come to CT to teach a workshop.