Visualisation for Dancers

Sep 7


Laura Stanyer

Laura Stanyer

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Visualization for dancer to enhance performance and wellbeing.


The aims of visualisation techniques are to focus the dancer so that they are positive and confident in their ability and enjoy the experience of learning and performing and achieve their true potential.

Scientists have discovered there is an area of the brain called the pre motor cortex that is activated when you imagine your body moving,Visualisation for Dancers Articles the area that plans movement so when you rehearse a dance skill or sequence in your mind you create neural pathways in your brain as if you were actually moving and performing the sequence. All without moving a muscle this means when you do perform the skill or sequence you should find it easier as the pathways in your brain are already in place.

Repeatedly rehearsing in your mind allows you to strengthen the neural pathways that will produce the step or sequence and help to refine your skills without putting the body through excessive stress. It enables you to rehearse anywhere.

Visualization involves the dancer imagining themselves in a class, rehearsal or performance. The visualisations have the dancer performing the skill or sequence at their very best, enjoying the experience. Enter completely into the visualisation with all your senses: visual, sound, touch, smell and felt sense. Being in a totally relaxed state allows you to be receptive to visualisation.

Benefits of Visualisation:
  • Enhances learning and motivation
  • Enhances self-confidence, helps to visualise success
  • Create coping strategies in stressful situations
  • Enhance focus, concentration and self-discipline

Just as you practice dance skills, mental imagery needs to be practised on a regular basis for you to become highly skilled and can be incorporated into your training or daily routine.

Visualisation for rehearsal of specific movements

Visualisation used to learn and rehearse specific movements or dance skills enhances learning and performance. Visualisation can explore the mechanics of how to execute the movement and visualisation can allow a dancer to explore symbolic sense the quality or energy related to improve a particular dance skill. For example, whilst executing a pirouette a dancer may visualise spinning like a top.

Visualisation for rehearsal

Visualisation can enhance you learning ability when learning new movement sequences or choreography for performance. Visualisation can also enhance the dramatic aspects of a dancer character within a piece of choreography by imaging the emotions or motives felt by the character they are performing.

Visualisation for Performance

To reach your true potential in dance it is important you have a high level of confidence in your ability to perform at your best so it is important to visualise yourself performing in a confident manner in full control of yourself excelling in you execution and feeling confident within the performance environment.

Visualisation Exercises

Recall is a technique that allows you to recall (or create) a positive experience. By remembering and feeling the positive sensations your body will go into the experience of flow which enables you to be relaxed and focused and in control.

Recall - Mental Rehearsal Exercise

In each class, before you perform a skill imagine yourself performing it to the best of your ability. See, feel, and experience yourself moving through the actions in your mind as you would like them to develop. Freeze frame any move that does not feel right, rerun in slow motion until it feels right. This can also be used for performance.

Recall -Your Own Feature Film Exercise

Recall an experience where you were at your peak in performance, feeling wonderful. Recapture the feelings, sounds etc. and enhance them make them more vivid in light, colour, positive feelings and sounds. Watch your own feature film of your best performances when you need a boost of confidence.

Positive Mental Attitude

Breaking negative behavioural patterns by the use of a trigger - a word, phrase or action can help to prevent negative attitudes when learning.

A trigger can be:
  • A word or phrase shouted inside your head
  • A physical action, for example squeezing first finger and thumb together
  • A physical reminder, for example a wristband

When hearing, seeing or feeling the trigger you can shift your focus gaining a positive uplifting thought for a boost of motivation.

Visual Practice: Role Model

Observing a professional dancer who has practised the skills countless times can give you an excellent role model to develop the same skill you are hoping to learn. You can visualise being them or performing the skills as they do.

Visualisation and Goal Setting

Setting goals within training and performance is a useful tool to measure your progress. It provides an opportunity to improve your skills or learn new skills, technique or choreography. It allows you to review your training methods if you do not meet your original goals.

  • Specific - Goals are focused on precisely what you want to achieve. For example: goal to improve jumps and landings
  • Measurable - Assess your level of success so you can review your own progress. For example: a goal to improve the number of successful double pirouettes once you have achieved a successful single pirouette
  • Accepted - You and your teacher or choreographer agree on what your goals are
  • Realistic - You are able to achieve the goals you have set yourself
  • Time limit - You should set target dates to achieve your goals. For example: goal in 2 months to be able to handstand unsupported
  • Enthusiasm - You should be challenged and stimulated by your goal
  • Record - Keep a written record of how and when you achieve your goal to assess your progress

Visualisation practice empowers and centres you for performance, allowing you to enter deeply into the present moment and harness your true potential. Along with diaphragmatic breathing it calms and unclutters your mind leading you to a place of freedom and unselfconsciousness. Visualisation is a very personal experience and skill that takes practice to discover its depth and power.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this web page is intended as general guidance and information only. Laura Stanyer and its authors accept no liability for any loss, injury or damage however incurred as a consequence, whether directly or indirectly, of the use this information. All advice on this web page should only be used under the supervision of a qualified dance / fitness / healthcare professional