Dance Theory and Practice

Using Ritual to Anchor Your Dance Practice

How do you make time for your personal dance practice? Do you have a daily or weekly creative routine that enables you to practice regularly? One of the most powerful ways to build a practice is through ritual: a “ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order” (Oxford English Dictionary). While a ritual generally has religious connotations, in can be used to anchor a creative practice in your daily life.

The American choreographer Twyla Tharp wrote in her book The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life:

“I begin each day of my life with a ritual: I wake up at 5:30 am, put on my workout clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirts and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st Street and First Avenue, where I work out for two hours. The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning; the ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go I have completed the ritual”.

I too have developed a ritual to anchor my dance practice: I walk down the street to the café, have a cup of tea and write in my journal, walk home, and take off my coat and shoes. Then I put the music on and dance. I do this once a week. Having this anchor gives me the certainty that I will ‘show up’ to my personal dance practice and gives me space to prepare my creative energy.

A ritual doesn’t have to be as complicated as that. It could be a small as taking a few deep breaths, or walking outside to smell the fresh air. But having something that connects your creative practice to your daily life in a way that prepares you for your practice is incredibly powerful.

Next time you get ready to dance, think about how you anchor it to your daily life. What will your ritual be?

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