Episode 82: 5 Steps to Cleaning Your Dance Routine While Building Leadership
Chelsea: Hi, it’s Dr. Chelsea. I wanted to let you know that I have a Q&A episode coming up all about confidence. I know during this early phase of the season, we are all hoping to build our dancers up so they can take the competition floor with confidence. For this episode, I’d love to hear from you! Do you have a scenario or specific dancer that I can help with or anything on your mind about confidence you’d like to ask? If so, I have a simple way for you to submit a question. There is a link in the show notes, or you can type in https://speakpipe.com/passionfordance, and you’ll see a little prompt and record button. It’s just like leaving a voice memo, you just hit record and ask your question! You can leave it anonymously or, if you like, say something like, “Hi, it’s Chelsea. I’m a studio teacher in Colorado, and I have a question about,” and just whatever you want to say.
Ask your question, I would love to be able to use it in the show! I’ll pick a few of them and then answer them on the show so that I can share your questions with everybody ‘cause I bet a lot of us are dealing with the same issues. This is such a fun opportunity for me to hear from you and make sure I’m creating episodes that really help you where you’re at right now. So, submit your question for the upcoming Q&A episode about building confidence!
Introduction – 1:21
Okay, onto today’s show. If I know our dance world, then I know that one thing you can count on every season is you’re going to have to clean your routines. Whether your dance team is game-day focused, you're preparing for a championship, or you're performing the nutcracker this holiday season, we all want our routines to be as clean as possible. I always, personally, admire the routines that are exceptionally polished. It makes the artistic message easier to read and understand (and it’s just plain impressive) but cleaning can get really monotonous.
From the mental side of things, I know that’s one of the times where we really need our dancers to be more mentally tough. We need them to dig down and stick with us. On the one hand, yes, learning how to stick with a long, boring task is a good skill to have. So challenge your dancers to stay with you even if you’re spending a long time on one small section. That said, sometimes we all need a break and a little motivation boost. So, today, I’m going to share a cleaning idea that I learned from fellow coaches who were using this a lot during the pandemic when they had to stay in small groups, but, truly, it’s great anytime because of the mental break, the built-in leadership challenge, and that shift in focus. So, this is the Station Cleaning Method.
[Motivational Intro Music]
Welcome to The Passion for Dance podcast. I’m Dr. Chelsea, a former professional dancer and a dance team coach turned sports psychologist. This podcast focuses on four main pillars: motivation, resilience, mindset, and community. Each week, you’ll learn actionable strategies, mindsets, and tips to teach your dancers more than good technique. This is a podcast where we can all make a lasting impact and share our passion for dance. Let’s do this!
Station Cleaning Method – 3:12
Station cleaning isn’t new, and I’m certainly not the first to use it. Again, I actually learned about it from a fellow coach who had been using it for years. It’s just a great method to clean when you need to change things up a little bit. What I love about it is that, as a bonus, this method provides some opportunities for leadership within your dancers. This works best if you’ve already done a few rounds of cleaning and are at that “nitty gritty” level.
So once you’ve defined everything, once everyone is on the same page and you're at that part about perfecting the details, it’s a great option to try. When you’ve already identified what you need your dancers to execute, but they’re not there yet, the Station Cleaning Method can help you get there. So here are the steps for that Station Cleaning Method:
Step One – 3:57
Step one is to divide the routine into sections, especially if it’s a routine that has different kinds of music, you may already have sections, but even if it’s one song, you probably have kind of clear sections based on music changes or maybe big formation transitions or emotions and stories that shift within the routine. But if you don't already have them, just divide it into equal fourths. I generally recommend about four sections, but if you have five or six that you're already working with, stick with that.
Step Two – 4:28
Step two is, then, to divide the team into the same number of equal groups, and be really strategic here. When you're creating these groups, you're thinking about what’s the goal of this cleaning session today. So you want to make sure to have at least one leader per group, and if you’re on a school team, that leader isn’t necessarily a senior or captain. This could be a great opportunity to let someone else lead. You want at least one person who is dancing with precision or looks the way you want it to look, stylistically, or at least knows what everyone is striving for. You want that leader to be kind of the model of what we’re going for. Then choose other dancers based on what you hope they gain from this exercise. If there’s a new dancer who is struggling with pom angles, put her in the group with the dancer who has the most consistent and precise angles. If a dancer lacks performance quality, put them with your best performer. Create strategic groups with one leader and whoever else you feel will support the team with the goal you have in mind at the time.
Step Three – 5:28
So, once you have the groups and you have the sections of the routine set up, you're gonna put big sticky notes or posters or draw on the mirror or something similar in four sections of your practice space. You want to write on that giant sticky note the section title. It can, again, be based on formation or music or whatever the dancers need to know to know it’s that section. Maybe it’s, “the Britney song,” or, “From the diagonal line through to the lift.” Whatever makes sense to them. You get the idea, and you likely already know what these sections are when you’ve been cleaning for a while. Maybe you’re like me and you’ve already nicknamed all the sections. Just use that. That works, too.
So put the title on there. Then, you want to make a list underneath of all the key things you want them to clean and focus on in that section. Maybe it’s a reminder of a change in choreography, or the feet in a certain section, or the emotion that you're going for in a transition. Maybe pom arms during one quick section, or you're focused on straight legs. They’re all things that you’ve already, quote, “cleaned,” and everyone knows what you want. You’ve already discussed it but it’s not happening consistently yet.
Step Four – 6:36
So step four is once those posters are up around the room, and you’ve explained them to make sure everyone understands what you’re after, you send each group to a station. Then, they get, maybe, ten minutes (or whatever you deem necessary or have time for) to clean that section in that small group. Again, you can designate a leader who watches and dances with them, cleaning that small group with the key elements that you’ve outlined for that section.
You can also film each small group at the end if you want. We’ve done prizes for the group that looks the cleanest at the end. If you want to add that little extra kind of motivation and competitive factor to it, you can. Ultimately, you just have them rotate through to each section, and that does mean that some people will work the routine out of order, and that’s okay! I think that’s another good mental skill to be able to kind of focus in on each section even if it’s not necessarily happening in the right order. So you go until each small group has gone through each section.
Step Five – 7:35
Step five is to come back together to run each section as a whole group, and I bet you’ll see the difference! Giving everyone small-group attention obviously has its benefits, but you’ll see things you can’t see in the big group. So, as the teacher, you can walk around and check in on those groups, and you know they know they can’t hide if there are only a few of them. Plus, you’re highlighting leaders. You can switch up who gets to be a leader during different practices or within different routines to kind of spread it around. Maybe you have a different group of leaders for your jazz routine than you do for your pom or your hip-hop. Giving them some autonomy and some leadership can really help boost motivation if you have, especially, older dancers who are getting frustrated that the younger ones are taking longer to pick it up, this can be a great way to kind of bring them in rather than just making them do it over and over again when they were already doing it right.
Recap – 8:27
This Station Cleaning Method is a great way to take a mostly-clean routine that isn’t quite consistent yet and give it that last polish. It allows your leaders some autonomy, each dancer has some time for more feedback, and it’s simply just a way to change it up when cleaning monotony is just obnoxious and we can’t do it anymore.
Cleaning your routines is a necessary evil, but it doesn’t have to be just about the dance itself. You can use that time as the opportunity for other mental skills. When there are lots of groups going on in different parts of the room, you're also challenging your focus, you're also challenging your persistence, and then I bet you’ll see a boost of confidence, too, because of that team dynamic and challenge all rolled into one! They’ll be able to see their progress at the end.
All right, I hope this cleaning method is something that you want to go try out this week. If you do, let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear from you, and I hope you found it helpful. Remember if you have questions about confidence, I’d love to hear from you. Submit those questions today! Go to www.speakpipe.com/passionfordance or click the link in the show notes wherever you’re listening.
So, cheers to some clean routines this year, and thank you for being here today. Keep sharing your passion for dance with the world!
[Motivational Outro Music]