Tricks or Technique?

Oct 14, 2021

by Kayleen Babel

I often receive messages and comments from dancers asking for tips to be able to do some kind “trick.” Things like fouetté turns, switch leaps, aerials, and the other flashy skills you see in every Dance Moms and World of Dance routine.

It's clear that many dancers today think tricks are important. Don't get me wrong, I definitely understand why. It seems like every dancer you see on Instagram can do a million a la seconde turns and every leap under the sun. Dance competitions and TV shows pressure us to add acro skills and advanced turn sequences to every routine. Auditions for some professional teams or companies require certain skills.

I get it. There’s nothing wrong with striving to improve your skills as a dancer. However, I’m writing this as a word of caution to those of you who are *too* caught up in tricks and have lost sight of why technique is important.

Let's face it; there are consequences when you sacrifice good technique to focus on tricks. For one, poor technique may increase your risk of injury. As someone who was injured and unable to dance for almost a year, I encourage dancers to do everything possible to prevent injuries. Trust me, it's not fun to sit on the sidelines because you're hurt. If you rush to master a trick and end up hurting yourself, you'll definitely regret it. These injuries might occur suddenly (like my ACL tear), or you may develop an overuse or chronic injury. Either way, it's just not worth it.

Focusing on tricks may also encourage you to develop bad habits. I see this often when a dancer strives to do multiple turns. They focus so much on being able to do more turns that their actual technique goes out the door. The dancer might form a habit of dropping their heel in relevé, or sickling their feet, or using their arms to "wind up" before turning. This is a big problem because it's challenging to break these bad habits later. Once you train your body to execute movements in a certain way, it's very difficult to teach it something new.

I’m not saying you should give up on tricks altogether. I just urge you to ask yourself a few questions before putting too much of your energy into learning a skill. Why do you want to be able to do this trick? Is this your own goal? Or are you pursuing it because you feel pressured by someone else? We often push ourselves to achieve things to please others (or even to show off) — not because we actually want them for ourselves. Knowing your “why” is important. If mastering a certain skill isn’t a meaningful goal for you, why are you putting so much pressure on yourself?

You can do both. You can learn tricks while maintaining good technique. That’s how I encourage all my students to train. It doesn’t need to be one or the other. Sure, it might take a little bit longer, but it's the best way to set yourself up for long term success.

Kayleen has been training in various dance styles since she was a child, including ballet, modern, contemporary, jazz, drill team, and hip hop. She's a former University of Houston Cougar Doll and is passionate about providing dancers with a solid technical foundation for dance. She especially enjoys teaching ballet and the fundamentals of technique. When she's not teaching, Kayleen shares tips and advice for dance on her YouTube channel, the podcast The Curious Dancer, Instagram, and TikTok.

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