Receiving Coaching: A Primer

RECEIVING COACHING: A PRIMER

WELCOME!

So you’re ready for coaching! That’s great. I’m honored to be able to work with you.  

Whether you perform solo or dance with a group, this series will give you the tools for your own success. I meet you where you're at! You'll not only understand how you're dancing, but be able to fix errors on the fly and boost your confidence. 

In this coaching series you will:

  • Learn how to use your personality to shape your performance and selectively guide your self-expression
  • Get out of your comfort zone with new approaches from theater and dance 
  • Practice in a safe and supportive environment in group coaching sessions 

My method may be different from what you are used to from a coach, so I’ll explain what I think are the key points of my coaching style.

- First, know that you are BRAVE to receive coaching, and remember that. I have such strong respect for those who are willing to give coaching a try, and I strive to bring that respect into every interaction with you as a coaching client. Please hold yourself in that respect too. You are ready to learn and grow, and I am ready to support you in that, to the best of my ability. 

BENEFITS OF COACHING

  • Get perspective on what you are doing in your dance and in your presentation skills: comparing what it feels like when you do something and then how does it “read” on the outside
  • Learn how to use the personal to support your performance, and also how to separate your performance persona from yourself as a person when it is beneficial to you to do so.
  • Try new ways of approaching your dance that you might not have thought of before, or that you weren’t ready to try before, in an environment of support.

WHAT MY COACHING IS NOT:

  • Coaching is not therapy, and it is not the same as a professional psychological evaluation. However, issues may come up in your performance that mirror issues you may have in your personal life. It is up to you to determine how you’ll work with those issues, if you feel you want to address them further. 
  • Coaching is not physical therapy either: I will give you feedback on issues I see in your dance technique that I think may point to physical problems, such as muscle imbalances or alignment issues, but it is up to you to take them to a doctor or therapist for accurate diagnosis and professionally prescribed remedies. I am not a medical doctor and cannot give diagnoses.
  • Coaching is not a contest, and its goal is not a stamp of approval. I see the coaching process as a value-neutral process of exploration, which then amounts to something positive, because it means movement, change, openness to new ideas. I give coaching with support for your process and support for you as an independent artist. For me, coaching is a process of exploration that leads to productive development, where there is a sense of progress and a general direction of forward movement, even when there is sometimes a step or two back when dealing with difficult issues (and I believe that is still movement, still progress, and nothing to be ashamed of at all!). Nothing I say to you as a coach, positive or negative, will represent a testimonial, praise, or criticism about you as a person or as an artist. My method relies on friendly neutrality: that there is no “good” or “bad,” that feedback in its essence is not positive or negative, but rather serves to illustrate cause-and-effect, e.g.,  “A begets B begets C”: you are doing or trying to do A, and you feel B, and the result that we see and feel is C. Let’s try to understand that process and those results, and tweak them, to see how the effects change. We can remove the value judgments from what you are doing, and treat a performance opportunity or the making of a video draft as a laboratory for exploration—NOT as “success” or “failure.” I encourage you to try to view your work and others’ work in the same way. 

MATCHING THE INSIDE TO THE OUTSIDE

  • “Read” in the theatrical sense: If something “reads,” that means that the intention of the performer on what they want to show actually comes across, reaches the audience; this is our goal, that you become aware of how your actions and behaviors read to the audience.
  • It’s very common to not have full awareness of how what you are doing (intentionally or unintentionally) looks to others; that’s why this coaching process can be so helpful!
  • People differ in their natural expression ability, in their physical flexibility, and in how they were raised to feel comfortable showing or not showing expression and emotion—what feels easy (or just IS easy) to one performer may feel very difficult to someone else, and each person needs to make their own adjustments for their own personality and physical type.
  • DON’T TAKE ANY OF IT PERSONALLY! 
    This is how we explore that relationship, of what you are aware of on the inside and how it looks from the outside—how much of your inside is actually getting to the outside where we can see it in the audience. Too much? Not enough? What are you aware of doing, and what is happening without your awareness? Where do you need to push your inside towards the outside a little more, and where do you need to pull back?  As I mentioned above, this may vary based on your personality/constitutional type and also based on your training/experience and your confidence with the technique of what you are doing. Dance technique and performance skills technique may be separate, and it’s good to explore the relationship between them. Someone may have more skill in one area and less in the other, and it’s possible to develop greater skill—I know this from personal experience as well as coaching many people over many years and watching their development. As a coach I try to point out where you are currently effective and where you can work more to develop other aspects of physical and performance technique.

HOW MY COACHING WORKS

FACTORS IN FEEDBACK.
I use many factors in shaping my feedback to a performer: I read elements of their expressed personality as well as physical expressions of their constitutional type, and I stay open to the moments where the whole impression does not feel integrated, or where the expression of energy is unclear, contradictory, insufficient, or overpowering, and I approach those areas with the performer, to try to help them balance their expression. My work is influenced by my experiences in working with a variety of performers over a long period of time (more than 25 years), and is informed by my studies in cognitive psychology (which my master’s degree is in), meditation, and experience with Chinese and Indian medicine and philosophy, including Ayurvedic dosha types. 

BEING A MIRROR AND HELPER.
My job as a coach is not to tear you down and build you back up; I don’t resonate with that way of working. You are the agent of your own progress, and I want you to feel empowered with knowledge.  I strive to be an honest mirror and helper, a problem-solver, or one who offers potential solutions to problems, and creative ways of working that you may not yet have thought of. My goal is to help you bridge the gap between you and your audience, or between you and the music, or you and your own body and technique.  

STARTING FROM EMPTY, TO GIVE FEEDBACK CLEARLY.
As an observer, I aim to make myself “empty” of preconceptions and expectations, so that I can receive, as clearly as I can, the messages of the performer in front of me, so I can better appreciate what she or he is trying to achieve and where the obstacles are to its clear expression. Of course it will be my opinion that comes out in the end, and others may have a different opinion based on their own perspectives. I can promise you that I’ll be able to share with you my own honest view, I will not hold anything back from you, and I will offer what I feel will honestly help you to achieve what I see as being in your interest. Then you can take that advice and work with it as you see fit. 

FEEDBACK WITHIN SAFE SPACE.
My goal is to have my feedback come from a place in myself of sincerity and clarity, to share with you something that I see clearly from my end, but it’s not only about being honest. My goal is to present the information to you in a way that you can receive it with kindness towards yourself, to look at it without value attached. If you ever feel that my advice is hard to take or that I did not deliver it in a way that you felt comfortable, I encourage you to communicate with me and let me know, so that I can address it in a better way. You can try on my recommendations if you feel ready, and if you don’t feel ready yet, we can try something else in the meantime, or just let it sit for a bit. I want to be as clear as I can be in my expression of a path I see that you can try, so you can decide if you do want to try it. The decision is always yours. Even a simple exercise can feel like a stretch, or even a little scary, so you can always feel your way. Even if they are not “real life,” performing can still feel scary because there are links to our “everyday” selves. So, focus on baby steps and remind yourself of your bravery in trying new things. Even small bravery counts!

CONFIDENTIALITY.
I don’t discuss my coaching clients by name, or even “claim” them publicly as my “coachee” (person who is receiving coaching), unless they have given me explicit permission to do so or unless they want to reveal that themselves. Some people prefer to be coached privately and to keep that private, and I respect that. I do sometimes use examples of experiences I’ve had coaching specific people, in order to help someone see something from an outside perspective that might help them as well. Over many years of coaching, I’ve realized that people can have similar experiences, and it can be both highly effective and a time-saver for both me and you when I can use such an example to illustrate a point, or in suggesting an idea for you to try. However, I absolutely de-personalize my examples, and I don’t mention names. When I give an example of a previous dancer I have coached in my own teaching work to make a point, you will notice that I make sure all personally identifiable details are absolutely hidden, so that it is the example and not the person that is the focus. 

RESPECT. 
I have the utmost respect for dancers who are coming to me to receive coaching, and I hope you will recognize this in yourself too, the fact that you are honoring yourself by investing in coaching, to get that “third-person perspective” on your work. I hold this respect for you unconditionally, regardless of your level of experience, age, physical type, gender, or any other factor. Also remember this: Even if you learn something in the process that bothers you, or that you feel will be difficult to change or improve, you need to remember that your willingness to allow my feedback (and possibly peers’ feedback) into your consciousness about your work represents personal strength, personal growth, and a desire to learn, to get “real” and closer to an honest, exploratory relationship with yourself as a person and as a performer or dancer.

RULES AND REGULATIONS. 

I also ask you for your respect: of my time, in terms of keeping live appointments, or letting me know at least 48 hours in advance if you need to reschedule, so I have enough time to fill the slot with someone else (especially important for solo or small group coaching); in terms of payment arrangements, because this is how I make my living; and in terms of my intellectual property, in not sharing with others, copying, or using as your own the information in my PDF documents, online program pages, video or audio programming. If you would like to share something that you have gained through my coaching series, you must first obtain my express written permission, and then assign proper credit as requested. In order to make myself fully available as a coach to you and others, I need to feel the respect of my coachees in their willingness to abide by my policies. I also ask for your respect in letting me know if there is a problem in any way, within our coaching relationship, if there is something you are not getting from me that you want to get, or if there is something I should know that can help me to be more sensitive to your process. It is your responsibility to let me know, and definitely to ask me if anything needs further clarification.

I am looking forward to working with you and to helping facilitate and celebrate your artistic process!         -- Ranya

Lessons in this Program: