đź“” Plie & Pen: The Art of Journaling

Sep 22 / The Dance Scientist
Hello everyone! In today’s post I want to highlight journaling for dancers - something I feel is slightly UNDERRATED for how much it can help dancers both physically and psychologically.

  • "Dance journals can be used from the first day of class to set up a systematic cyclical process of reflection, writing, and reflection" (Giguere, 2012)
  • "The purpose of writing in a journal is to lift and empower dancers to improve their performances. Dancers can learn from their successes and failures. It is a mindful practice in that the writing is non-judgmental & accepting" (Haas, Robson, BDP)."Journaling can help dancers review their experiences so they can learn from their mistakes and celebrate their successes, and can also help improve self-image & attitude by reviewing positive experiences" (Haas, Robson, BDP).
  • "Journaling can help dancers review their experiences so they can learn from their mistakes and celebrate their successes, and can also help improve self-image & attitude by reviewing positive experiences" (Haas, Robson, BDP).

    Some Specific Benefits:
  • "Expressive writing in a dance journal can reduce the effects of anxiety/stress by helping detect unhealthy thoughts. Having a bad rehearsal or performance happens to all dancers, and addressing the negative thoughts can help release anger or frustration" (Haas, Robson, BDP).
  • "By examining the pessimistic thoughts surrounding that rehearsal dancers can learn to better cope with their feelings and release tension. Letting go of self-criticism surrounding lousy rehearsals can reduce the effects of depression" (Haas, Robson, BDP).
  • "It can also be used as a tool for modifying teaching to accommodate what the journals reveal are the students’ needs. In this way, the assessment tool also becomes a teaching tool, not an external mechanism. Teacher’s comments should be written right into the journal itself, so that when a student goes back to her or his own journal entry she or he can reread, understand, and reflect on the instructor’s comments" (Giguere, 2012).
  • "Use the journal to be fully prepared, to not forget the right pair of tights, shoes, or tiara for the competition" (Haas, Robson, BDP).
  • "By writing thoughts down, dancers can learn to navigate their challenges to overcome and flourish in class. Since dancers tend to be silent on how to express their emotions, journaling gives them another opportunity of self-expression" (Haas, Robson, BDP).
  • "Journal entries allow students to reconstruct their thoughts from class, which helps to reveal their understandings about technique. Viewed over the course of a semester or marking period, these entries not only assess basic understandings on a class-by-class basis, but can also show a picture of growth and development over time" (Giguere, 2012).
  • "These daily or twice-weekly entries are valuable as an exercise in thinking and a way to assess student progress on a daily basis. This develops an unobtrusive way to capture ongoing assessment in the dance studio, which is true to the students’ process and a natural product of the class activity. This collection of journal entries should be collected periodically during the term so that the instructor can assess what the students understand" (Giguere, 2012).

    Teaching Tips
  • One thing I do is have my dancers write down 5 important corrections after every class as homework. Then before the next class, they read the corrections of the previous class
  • "Write down all the things that stress you, as well as the negative feelings/thoughts associated with them. When you feel it is complete, for the time, let it go. Make it physical: rip up the paper, crumple it up & throw it away, or walk away from it. Notice the changes in your body, mind & emotions" (Shack et al., 2017).
  • "Take the journal to the next competition with reminders for reviewing choreography and corrective cues before the performance as a mental rehearsal" (Haas, Robson, BDP).
  • We also do 5 minutes of journaling in class where I have them answer one prompt each day - Such as what's something you want to focus on today in class?
  • We also do Garbage Talk - (Note that I didn't make this up. I learned this from a Psychologist). You write down a negative thought that you have about yourself and then throw that piece of paper away! As a symbol of working on removing those negative thought patterns.
  • "In addition to benefitting students, there are advantages for the dance educator who uses journal writing as assessment. The students’ understanding of what is being emphasized or taught in class will become immediately apparent. Many dancers understand a movement concept intellectually long before they are able to physicalize it" (Giguere, 2012).
  • "Start with five minutes of short, affirming thoughts about classes or rehearsals that will boost confidence" (Haas, Robson, BDP).
  • "Think of a short-term goal for improving technique, jot it down. This movement can be visualized or imaged as recommended by Eric Franklin, founder of The Franklin Method. Using imagery is way for improving technique and performance, and has been utilized in dance and sport for years. It is helpful to read over notes, and reflect on your goal and how to achieve it" (Haas, Robson, BDP).
  • "Think about long-term goals, write them down, visualize them, read, and deeply reflect on the words" (Haas, Robson, BDP).
  • "Pursue a grateful attitude and write down a list of items to be thankful for" (Haas, Robson, BDP).
  • "Was there a favorite performance in the past? Record the favorable thoughts surrounding the delightful feelings of that day" (Haas, Robson, BDP).
  • "Review and note positive constructive cues received in class or rehearsal, reflect on the words to boost confidence" (Haas, Robson, BDP).
  • "Document and review choreography to be well prepared in the next rehearsal" (Haas, Robson, BDP).
  • "Review choreography and select movement words to show/express emotion, for example, if the arms overhead “reach up, shoot up, scoop up” (Haas, Robson, BDP).
  • "Expressive writing in a dance journal can reduce the effects of anxiety and stress by helping to detect unhealthy thoughts.Having a bad rehearsal or performance happens to all dancers, and addressing the negative thoughts can help release anger or frustration from the bad experience" (Haas, Robson, BDP).

    General Prompts
  • "Have you identified new strengths and weaknesses as a dancer in this class?" (Giguere, 2012).
  • "Define dance in your own words"  (Giguere, 2012).
  • "What is your greatest challenge as a dancer?"  (Giguere, 2012).
  • "What progress have you made on your goals for this class?"  (Giguere, 2012).
  • "What new goals are you finding for yourself?"  (Giguere, 2012).
  • "How did the performance you viewed on video this week relate to our technique class?"  (Giguere, 2012).
  • "Has your view of what dance is changed as you have been studying technique?"  (Giguere, 2012).

Specific Prompts
  • "Name one dance concept you worked on in class today. Discuss why this is a central concept" (Giguere, 2012).
  • "Which of the exercises we did in class today felt most natural for you to execute? Why? How might this differ from day to day?"  (Giguere, 2012).
  • "How could you modify the center combination from class"to better suit the way you most like to move?" (Giguere, 2012).
  • "Write about one “correction” you or someone else received today" (Giguere, 2012).
  • "Explain one thing you learned today from watching someone else in dance class during the across the floor combination" (Giguere, 2012).
  • Write about two things that surprised you in class today"Why? How do your previous experiences in dance shape your expectations for this class?"  (Giguere, 2012).
  • "Explain one exercise or combination from class in terms of its rhythmic, spatial, and movement patterns and qualities of movement"  (Giguere, 2012).
  • "Find three adjectives that describe how you danced today. Explain what you were doing when they were applied."(Giguere, 2012).

Extra Prompts

  • "Draw a map of the combination we did in class today. Observe the spatial pattern that your map reveals" (Giguere, 2012).
  • "Cut out a picture from a magazine or find a photo online that replicates the emotional state that you were in when you danced in class today" (Giguere, 2012).
  • "Draw a picture of yourself dancing. What are the most prominent features of you as a dancer?"(Giguere, 2012).


Giguere, M. (2012). Self-reflective journaling: A tool for assessment. Journal of Dance Education, 12(3), 99–103. https://doi.org/10.1080/15290824.2012.701168
Robson, B., Haas, J. G. & BDP. How to use journaling to improve performance.Shack, A., Bittorf, R., HDC Resources Committee. (2017). 10 Stress Management Tools for Your Dance Bag

learn more in this printable e-book


 A quick guide to all things journaling for dancers, including my favorite prompts to use.
 Includes over 25 evidence-based tips, including:
- What research says about journaling
- The multiple benefits that it provides & why
- How it helps anxiety & stress
- How it helps self-image & confidence
- How they can be used for competitions
- How I incorporate the 5-minute method & why
- How journaling also benefits Educators
- How they can be used for choreography
- A list of my favorite GENERAL prompts
- A list of my favorite SPECIFIC prompts
- A list of my favorite EXTRA prompts
- Merch Coupon, References List, & MORE!
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