Attentional Focus in Classical Ballet: A Survey Of Professional Dancers

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Focus of attention and its effects on skilled motor performance has become an important line of research in the motor learning domain. Numerous studies have demonstrated that an external focus of attention (i.e., on the movement effect) enhances motor performance and learning relative to an internal focus (i.e., on body movements). Thus, small differences in the wording of instructions or feedback given by teachers can have a significant impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of motor skill performance. In this paper, we review some of the attentional focus studies that are relevant to ballet performance. In addition, we report the findings of a survey among professional ballet dancers (N = 53) that we conducted to determine their typical attentional focus while performing certain movements. The results showed that the majority adopted internal foci, or combinations of internal and external foci, most of the time. This suggests that there is room for improvement for performance and teaching. We provide examples of how external foci can be promoted in ballet practice.

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