A key area of dancing for females is pointe work, and a key area for males is jumping. In early training, regardless of age, there are 7 highly effective habits that will contribute to excellence in both these areas. This analysis can apply to other areas of dance in the same way also, I'm choosing this one for the sake of discussion.
***First, education as to specific physical attributes and shortcomings. Every dancer would like to have long and stretchy Achilles tendons, and flexible ankles. These 2 advantages provide the biggest movement between the bottom of a demi-plie and the take-off point of a releve or jump. One of the dancers in my class at the National Ballet School of Canada had a very shallow demi-plie. Yet, she had very flexible ankles and a high arch, and this gave her the thrust to jump very high.
***Second, technical education . Regardless of physical advantages, understanding of the ideal movements and resulting positions can be obtained from an educated teacher, books, and the many DVD's available to all through internet stores. There is no restriction on our access to information.
***Third, a teacher who not only has decent credentials, but who has the required habit of demanding correctness in class. This is a variable, and inexperienced teachers do not realize how often they are going to repeat the same old correction over the years of training, to the same students.... in a million different imaginative ways, and with appreciation for your own uniqueness too.
***Fourth, knowing that there is cross-training that will help you compensate for your physical shortcomings. If you are less flexible than you would like to be, there is Pilates, massage, or Yoga. If you are flexible but weak in some areas, Pilates, and weight training will help.
***Fifth, knowing where more details count - if your habit is curiosity, that's a huge asset. If it's not, adopt it. Studying anatomy and kinesiology is a plus. (I know you already have homework or a job, or family obligations, but hey, if you are serious about dance, all this is just more fun, right?)
***Sixth, coordinating your knowledge of your physiology, and how you might be compensating detrimentally to get the deepest demi-plie and best take-off that you can, and instead compensate more with cross-training and less with bad habits. It's only a life-long process, don't get discouraged.
***Seven, a truly habitual appreciation of your own uniqueness, talents, intelligence, and determination. There will always be an invitation to doubt yourself, envy others' real or imagined superiority, and waste time thinking negative thoughts.
Proper rest and good nutrition have a lot to do with #7. Body and brain fatigue, and nutritional deficiencies are directly related to mood. Please be curious and get the information you need.
These 7 highly effective habits are just the tip of the icebergs, but they are a great guide to go with until you develop your own uniqueness in training priorities.
Dianne M. Buxton is a graduate of the National Ballet School of Canada. She continued dance training at The Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, and Toronto Dance Theatre. She taught at, and choreographed for The National Ballet School, York University, and George Brown College, in Canada, and taught at Harvard University in the U.S. http://www.theballetstore.com
recommends The Ballet Bible - a concise package of textual and visual education for a dance student.