A Mind for Dancing

Clarity of mind leads to clarity of dancing.

The Girl with the Tree Tattoo

Mindset has been on my mind lately. I find it fascinating how our perception and attitude can have a profound effect on our behavior and experiences. If you walk into the studio with the mindset that you’re going to have a great time working through challenges with your teacher versus walking in with the mindset that it’s just going to be another lesson full of mistakes, you’re going to wind up with two very different experiences. Even if you make the same number of mistakes.

Mindset is one area that has long been lacking in dancers’ training, regardless of style. Whether it’s for a stage performance or a competition, the focus is always on prepping the body and the mind is too often neglected. I aim to do my part to help fill in this gap with my published writings such as this blog and with workshops like the one happening next Saturday, Dance Your Truth. I hope you’ll join us.

The mind-body connection is critical and complex for a dancer. Both must be cared for in order for the dancer to thrive. Even just the high level of physical training requires a strong mind to relish the good days and push through the bad ones. Then at performance time, a dancer has to be able to set aside everything and live purely in the moment in order to deliver their best. That requires another set of mindset skills that needs to be developed.

Of course, I’m speaking in ideal terms. In reality, we don’t appreciate the good days, we cry on the bad days, we take criticism personally, and we bring our problems onto the dance floor with us. Hey, we’re human.

That may be a good excuse, but we’re also dancers. We didn’t get where we are today by excusing ourselves. We got here by working hard, dancing through the tears, and smiling for our audience even when we felt like crap.

Something’s always bothered me about this image though. Why is it necessary for dancers to endure pain and suffering for the sake of their art form? Is it just part of the journey or are we making it harder on ourselves than it has to be? And if you don’t push yourself to the point of suffering for your dance, are you less of a dancer?

I tackled this issue in a small way with The Solo Practice Guide for Ballroom Dancing. I was committed to advancing as a dancer, but I didn’t have hours a day to spend in the studio or thousands of dollars to spend on private lessons and coachings. I knew these were accepted paths to becoming a better ballroom dancer, but they didn’t fit my life and circumstances.

So I developed my own path, and later developed a framework that could be adapted to anyone’s life and circumstances, which of course became the Solo Practice Guide.

My success came from knowing what worked for me personally and what didn’t. I didn’t try to fit myself to the accepted paths; I adapted the paths to fit me.

Developing self-awareness, another aspect of mindset, can give a dancer a great advantage. It can help you stay in control, even when your emotions are threatening to push you over the edge. Like with the solo practice, it can also help you determine the most effective path for you personally to reach your goals.

For example, I have learned what triggers my anxiety when it comes to dance competitions. So in response, I have developed tools and routines to manage that anxiety and minimize its effect on me. I also know that I carry this belief that I’m “not good enough” and therefore shouldn’t bother others with my problems. Anyone else hesitate to ask for help because they don’t want to be a bother?

Being aware that I carry this false belief helps me overcome the resulting negative emotions associated with it and get the help and support I need.

I’m grateful for the time I have now to continue working on my mindset, so I can return to the dance floor with fewer mental obstacles. Imagine if you walked into the studio with only positive anticipation for what you were going to work on with your teacher, instead of worry over mistakes, nerves over your upcoming competition, or frustration over the memory of a past lesson that didn’t go well. Imagine if you screwed up a step and simply tried again instead of feeling bad about it.

If we’re not careful, we can end up with the equivalent of rush hour traffic of negative thoughts in our heads. All that noise distracts from what we really want to do – dance!

I hope you’ll join me on Saturday, May 23 to clear out some of that noise. The workshop will help you connect with your true inner dancer beneath all of the demons trying to trick you into thinking you’re not good enough or you need to be like everyone else to succeed. Because you ARE good enough as your unique true self.

Until next time, happy and healthy dancing!

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