The mindset plays a very serious role in how we dance. Negative self-talk is damaging and has a way of oozing out to the people around you, actually affecting the performance of others. For instance, a little joke, a negative or sarcastic comment about your dancing can lead to another dancer feeling worse about any problems he/she may be having in the class. Even your teacher may feel as though she is failing the class in some way or respond to your negativity with more negativity.
At their best, negative comments accomplish absolutely nothing and, at their worst, succeed in increasing doubt and even hurt feelings throughout the class.
Once I had a teen in ballet class that seemed so unmotivated and negative. I could tell she liked barre but felt uncoordinated in center work. Her confidence was low in areas outside of dance and it was reflected in her lack of presentation with her upper body. I was determined to see her succeed in class, mostly because I could see that she didn’t believe she could. There was just no ignoring her, either! She was very negative about anything in class that she “couldn’t” do and used her quick wit to complain or put herself down, ruining everyone’s experience. I often felt horrible about the class afterward but, I knew that there was more to her actions than what was on the surface. I didn’t give up.
That year we did a dance with a variety of characters and I decided to play up the strengths in her lower body and letting her arms free flow as it fit for that particular character. Obviously we still worked on upper body in class but in the dance she was just as important as all the other characters. From that point on she was a different kid and improved her port de bras by 200%.
To illustrate how far she’d come, I wrote her a note at the conclusion of the year and encouraged her to avoid taking a step backward next year. You see, I was leaving and wanted her to keep going forward with a new teacher. I reminded her that a new instructor would have different and important things to teach her and asked her to imagine her progress if, from the beginning, she willingly responded to guidance without any negativity or fear.
Maybe you can identify with that student. Perhaps you are feeling insecure or uncertain. It’s easy to be afraid of something new, something untried, and of not being good enough at what you do try. Your strengths can and will shine more brightly than any weaknesses if you allow them. This is a lesson I think every dancer has to learn, myself included. In fact, it’s something I still struggle with every time I take a class that is challenging. Once you learn to truly appreciate what you do well, the areas in which you need improvement (which can seem overwhelming at times) will become less of a hindrance. Feeling good about yourself will unlock your full potential as a dancer, and possibly in other areas.
Others have lots to say on the topic of negative self-talk and/or positive thinking:
Dance (in this case belly dancing) and negative self-talk (the themes in this article can apply universally)
Psychology of Dance (also see an excerpt of this book here)
The Power of Positive Thinking
Enhancing the Body/Brain Connection
Train Your Brain: A Teen’s Guide to Well Being
Improve Your Attitude in Dance Class
How has negativity (yours or someone else’s) affected you in a dance class?
What are some things you can do to help “positively charge” the atmosphere?