"Fear has a lot of Power... Fear is a Powerful thing... If you can figure out a way for Fear to be the thing that pushes you forward instead of holding you back, then you can become unstoppable..." Dr. Dre - The Chronic (1992)
After a week of self-reflection and conversation with a wide variety of non-dance experts around the subject of mental health in Dance and, interestingly, enabling Dancers to become more confident in their ability focus their attention on the process of learning, I am going to dedicate this article to, not just mental health, but moreover the consistency of striving to be resilient, strong and determined in the face of adversity. I wish to aid Dancers conquer their fears become free from worry.
In our never-ending quest to eradicate the struggles of performance anxiety, fear and worry for Dancers around the globe, Science in Dance stands for changing and adapting Dance culture to recognise the importance of "attentional focus", "cognitive distraction" and "freedom from worry" when it comes to achieving world class performances and ensuring that Dancers are continuing to cope under pressure and learn from failure. Without going into detail surrounding the specifics of mental health, I thought I would share with your some research and some tips for striving for mental wellbeing and keeping your "eyes on the prize" even when the chips are down. Most specifically anxiety and performance anxiety are rife in the Dance World and I firmly believe no problem is too small or should go unheard. Therefore, we shall refer to some basic tactics you can use in practise to aid your development and become comfortable in your environment.
Research in Elite Sport Psychology suggests that two traits that are closely related to success in a given field are "How Well a Peaks under pressure" and how "Coachable" an individual is in training and learning.
Peaking Under Pressure: Are you challenged rather than threatened by pressure situations and perform well under pressure?
Here are some tips for peaking under pressure...
1. Set Goals and Prepare yourself for a challenge. SMART goals have become increasingly popular amongst business and sport over the past 30 years. Yet setting Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time restricted Goals is not something readily used in Ballet due to its subjective nature. I would encourage any Dancer to set some small scale SMART Goals and gain sense achievement in small chucks in order to gain confidence to utilise in tough situations.
2. Organise your performance... Video analysis is the most under-utilised tool in the world of Dance. If you have a solo or recital or performance coming up, film yourself everyday in the two weeks leading up to it. Each day, pick 2 things you want to improve on the next attempt and pick 2 things you did well. ONLY 2!!! Over the course of two weeks you have found 28 things you're doing well and 28 things you have improved.
Coachability: Are you open to and learn from instruction, and accept constructive criticism without taking it personally and becoming upset?
Here are our specific suggestions for conveying to others your receptiveness to coaching and to practice being more coachable...
1. The single most powerful thing you can do is to sincerely ask for feedback from your Teacher, Coach, Rehearsal Director or Mentor. It can be as simple as asking, “Give me one suggestion for what I could do to be more effective in my Dancing.” The important step is to the open the door to feedback.
2. Ensure you understand your feedback. No matter how big or small, make sure you engage to understand the context of your feedback and what is meant.
3. Thank the giver of feedback and confirm your desire for more.
4. The giver of feedback may have some useful ideas about how to improve, change your manner, or start doing something that would make you even more effective.
5. Welcome tough or unexpected feedback.
Overall, I would encourage any Dancer to speak about how they feel and engage with a Dance Teacher or Coach as much as possible so that a Teacher may give the necessary amount of support to that person so that they can become empowered to perform at their best.
My Final piece of Advice on this subject is simple... Take some time to switch off from the world. You cannot tap into Energy resources from tomorrow or next week as you will end up with nothing in reserve.
More is not always more and understanding the importance of re-charging and taking time to assess priorities or spend time with reality can help to relieve the pressures of the career path you have chosen. Seemingly over-facing challenges can be overcome more easily when we are fresh and not plagued by fatigue.
Switch your phone off, Go on a walk, Stroke the Dog, Sit peacefully in a place of beauty.
Trust the Process and success will await you.
If times get hard... Let someone know.
Happy Dancing until next time.