- 1 1- Attitude about you and others: who really cares about your dance ability?
- 2 2- Get used to it – Dance under pressure
- 3 3- Meditation – focus for dance
- 4 4- Hypnosis – it can help your dance
We all have some issue of confidence: the confidence in our ability, the confidence to dance in front of others or the confidence to dance well with another. Personally, I don’t dance as well as I could when it’s a one shot or when the situation is different and distracting. Things like competitions, displays and medals. For you this might sound familiar or it might be something different. In either case, you would probably like to know how to stop issues of confidence from limiting your ability to dance as well as you know you can.
In this article will take you from the most basic of methods to help with confidence up to those that require more effort.
1- Attitude about you and others: who really cares about your dance ability?
Do you think of yourself as a good dancer? Sometimes we have ideas about ourselves that we think are accurate, but it is in fact our ideas that dictate our abilities. Because I had a few issues in school with music – I hated my music teacher who told me I was lucky to be kept in during lunch to work on my music skills – I assumed music was not for me. The end effect was musicality issues in my dance. I actually now feel quite happy with my ability. There is always room for improvement, but sometimes when I think about how bad my musicality was, I am amazed at what I can now do. The point I am making is that a shift in attitude about yourself and your ability to dance can have remarkable effects.
One simple way of changing your attitude about yourself is affirmation. Simply say to yourself ‘I am a great dancer.’ Say it a few times when you’re in class or when you’re getting ready to dance in a situation that often troubles you. They key to such an affirmation is to simply take it as it is. We sometimes then instantly after using an affirmation think of counter arguments. Fight this tendency. Simply accept the affirmation. If it helps, then use relativity. Compared to many people you are a great dancer. Think also about the progress that you have made. This will help reinforce the affirmation. Keep the affirmation general; you only want to shift your attitude. And make it for yourself; only worry about your own opinion.
What about other people? Do you worry that they are watching you and looking for mistakes you make? Your dance partner might be doing that too. We often think that everyone is looking at us and thinking about us and judging us. The truth: you’re not that important! When you think they are thinking about you, they are all thinking that you’re thinking about them. We all worry so much about ourselves that we do not have time to worry about others. Therefore, you can be sure that people are trying to impress you and think of you as a person they want to impress because they think you are judging them. You can rest assured that you are free of judgment when you dance.
2- Get used to it – Dance under pressure
If simply accepting the above doesn’t help, then the next easiest thing is to just keep dancing. You probably already know that if you do something a lot then you get used to it. Think about the experienced dancers at your school. Think about how they dance so confidently in front of others. Do you think it’s because they know they are good dancers? I have spoken to some very experienced dancers about how they felt they went in a competition or an exhibition. They always highlight some issues. They still feel that they made mistakes. So they do not think of themselves as being as good as I thought they were. Still, they look so confident. Why? Consider another situation.
A student has learnt to dance in one-on-one classes for the past 10 years. She is incredibly good. Today, for the first time, she will be dancing in front of a group of people she has never met before. How confident do you think she would feel and look? Probably not very confident. She just isn’t used to this situation.
And that’s the simplest way to improve your confidence – just get used to it.
This is easy in the sense that you do not need to take any action. However, it might not be the easiest of experiences. You do still need to go through the discomfort that you might sometimes experience. One thing that can help with this is to simply tell yourself that this is why you’re doing it. You’re looking for a situation that stresses you so that you can get used to it. When you start thinking about the benefits of the stress and how you are choosing to use it, the stress actually starts to disappear. You then start to feel better. Focus on chasing the stress because it is a chance to get better, and it will not seem as stressful.
If you want something a bit more gradual, then you can try to create situations. You can say to yourself ‘If I get this next dance wrong, then I do not eat a chocolate bar on the way home’ (and make sure you do not). Maybe it’s something other than food; I really like food so that’s what I use. Basically you need a punishment. A cooperative dance teacher can help with this too. They might say ‘if you do not get this right, then you do it again’ or ‘this time is the important one’ or ‘you owe me ten pushups if you make a mistake.’ This just raises the stakes a little, and increases the stress. Thus, you get a chance to practice dancing under stress.
3- Meditation – focus for dance
The above methods will help to improve your confidence. However, you might find that they do not work as fast as you like (getting used to it) or they might not convince you enough (accepting that other people do not care) to be effective. Meditation is a fast way to help get you accustomed to dancing in situations that might normally stress you.
If you have had experience with meditation, then you know the basic of relaxing to prepare for meditation.
Once you are in a relaxed state your unconscious mind is open to suggestion. This means that you can use this state to suggest to your mind that you should feel confident and capable when you dance. Regardless of the situation you are dancing in.
If you haven’t had experience with meditation, then the most essential thing to learn is how to relax yourself so that you’re more open to the suggestions that you would like to give yourself. Try the following:
- Lay down in a place that is sufficiently warm, quiet and well ventilated (on your bed is usually ideal).
- Lay on your back with your hands to the side and legs straight.
- Close your eyes.
- Imagine that there is a bright light entering your head and spreading throughout your body.
- Imagine the light spreading throughout your body (head, neck, chest, arms, hands, stomach, back, pelvis, legs and feet).
- Everywhere the light spreads your body relaxes (really feel the relaxation in each muscle)
- The light continues to flow in through your head and out your hands and feet.
- As it enters it brings in relaxing and as it leaves it takes stress out.
- Hold this image in your mind until you feel well relaxed and your body is limp.
There are many other techniques to help you relax, but this is one of the most common. Meditation is an excellent way to overcome the confidence issues that you might have with dance, or anything else for that matter. If you feel that meditation can help and you would like to try other methods of getting into a meditative state, then there are many books on meditation you can read. You can also get audio books or even take a class.
Depending upon your ability to visualise, you might need to try a few times before you feel the relaxation and suggestibility. This is fine, it takes time. But you can still try suggesting better confidence to yourself.
Once you have used the above method to reach a state of relaxation, do the following.
1. Imagine a dance situation where the stress makes it unenjoyable or causes you to underperform.
2. Note the stress that comes from this situation, but this time it is controlled. It is tempered by your relaxation.
3. While this controlled stress is present, imagine you are dancing the way you want to. You might remember the routine, you might be leading or following well, you might be dancing in time or you might simply be dancing well with your partner. Despite any stress you might be feeling you still dance well.
4. As you realise that you can dance well even if you’re stressed, you relax even more.
5. You are now dancing in a relaxed manner. The environment that once stressed you is now irrelevant.
6. You can feel yourself turning into a true dancer; one who is about the dance, and focused on themselves, the music, their partner and the dance experience.
7. Focus on this experience of dancing the way you wish free of stress or any other distraction that limits your confidence.
This meditative approach can help you remove the beliefs you have that limit your confidence in dance. Focus on those beliefs that you would like to change, so that you can dance better, and visualise them disappearing and no longer having influence as you become a dancer who is focused on their dance and only their when they are dancing.
4- Hypnosis – it can help your dance
If the above exercises are not really what you want (you might want to get the improvement in confidence faster and you do not find it easy to reprogram yourself), then hypnosis is an ideal way to go. I have used hypnosis to improve my motivation to practice and pay attention in my dance classes. I have also used it so that I am less distracted when I dance in a grading or competition so that I do not focus on judges or the audience while dancing. This distraction is a major contributor to what makes us choke under pressure. In fact, most confidence issues come from a concern about people watching us and judging us (which could include the person you are dancing with). Hypnosis can stop you worrying about other people, and help you dance with greater confidence.
I have used a hypnotist via online teleconferencing. However, you can also find one locally so that you can see them in their own offices. To be sure that you have a good hypnotist, ask them what their qualifications are. You might also want to find the regulator of hypnotists in your local area. You can then contact them to find a hypnotist close to you. I was lucky to find one who is also a dancer so they knew exactly what it was that I was talking about when I explained what I needed help with. You might also want to find someone who is a dancer too.
When you actually meet with a hypnotist (be it face to face or online), you will spend much of your time simply talking about the issues you have. During this time the hypnotist should be putting a lot of time into understanding you and what you need. Next they might ask you a series of questions to get a better understanding of you and what type of hypnosis techniques will work for you. Then, finally, they will take you into a hypnotic state and get you to imagine a number of scenarios that will help change your basic beliefs and attitudes about your dance ability.
In my experience, you will at first feel that nothing has changed. However, not long after that you will have some experience that will make you realise that it has helped. In my case, I needed to improve my motivation to practice and to focus on dance when in competitions and gradings. The day after the hypnosis I was much more focused on my practice. I could really feel the value in it and I enjoyed it. At the next competition I was much more relaxed so I was more able to focus on the dance, and not worry about anything else. Not only did I dance better, but it was the most enjoyable competition I had ever been in. Based on my experience, I would say that hypnosis is an ideal way to overcome any attitudinal or confidence issues that might be holding your dance ability back.
How to find a good hypnotist
The following is from a hypnotist friend of mine:
The best way to find a hypnotist to work with is by a referral. If you have family member or friend who has used hypnotherapy before and were happy with their hypnotherapist, then ask them to refer you.
Some institutions give hypnotherapy certifications after a three-day seminar, while some give only after a 750-hour one-year training course. Typically, the more extensive their training the better a hypnotherapist the person will be.
3) Talk to the hypnotherapist prior to the session
A good hypnotherapist will be more than happy to speak with you before you even book a session. Call one up and speak to him or her. Get a feel for the person. Do you connect with this person? Does this person sound like he or she cares about you and what it is you want to improve? How do you feel intuitively? Does the person sound like he can help you? Does he/she see you as someone he can help or just a dollar sign?
4) Been where you are?
If you want to see a hypnotherapist to improve your dancing, it might be a good idea to see a hypnotherapist who has also been in the same ‘shoes’ (pun intended) as yourself, hence a fellow dancer.
These meditation and hypnosis methods can also be used to help improve your attitude toward practicing dance outside of class and staying focused in class. By changing your beliefs so that you enjoy class and practicing you will find that you learn much more effectively. Try this if you think you need a more positive attitude toward learning.
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