By Angela D’Valda Sirico of Dance Teacher Web
As we prepare our dancers for upcoming performances it is often necessary to help them to build their confidence so that they feel enabled and capable. This is mostly an issue with teens and it is sometimes amazing to discover that even your most accomplished dancers are incredibly fragile and insecure about their ability to dance and especially to successfully absorb and execute good technique.
Just the other day I was working with my more advanced dancers on fouette turns. Some of them are still struggling with getting the correct form but I do have two dancers in particular who are technically strong and are fully able to do fouette turns and finish them with a clean double or triple pirouette, so when I kept seeing one of these dancers fall out of her pirouette after doing a good number of good, clean fouettes I stopped and asked her why she wasn’t finishing them off with a clean pirouette and nailing the end position and her answer to me was that she looked “stupid”! I immediately realized that this dancer had an issue not only with herself but also with the other dancer who she perceived looked beautiful and did the fouette turns perfectly. When I said to her that she had done the turns very well and was totally capable of finishing them off with a flourish I could see that she really didn’t believe me until I asked her to do the fouettes again and to finish them off with a clean double and an end pose. When she did it and ended in a lovely position I looked at her and said “I know you are capable and you just have to have the right mindset and be determined to make it work and understand that you can do it! Hopefully this dancer will realize, with guidance that she is a beautiful dancer who needs to stop making excuses to herself and just needs to get on with doing her best!
It is a trend nowadays for young people to be told that they can’t cope with school, with dance and with life in general and so because they are thinking along those lines they find that they are struggling with everything. What a great position we are in as dance teachers to help to give these young people a good positive mindset and a “Can Do” attitude instead of letting them constantly make excuses which they then use to basically say, “See I knew I couldn’t do it!” when they have a problem or failure with something.
The Fear of Failure!
They are so terrified of failure in everything that it absolutely paralyzes them and prevents them from doing what they are totally capable of doing and at the same time it robs them of the joy of movement and releasing emotions that dance provides. When I talk to my dancers I remind them that they are doing something specialized, something that many people would love to do but don’t have the talent for and that, as dancers, we are constantly failing and falling and that it is all part of discovering how to master the body so that it will do what we want it to when we want it to. That it is OK to fall in a heap on the floor but that it is our duty to make it look as good as possible and to get up as quickly as we can. That out of every failure comes a new discovery that we can use to help us and make us stronger and better. That outside problems need to be left where they belong, outside of the studio and that when they dance it should be a total release of their emotions, a sacred place from which great things can come. It really does just come down to us teaching our young dancers that the sky is the limit and that by believing in us their teachers they will ultimately believe in themselves and will have all the confidence that they need to look terrific in every performance.
Of course, building confidence is a gradual process for any age group and can be done over a period by giving encouragement in class and also by noticing the individuals who are the least confident and finding ways to point out something good they have done or having them demonstrate something in front of their peers when they have made improvement. Teenagers do have issues as we know and I for one can remember some painful moments growing up when I was so grateful to my dance teachers for reassuring me and making me believe in myself, something that I have carried with me for everything I do even to this day!
What a great gift to give to all of our students as they face a future filled with uncertainties and something that they will remember always. Showing them that they can be confident in what they do in dance, school and life.