Many students, especially adult students shy away from performing.
“Oh no, I don’t want to perform. No no no.”
“I’m not that good. I don’t want to embarrass myself or you [teacher].”
“I’m too scared to perform.”
These are just a few of the gamut of responses heard when the topic of performing somewhere comes up in some dance schools, especially in niche cultural dance organizations. But performing creates opportunities for growth that are under appreciated and understated.
1. Improves Confidence.
For many students an intense level of fear comes up, some students get so sick – that they physically cannot perform when it comes down to it. In the world of Yoga, which I am also a part of, they say ‘feel the fire and go through it’. I might say in dance, ‘feel the fear and go forward’.
Margie Warrell is a bestselling author and international speaker who is passionate about empowering people to be braver in their decisions. She writes in an article for Forbes.com that “Confidence is not a fixed attribute; it’s the outcome of the thoughts we think and the actions we take. No more; no less. It is not based on your actual ability to succeed at a task but your belief in your ability to succeed. For instance:
Your belief in your ability to speak in front of an audience
Your belief in your ability to learn a new technology
Your belief in your ability to lead a team
Your belief in your ability to handle confrontation or manage conflict
Your belief in your ability to change job or career, exit a relationship, or start a business.
It’s been long established that the beliefs we hold – true or otherwise - direct our actions and shape our lives. The good news is that new research into neural plasticity reveals that we can literally rewire our brains in ways that affect our thoughts and behavior at any age. Which means that no matter how timid or doubt-laden you’ve been up to now, building self-confidence is largely what psychologists called volitional. Or to use layman language: “By choice.” With consistent effort, and the courage to take a risk, we can gradually expand our confidence , and with it, our capacity to build more of it!”
All of this applies in the dance world. Often people live segmented lives, but I think it’s time that people start to live in the bigger picture of their own lives. It’s no just about dance. Or just about work. Or just about school. All the facets of our lives are interconnected. The key is that we are all different…And, the different experiences we have in life will determine our ability to develop self-confidence. For some it’s their experiences through sport. For some through academics. For some through the arts. And for some through dance.
The stage is a place of growth. It’s not a place you are entitled to be, it’s a place you earn to be. And even when you are on the stage, you are experiencing growth. The more you face the stage, the stronger your self-confidence will growth. And yes you represent a dance school, your loved ones might be watching and there is potential that it will broadcast on even bigger social media “stage”, but here is the KICKER:
2. IT’S ABOUT YOU. NOBODY ELSE. AKA Self-Worth.
Performing on stage is the culmination of all the efforts, emotions, frustrations, thoughts, tears and success that a student has endured throughout the dance season. It’s kind of like spending hours and hours preparing, studying and researching for a school report, but then never actually writing or submitting the report. Yes, in school your report might be graded. And yes, the audience may also ‘grade’ your performance, but just like your school grades, which ultimately you are the recipient of and you are the person who deals with it, you also deal with how your audience perceives you. It’s about you. That’s the bigger picture.
How you learn to deal with the situations that you will face in life will determine the amount of success you have.
So will you face the opportunity to perform? Because it is an opportunity that allows growth EVERY SINGLE TIME you do…
When we engage in opportunities to grow as human beings, we automatically feel an increase in self-worth.
3. Increases self-awareness.
Being present in the moment and having awareness while you are performing allows you to analyze your performance later on. But this self-awareness doesn’t just magically happen. As a child we actually build self-awareness over time. But as we become busy youth, teens and young adults, we got lost in “doing” and less “being”, and our self-awareness actually decreases. This doesn’t have to be the end-all be-all though. Self-awareness is heightened through various activities – physical activity is one of these ways – mediatation and breathing exercises is other ways along with writing and artistic self-expression.
According to an article by Penn State University “In the dance world, the term proprioception is well known. Proprioception can be described as feeling what you’re doing, awareness of the space around you, the sense of where one’s body parts are situated in space, your balance, and joint, tendon, and muscle position. According to some neuroscientists and developmental specialists, proprioception is extremely important to children’s development, too.
Movement and dance techniques help children become aware of their physical presence, spatial relationships, self control, balance, breathing, and pattern. Dancing moves your body up, down, backwards, and forwards and incorporates large, sweeping physical movements. As children practice moving their bodies – arms, legs, hands, feet - in all directions, they will start to gain a sense of the space around them, as well as how they can control their movements in that space.”
When we start to realize how we can control our movements in a space, we can translate that over to our minds, emotions and behaviors as well. I am often heard asking saying to younger students in my class:
“Let’s turn on our brains.” – and we click our imaginary button into ‘on’ mode - which is a way for me to communicate to students to engage the mind versus blindly following other students as they do the dance steps. Or similarly “Does your brain control your body, or does your body control your brain?” To help them think about what actually comes first – this thought process in itself increases self-awareness and teaches that we have the ability to control and improve our bodies, and also what we do with our emotions when they come up.
This is a crucial life skill.
When one practices this skill in the dance classroom, one can then analyze better their performance on stage – and then learn to find points for improvement. Again, this skill can be translated over to all other facets of life, including academic life which many parents often prioritize over all other activities in the life of their children.
In conclusion, performing dance on stage or other performance platform can improve self-confidence, increase self-awareness, and improve the sense of self-worth that a person has.