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Are Fears Holding Back Your Dancing?

We all have them. That one exercise you hate doing. That technique you can’t stand working on. It’s a giveaway if just thinking about it makes you want to pull out your hair in anger. But as a wise man once said: ‘anger is just fear with a mask’.

What are we afraid of? We are afraid of looking bad, or rather, not being able to look good. We’re afraid of letting down our partner, and ourselves. These fears rise up every time we try to work on the technique we hate, so naturally we prefer to avoid them.

This is an unconscious reaction by the way; I’m not saying you’re sabotaging yourself on purpose, you just like feeling good about your dancing. And practicing the things you struggle the most with is not a good way to do that.

So What?

Fair enough, you could just avoid the techniques you hate. And any steps that use it. And any dances where those steps are commonly used. And any socials, where you might be called upon to demonstrate them. See the problem?

Unless you avoid dancing altogether, your fears will be ever-present in the background, and if you want to excel, you’ll have to face them, sooner or later.

Identifying your fears

‘Alright, fine! So how do I find these dance fears?’ Our (technical) dance fears all share certain characteristics we can use to identify them.

Be warned! Dance fears don’t want to be found, and discovering them is not a pleasant experience. What is liberating however, is facing and conquering them afterwards, which makes it well worth the effort.

  1. You don’t like the technique: This is a no-brainer. It’s not fun working on the technique, or even thinking about it.
  2. The technique is hard for you: Maybe it’s unfamiliar, or doesn’t feel right, or maybe it’s just a lot of work. This technique is a challenge.
  3. You avoid the technique:Be honest with yourself – is this something you’ve been coming up with excuses for not practicing?
  4. Thinking about the technique makes you angry or scared: This is a hard one, but it’s also the most reliable indicator. Strong negative emotions mean we’ve made our challenges personal.

Facing your fears

When you find the source of your fears, there’s a number of approaches you can take to help yourself through it. Although some people prefer to tackle them straightaway, others might connect it with other things in their life that need to be resolved first.

Here’s just a few things you can try:

  1. The direct approach: Do the opposite of what you normally do, and practice the heck out of this thing. Make it the biggest part of your regime until you’ve mastered it.
  2. Get a new perspective: Try a lesson with another instructor, or ask a fellow dancer. Sometimes, all you need is for it to be explained a little differently.
  3. Write about it: If the fear is bad enough to be debilitating, you might want to record your thoughts to help yourself look at them objectively. You may find your fears are more terrifying in your head than they are on paper.
  4. Talk to a friend: If you know someone who won’t laugh at you, talk to them about your fears and ask for their advice.
  5. Tell your instructor: While not all instructors are sensitive enough to be helpful in this situation, they can at least be alerted that this is something you need help with, and maybe to be more gentle in their criticism.

Sometimes, you can be your own worst enemy when it comes to learning dance. When this happens, the best thing you can do is to be honest, evaluate where the block is, and deal with it. It’s not an easy journey, but like all challenges, you’ll emerge stronger for it.


About the Author

Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 18 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. His passion for dance and his endless seeking for ways to reach new audiences eventually led him to blogging and the World Wide Web. Ian currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada.

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