How to Dance without Thinking, Part Two
As I talked about last week, our mind is a fine tool, and essential to overcoming many of the challenges we face while learning. Mismanaged and given too much power however, it can block the body’s ability to execute even the most basic techniques and becomes a mouthpiece for our worst fears.
Now I’m no psychiatrist, so if you have a medical condition or suffer from depression, there’s no guarantee the suggestions I offer below will be your miracle panacea. I CAN guarantee that this is some of the best advice I’ve seen on the web, and from my own personal experience. There are a lot of them, so buckle up!
- Plan before practicing. Are you working on foot positions, or armstyling? Hip motion or floor connection? Decide what you are going to focus on before you start practicing to block unwanted thoughts.
- Don’t practice at socials. Learning to trust your instincts on a crowded floor is an important skill like any other – and it’s the only one you should be practicing at a social.
- Breathe through it. Focusing on your breath is a powerful way to relax the mind and body, and keeps you from focusing on anything less helpful.
- Baby steps. If you stress about being judged by others, get involved gradually – practice at home first, then try a private lesson, then a group class, etc. Let yourself feel enough fear to be stronger for facing it, but not so much it overwhelms you.
- Distract yourself… on purpose! Dance while doing math in your head, count the dancers on the floor, anything to break the cycle of self-analysis. Prove to yourself your muscles don’t need your undivided attention to keep working.
- Watch your thoughts. We can’t stop or change destructive thought patterns until we spot the moment when they arise. Wait for your negative thoughts like a cat at the mouse hole.
- No comparisons! I mean it – there’s always someone better than you, and there’s always someone worse. Quit looking for either one. It’s not healthy.
- Counter the negativity. A studio owner once told me, “There will always be reasons why you can’t do something – think of some reasons why you ” Why CAN you social dance, or give a great performance? Now THAT’S empowering!
- Be realistic. Ask yourself, what’s the worst thing that could happen? What’s the likelihood that it will happen? C’mon, be honest 🙂
- Big-picture thinking. Even if the worst DOES happen, will anyone remember in a week? A month? A year? Our fear-based thinking looks a bit silly after we put it in perspective.
- We only look at the good ones. When you are watching others dance, do you watch the ones doing poorly? Yeah, neither do we. So if others are watching you, it probably means you look great!
- Own the attention. If others are watching, imagine yourself as the hottest dancer on the floor, and they are admiring your sweet moves! It’s a VERY powerful confidence-booster.
- Meditate. Aside from all the other benefits, it trains your brain to be quieter, and less affected by what happens on the dance floor.
- Mistakes happen. To all of us. None of us are perfect, and thank goodness, because that makes for some boooooooring dancing!
- Create a dance persona. Maybe “Diane” thinks a lot while dancing, but “Francheska” knows how to let go! Dancing is about playing a role and letting your freak flag fly, so give that freak a name and own it!
- Lean into the fear. Don’t distract yourself or try to rationalize them away. Instead, try looking at those scared thoughts… Just a bit. The longer we look at our fears, the more manageable they become.
- Swap emotions. Fear actually feels very similar to excitement, so next time you start getting nervous, tell yourself “I’m very excited”. This subtle shift can switch your brain off “fight or flight” mode.
- Stop reading this and go do it! Self-help articles like these are ultimately a crutch, like overthinking itself. You won’t grow your confidence and quiet your mind until you actually apply what you’ve learned, so pick your favourite tip above, close this page, and DO it! I’m rooting for you.
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 eventually led him to blogging and the World Wide Web. Ian currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada.