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The Shy Dancer’s Guide, Part Two

Missed part one? Click here.

A fear is like a wild horse: If you want it to work for you instead of against you, first you must calm it down, until it feels safe giving you the reins. Likewise, your brain can gradually adapt to situations that previously terrified it, until you find yourself able to handle it comfortably.

Of course, that requires a certain amount of patience. Speaking from experience, I spent no less than two years practicing before I could bring myself to go to a dance social for the first time. When I did, I brought another new dancer with me, and we only danced with each other all night. But that didn’t matter – I’d gotten my feet wet, and every outing after that became a bit easier.

Below, I list a few of the intermediate steps we can use to gradually calm our fears down. Although you can try them in any order you like, I suggest you start at the first step that illicits a weak fear response, and practice it as frequently as you can – daily, if possible. Gradually move down the list until you find you can control the anxiety well enough to get out and dance like anyone else. Here we go!

  1. Visualize yourself in a dance hall, with people watching you.
  2. Get a friend you trust, and just stare into each other’s eyes for a full minute.
  3. (Optional) Listen to music you love, and practice your timing by tapping your foot, followed by walking to the beat.
  4. Dance in your room, alone.
  5. Practice walking up to an imaginary person, and ask them to dance in a loud confident voice.
  6. (Optional) Go clothes shopping with a friend of the sex you are attracted to, and get their recommendation on clothes you would wear dancing.
  7. Dress up in clothes you would wear dancing, play music in your room, and dance alone.
  8. Practice your steps for 5 minutes at your dance studio. See if you can do it if there’s at least one other person there.
  9. Invite a friend you trust to watch you dance at home, or at your dance studio.
  10. (Optional) Dance with another student you trust. Start with a two-hand hold, if it’s easier.
  11. (Optional) Dance again with a friend, but this time, look at their face during the dance.
  12. Go to a dance hall and just watch.
  13. Go to a dance hall with a friend, and only dance with them.
  14. Go to a dance hall with friends, and promise yourself you’ll ask (or accept) a single dance from a stranger.

What if you can’t bring yourself to try any of the above? If this happens, it’s most likely due to one of three things: you prefer to find you own methods of pushing your comfort zone, your fear of dancing (it’s a thing!) is bad enough to require medication, or on some level, you prefer to avoid facing your fears.

Did that last suggestion make you angry? That’s actually a good sign that it’s the one you should be looking at. We’ll start unraveling how you can discover and reprogram those unconscious thought processes next week.

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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