Dancing Mentally Tough
What is a Mentally Tough Dancer?
Alison Arnold, Ph.D. and Sara Robinson, M.A.
Have you ever seen those dancers in class or at a competition or audition that just look like they’re the complete package? They may not even be the best dancers, but there is something about them- they’re so confident, calm, and collected. And they can be intimidating!! Maybe you’ve had days where you are this dancer, or maybe you’re training to be a dancer like this. Well, guess what? Dancers who appear confident and poised aren’t just physically skilled, but they are mentally skilled as well. And with all of the hours you spend training your body: working on technique, flexibility, nutrition, and more, you might as well start training your mind also.
Performers of all types, and dancers especially, can benefit from becoming mentally tough. In the world of dance where there are so many individuals training, performing, and auditioning, don’t you want to be one of the dancers who is doing everything they can to be prepared and ready for what is asked of them?
A mentally tough dancer is one who:
- Is able to approach challenges with confidence
- Doesn’t let a mistake lead to more mistakes
- Is able to take feedback, even harsh feedback, and find the positives
- Shines at auditions and performances for more than dance technique
- Maintains focus even when there is chaos going on around them
- Trusts in their memory and training
- Approaches classes and training like performance
- Doesn’t let the other dancers, judges, or casting directors drain their own belief in themselves
If you read the list above and thought that it described someone you would like to be, but not someone you are now, don’t worry: dancing mentally tough can happen by training your mind the way you train your body. In each upcoming issue, you’ll learn new tools and ideas to help you become a more mentally tough, mentally prepared dancer who is ready to handle the various challenges and situations that dancers face. Mental training is like your physical training in that you need to work at these skills and practice them. And, just like you can see you dance technique improve, you’ll experience your mental technique improve as well.
For the next couple of weeks, take notice of what you say to yourself, both in dance and in life. You can even write down some of what you say. Once you begin to really pay attention to the thoughts you’re having, ask yourself if they tend to be positive and helpful, or perhaps negative thought that drain your confidence and get in your way. Challenge yourself to create more positive thoughts to help push aside the negatives, and notice what happens to how you feel, and how you dance.
Dr. Alison Arnold (Doc Ali) works with performers and athletes of all kinds, and has been the mental toughness coach to USA Gymnastics Since 1997. Sara Robinson, M.A. is a consultant with HeadGames Mental Toughness Training, and received her B.F.A. in Theater from New York University.