Within every dancer lives a pessimistic critic. We fight an individual battle at keeping that voice to a minimum. Focused and determined dancers lean toward perfectionist qualities, and often become very critical of their dancing, and how they see themselves in the studio and on stage. Sometimes the pessimist hides well within one’s self, but every so often you will hear a dancer curse and grumble loudly after messing up a step, or after seeing something in the mirror that takes away from what could have been a most beautiful positive moment.
How much is too much self-criticism? As artists we are often told that we are our own harshest critics, and when you see the sweat fly through the air in the studio, and see the persistence of the dancers in the room, it becomes clear why that has been said. A small dose of self-criticism can be an encouraging source of inspiration and motivation for a dancer. . .but it is important to give yourself a little pat on the back every now and then, believe that you did something amazing that got you over a hurdle, and that you will keep leaping with a positive attitude. Gold star moments! Remember them when you are feeling your negativity tarnish what you are trying to accomplish.
Working hard at what you do is important, and being dedicated is imperative in taking your training to the next level, but too much of a cynical attitude will take you down and make it harder to jump ahead. We cannot always be perfect at what we do on the first try, so trusting yourself, and knowing you will get another chance is one of the first steps to moving on. Great teachers and mentors will encourage their students to keep trying, and may even tell them to risk falling to see just how far one can go. Make mistakes in class through trial and error, and take the positive moments with you out of the studio, and onto the stage. Judge not, know it happened, and work toward what is next. Give yourself something new to try the next time, which may lead to that grandiose “AHA!” moment. Replace those scowls and growls with your smile, and see how that changes you, your dancing, and your approach to what you are trying to succeed in doing.
Challenging yourself in class to let go and live it may be hard at first as that little voice in your head does not want to be ignored. . .but tell it to be quiet and move on. If you find yourself piercing the mirror with your glare after a wobbly balance, or grimacing when your arms and legs have you twisted into a pretzel, remember you are in a learning environment and that you need not cave to the negative, but must proceed onward and upward to flourish.
Dancers, will you accept the challenge to bid au revoir to the overly negative critiques of the mind, and say bienvenue to all that is within the realms of possibility? See you in class.
– Anne-Allegra Bennett
Theater Dance Student & Administrative Assistant