Dancing to Elevate your Self Esteem
From the outside looking in, dance may seem like a world full of competitiveness and discipline. Movies, media, and outdated stereotypes have oftentimes shown that studying dance can lead to stress and anxiety. However, dancing offers far more positive rather than negative effects on a young person’s confidence, self-esteem and mental health. Every dancer’s experience, of course, is personal and circumstantial, and it’s important to keep in mind that an environment that is best for one dancer may not be the best for another.
“When I dance, I forget everything else, and just feel completely happy.”
From the youngest dancers to professional company members, dance practice is built on a system of challenge, correction and improvement. Rather than simply pointing out that what you are doing is ‘wrong’ in your exercises or being negative about your abilities, dance teachers are there to guide you to improve. Identifying how and when you have an opportunity to learn and grow – whether this is in your technique or your mental attitude – is an opportunity to overcome your perceived limitations and become more resilient. Learning to take the corrections that you receive in the dance studio as positive, rather than negative, will empower you to work hard to reach your goals. The feelings of reward and enjoyment that you experience when you achieve these goals will boost your confidence and make you a strong, resilient dancer and individual.
Dancing is almost never a solitary experience and no professional dancer will tell you that they got to their position without the help of others. Being surrounded by dance teachers, older students, and other dancers means you are part of a community who understands and shares your passion. When a younger dancer looks up to a more experienced dancer and thinks, ‘I want to be just like them,’ they are not only admiring the older dancer’s technique and achievements but also their strong work ethic. Positive attitudes are infectious and feeling supported by your fellow dancers naturally encourages you to seek out others who could use your advice or encouragement too. When likeminded dancers come together there is boundless potential for you to learn from each other’s experiences and achievements and to support each other through exams, difficulties and injuries. By being mentored and by mentoring others you’ll feel that you belong to a strong support system and you’ll learn to see yourself as a leader.
As in any competitive sport or art form, there’s no doubt that there is a level of competitiveness in the dance world, whether within your own class and dance school or at local and national competitions. Learning to handle these experiences so you can perform to the best of your ability, and in the best state of mind, can take time and consideration. Nevertheless, when dancers respect each other’s differences and take the time to get to know one another, the friendships that are formed can be incredibly unique and long-lasting. In the classroom or in group routines, you’ll feel a sense of belonging to your group and ownership over your performances. You will also quickly realise that your peers and your teacher need you just as much as you need them. Feeling a close bond to your fellow dancers helps you to see yourself as someone who is valuable, trustworthy, and dependable. You’ll be motivated to come back to class week after week and feel the positive benefits of working towards a shared goal.
Dancing encourages you to focus on a single task, which is something we don’t often have the opportunity to do in our daily lives. Being present and aware of your body and your surroundings is an inevitable effect of dancing. Dancing also requires you to engage with your emotions. Listening to different forms of music and learning to respond through movement requires you to draw on your own experiences and use your imagination. This kind of creative release can make you feel more in control of your emotions and empowers you to tell your own stories through movement. Dancing can also develop your love for other art forms such as music, drama, art, design, and storytelling, which are all integral elements to any dance performance. Expanding your mind and learning to appreciate artistry can spark your curiosity and creativity and allow you to discover your own creative strengths.
One of the most researched and effective ways to improve mental health is through physical exercise . The exercise you receive while dancing creates powerful changes in your brain –releasing tension, promoting a positive attitude and leaving you feeling energised. Regular dance training promotes a routine of taking care of your body and your mind through sleeping regularly and eating healthily. If you’ve ever been hesitant to begin a dance class, or to continue dancing because you’re worried that it may become too stressful and demanding, speak to your family, dance teachers and friends. They can help you shift your perspective and support you in maintaining a healthy and happy experience in the dance studio. The most accomplished dancer is one who feels confident and free to follow their passion.
A love of dance is for life.
Article written by Grace Finlayson. Grace is an Australian writer, editor and dance-lover based in Toronto