Why are you always so happy at the parties? This was a rather surprising question one of my dancing friends asked me right after the last Helsinki Zouk Festival. The answer to me felt obvious; Why wouldn’t I be happy? It’s so much fun to be at festival parties, surrounded by awesome dancers and to get to do the thing that I love - dance zouk! But there was a point in that question: dance parties and festivals are not just moments of “riding on top of the clouds”. There are ups and downs… And sometimes, it might feel there are way more downs than ups.
A festival party or even the everyday dance social can sometimes feel like climbing to the top of Mount Everest. When you’re struggling the get forward there are some others that appear to make it to the top of the hill so effortlessly. How come some people seem to naturally ‘have more fun’? Is there a secret shortcut to being in a good mood or getting a good dance flow?
There are a large number of things that contribute to ‘having fun’ and ‘having lots of good dances’. Among them are your dance skills, your partner’s skills, the connection the two of you have, the music, the atmosphere, etc, etc. Even with all those, and having the stars aligned just in the right way, there’s one thing that I see quite strongly working against many dancers: their self-doubt. This touches many that are quite new to dance but is no way exclusive to only beginners. Even the most advanced dancers can be very vulnerable to attacks of self-doubt and you can find big chips under the surface of what may look like a strong armor of self confidence… or what we could call here dance confidence.
What makes up our dance confidence? And how to build it stronger? A.k.a:
What is dance confidence?
A few concepts relating to dance confidence: self-belief and self-confidence.
"Self-belief has been directly connected to an individual's social network, the activities they participate in, and what they hear about themselves from others. Positive self-esteem has been linked to factors such as psychological health, mattering to others, and both body image and physical health." (Source)
"Self-confidence does not necessarily imply "self-belief" or a belief in one's ability to succeed. For instance, one may be inept at a particular sport or activity, but remain "confident" in one's demeanor, simply because one does not place a great deal of emphasis on the outcome of the activity. When one does not dwell on negative consequences one can be more "self-confident" because one is worrying far less about failure or the disapproval of others following potential failure. One is then more likely to focus on the actual situation which means that enjoyment and success in that situation is also more probable. Belief in one's abilities to perform an activity comes through successful experience and may add to, or consolidate, a general sense of self-confidence." (Source)
So how would we translate this into dance confidence? Here’s my rendition:
Dance confidence is the feeling of self-confidence in regards to your dancing. It can be found through believing in your abilities and through not worrying on possible negative outcomes in the dance activities you do. Dance confidence is also built on positive dance experiences, supportive dance community, good body image and good health.
There are a lot of different factors that affect a person’s dance confidence in any given moment:
- The environment - how comfortable you’re in this place, how you are connecting with the music.
- The other dancers - how you think they see you, how you may compare yourself to them and what’s the actual feedback you receive;
- Your partner - how well you are connecting to your partner, how the partner is following / leading you and how your partner is behaving towards you;
- Yourself - what is your mood, what is your physical condition, what are your skills and possible weak spots and how well you are getting into a right ‘zone’ at the right time.
Growing into confidence
If you’re a beginner and you think that dance confidence will grow on you over time you’re right. The more you develop as a dancer, the more you have skills to build the confidence on. After some time you’ve most likely logged in positive dance experiences (good dances) as well verbal encouragement from your teachers and fellow dancers - those grow your confidence. Advanced dancers typically have more confidence also because they’ve overcome many obstacle, they’ve fallen down and picked themselves up.
While confidence does grow gradually, you also need to let it grow. If you beat yourself down after every small stumble then you’ll have a lot harder time building that confidence. If you doubt yourself at every corner, that confidence in you doesn’t even have a chance to bloom.
Dance confidence in partnerwork - Finding the confidence in you
Dance confidence is a thing you may feel you’re just not born with. But it really is a force that comes from within you. Of course your peers, your teachers and your surrounding has a strong influence. But they’re not something you should be clinging onto. If you’re for example relying on your dance partner to make you feel more confident on the dance floor, then that’s not a great solution. It doesn’t matter what level you’re in and what level you’re partner is in. No matter what our background is and what skills we have, all of us have our own insecurities. And we should try not to bring those to the dance floor. (Easier said than done, isn’t it.)
Think of it this way: Confidence is like balance - both dancers need to be able to stand on their own feet and sustain their own weight. If you’re feeling terribly insecure it’s like being unbalanced, relying on your partner to carry you forward and keep you up. And not only may you take yourself down but you make take your partner down with you. A strong dance partner may be able to pick you up, but the dance will be much better - and can even rise to new heights - if both dancers can hold their own ground.
How to find that eluding dance confidence in you? We'll come back to this with our best tips in Part 2 tomorrow.
Your dance confidence
What's the relationship you have with your dance confidence? In what situations do you feel the most confident in and when do you feel the least confident? Tell us in the comments!