Magazine article Dance Spirit

LEARNING Fearlessness

Magazine article Dance Spirit

LEARNING Fearlessness

Article excerpt

The dancers who take our breath away are the risk-takers, the ones who appear completely fearless onstage. "When you see somebody trying to travel more, go farther, push the limits of their physical abilities, that's always going to be inspiring," says Ballet BC dancer Alexis Fletcher.

But dance training can feel like it's in conflict with that idea. We spend thousands of hours in the studio trying to do steps perfectly, and that pursuit of perfection can make us anxious about taking risks. What if we fail? What if we fall?

Luckily, fearlessness is a mental skill that you can work on, just as you work on your technique. Here's how you can learn to push yourself past your limits.

MOVE TO THE FROST

As the consulting psychologist to Pacific Northwest Ballet School since 1981, Toby Diamond, PhD, has worked with many dancers who worry they're missing the moxie that would make them truly great, and teachers who worry an advanced student is holding back. "These dancers are afraid of making mistakes, looking like a fool or like they don't know what they're doing," she says.

To break that mental pattern, Diamond suggests making small changes first. Risk-avoidant dancers frequently hide in the back during class, and won't do combinations in the first group across-the-floor, nervous about messing up. But standing front and center is a low-consequence risk-a good place for anxious dancers to start. "Push yourself to move up, to try a combination even when you aren't completely confident in it," she says. Realizing that that's not so scary will help you feel more comfortable taking bigger risks down the road.

SEE IT, THEN DO IT

At Plumb Performing Arts Center in Scottsdale, AZ, instructor Brooke Anderson prepares her students to perform audiencethrilling combinations with visualization exercises, which several scientific studies have shown can increase confidence. …

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