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Dancers and their offstage emotions

We aren’t talking about just everyday emotions… but the ones that they may be intensely feeling when they get onstage directly after performing.

Dancers OR parents of dancers, this article is for you if you (or your dancer) have/has ever experienced big, frustrating feelings after being on stage and are overwhelmed with how to handle them.

First of all, feelings are meant to be felt. It’s ok to feel what you need to feel and we don’t want to push them down or ignore them. HOWEVER, we can change how we react to them!

Let’s face it too, dancers are emotional beings and we are deeply invested in our art. Many have high expectations of themselves and put so much emotion into what they are doing on stage that if something doesn’t go as expected, it’s easy for those readily available emotions to spiral out of control with disappointment. The average non-dancing human might have a hard time imagining this situation so it’s important that supporters of dancers, such as parents, family, friends, etc…, learn how to help and/or deal with dancers during these times.

So, what to do??

1) The best advice is actually something to work on BEFORE you take the stage. Make sure GROWTH MINDSET is a part of your training. To learn that taking risks and actually failing can be a part of your training and learning will be a tool when it comes to disappointment. There is a ton of information on growth mindset online if you need to do research. Ultimately, growth mindset helps us to not fear mistakes and failure! While it won’t always eliminate frustrating post-performance emotions, it will help to manage them and to get us back on track faster with a healthier mindset.

2) Set intrinsic goals for your performance. Dancers should create goals for themselves BEFORE the performance that are obtainable and that they are in control of. For instance, a dancer at a competition is not in control of the awards outcome so a 1st place overall goal is NOT intrinsic… it’s extrinsic. Intrinsic goals could be remembering a certain correction in the routine, connecting with the audience, committing to the performance, etc… When a dancer comes off stage, they can check in with themselves about the goal and celebrate if they accomplished it, EVEN if other things went array. If they did not accomplish it, then they can use growth mindset to learn from it and work on it for next time.

3) Recently, the phrase I have been using for my dancers as a teacher/coach/mentor has been ‘2 minutes and 28 seconds!’ Let me explain further😊 When a dancer comes off stage after a fabulous performance filled with wonderful moments but they are frustrated about just ONE thing that went wrong, I use this phrase with them to remind them about all the positive that happened on stage. Most solos onstage at competition are 2 minutes and 30 seconds. If they fell out of one turn or did one section a little different than usual, well that is about 2 seconds total for those mishaps. What about the other 2:28 that needs recognition? Feel free to borrow this quote and use it when needed to remind yourself or your dancer about the positive that they accomplished.

4) This last one is for adults in a young dancer’s life. If they are emotional and inconsolable after a performance, first of all take note to work more on number #1 and #2 above for the next time. Also, it’s probably a good idea to ask them what they might need as everyone handles these intense situations differently. Some may want to be alone, or maybe a hug or maybe to not address it at all. Whatever the situation, here are some things NOT to do:

- Don’t tell them to get over it.

- Don’t criticize what they did wrong… they are already aware and don’t need reminding.

- Don’t make excuses for them; the stage was uneven, the music wasn’t loud enough, etc…

- Don’t feed into it… let them have their own emotions without you adding to the intensity of it.

- Don’t feel like you have to fix it. Sometimes they just need a soft place to land and will figure out how to get motivated again on their own after a little venting.

I hope you find this helpful for either yourself or the dancer in your life. Constant negative emotions after a performance can take away from the joy of dance and will negate all the benefits that dance can bring to our lives. Learning how to handle emotions will set up a dancer with a more mindful relationship with this beautiful art form of DANCE!

By Tonya Goodwillie

Owner and Artistic Director of Allegro


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