tl;dr getting compliments from fellow students in dance class can have a really huge positive impact, so I would like to commit to sharing my appreciation for my fellow dancers more
So, a thing happened recently that I want to talk about, mainly because it makes me feel warm and fuzzy, but also because I’m setting a goal for myself.
Thing: We worked a lot on turns in my pointe class and I kind of hit a wall. I could go up, turn, come down, but my weight was all wrong and I kept wobbling and I was frustrated, so I wasn’t giving myself space to figure out what was wrong. Basically, I was working myself into this huge nonsense of believing I couldn’t do the thing, that I was terrible at the thing. And then a really wonderful person came up to me after class and told me she loved my turns.
This was a really huge moment for me because I was so angry at myself at the time. But here’s the thing – simply hearing from another person that what I was perceiving wasn’t what they were perceiving was enough to completely turn my thoughts around. I went back to class the next week and was emotionally ready to start conquering turns again. It took me a couple of weeks to figure out what was wrong and correct. But I would never have gotten there without that person.
This isn’t about my achievements or the fact that other people like my dancing. This is about the fact that positive feedback is a necessary part of the learning process, and sometimes that can’t come from the teacher. Not because the teacher isn’t doing it (sometimes that is the case, but my personal preference is to avoid those teachers), but because they have multiple students at a time, each with different needs. Not even the best teacher can provide all the things to all the students at exactly the right time.
Also, for me-type students, I start doubting teachers after a while. I’m a distrusting cynic. If I get too much positive feedback from a teacher, my inner thoughts decide that they’re only doing that for the sake of positive feedback and I’m actually doing the thing terribly. I’m aware I’m probably wrong, but brains are hard to control.
The point is – we need to value each other. And we need to explicitly voice our compliments. This is something I’m trying to work on.
Because I’m shy and terrified of people, I don’t compliment as much as I should. I want to fix that. I want to tell every amazing dancer I’m in class with about how beautiful they dance. How amazing their double pirouette was. How beautifully strong their legs are. Or their turn out. How springy their jumps are. I want people to know exactly how much I admire them and am inspired by them.
Because we’re dancing together and I’m learning as much from them as from the teacher.
Mainstream dance is treated like a competition. We’re supposed to be vying for the teacher’s attention, constantly trying to one-up each other. Do better than others.
It’s a really ineffective mindset. I remember watching an Irish dance school perform and whenever one person was dancing, everyone else was glaring at them. It was not fun to watch. In order to dance, or perform, we have to do it together, team effort (woo!). That’s not going to happen if we’re too busy competing.
But if we take the time to build each other up – give compliments, positive feedback, encouragement. If we believe in each other and learn from each other, we will all become better dancers together. Dance is, above all else, a social activity.
So. This is my goal. To appreciate others. To tell them when I appreciate them. To create dance spaces where positivity and success defined by the individual (and not assumptions about what good dance is) are the norm.
Those are the spaces I needed when I was younger and still need. And those people that did that for me, they are amazing. The least I can do is to try to do it for them back and for others.