Dealing with Disappointment in Young Dancers
“Don’t let today’s disappointments cast a shadow on tomorrow’s dreams.” ~Unknown
As parents we can feel quite helpless when our child is bitterly disappointed, whether in an audition or after a perceived negative result in a competition, exam or dance event. Young dancers need a very strong sense of resilience and a good level of self esteem to face the many, many setbacks they will encounter in their dance journey and the earlier in life parents and dance teachers equip these sensitive young dancers with these survival tools the better.
All dancers will suffer countless setbacks during their training and during their careers - far more than a non-dancing child or adult. Dealing with it, learning from it and Carry on Dancing is the only answer as giving up should not be the option.
Disappointment experienced in most dance situations can mean a deadly combination of sadness, despair, anger, jealousy, hate, a sense of unfairness, guilt, bitterness, helplessness and many other negative emotions which should all be dealt with swiftly. Positive and constructive action should be taken so the student can bounce back, set new goals, re set a positive Mindset and Move On (literally).
Deciding whether the disappointment / failure could have been avoided needs to be addressed. Ask yourselves:
Was the goal set unrealistically high for me?
Was my solo/dance/ audition too difficult for my current standard?
Did I prepare fully for this event?
Did I Warm Up properly and prepare on the day both physically and mentally?
Was there another issue such as injury, bad shoes, slippery stage etc. involved?
Have an honest debriefing of the above in a kind and positive manner and remember to explain and discuss ‘subjectivity’ in judges, panels, examiners, at events and even in audiences. Understanding subjectivity can be key to acceptance of a situation beyond a child’s control.
When dealing with competition disappointment always remind young dancers that DANCE is not a competitive sport but an art form and that so many factors contribute to who wins and who loses. Ideally try to teach your child to lose gracefully and to make the effort if possible to congratulate the winner. These acts undertaken cheerfully and sincerely can actually help strengthen their self esteem.
If a recreational student is having serious difficulties in the competition field consider stopping entering competitive dance events altogether. Start them on performing for the love of dance and bringing joy to their audiences (even if it’s a concert in your local school, at a party or in the backyard for the family). For students serious about a career in dance then perseverance together with resilience and self esteem are essential and will make them strong and tough for whatever life throws at them.
Learning from one’s setbacks is always possible but also making a list of what went well is a good start on strengthening a self esteem that may have taken a bruising. Setting new, perhaps more realistic goals is essential but don’t forget that dancers love a challenge and good preparation and planning is vital for success.