‘If at first you don’t succeed - Try, Try, Try Again’
This famous quote is what Ballet teachers have been telling young student dancers for decades. Taking class at a very young age with one of my teachers who had trained with Vaganova she kept talking about ‘Attitude of Mind." This confused me greatly as I was muddling it with an ‘attitude’ - a pose I was having serious difficulties in achieving.
Today we are using different terminology and talk about ‘Growth Mindset’ which, for many dancers and parents is still as unfathomable and confusing as my ‘attitude’ dilemma. I hope this short blog will help you understand the idea behind Mindset and the sense of power and peace that a Growth Mindset can give a young student dancer.
“Those with the Growth Mindset found setbacks motivating. They’re informative. They’re a wakeup call” - Carol Dweck
Training Vocational classical ballet dancers is not only about artistry, musicality and technique but about how they internalise criticism, failure, jealousy, fear and success and cultivating a good growth mindset is essential for these young dancers to succeed and not to give up or burn out.
Dance students need to fully understand that their training is about the ‘Journey’ and the amount of effort they put into it on a daily basis. The journey towards an audition, competition, solo, exam etc., should be fully realised and enjoyed class by class . Travelling on this journey means cheerfully embracing and accepting the mistakes, the achievements and the effort put into each day which can eventually lead towards a more successful outcome. Emphasis should never be placed on fleeting results and trophies but on the effort that has gone into arriving at the end goal.
During the daily Vocational classes I teach at The Dance Centre Peregian Springs, the words ‘I can’t’ are not allowed unless supplemented by the word ‘YET’. Learning that time, patience and constant effort are the reward in itself is crucial and helps enhance and cement the passion many students are born with - a passion that can easily ‘Burn Out’ a young dancer with a fragile mental state.
Young dancers are incredibly sensitive and emotional and often fear negative issues such as making a mistake or of not winning and many are scared of failing to reach parental or teacher expectations. Parents who use effusive praise and value only winning results can cause irreparable damage.
In a nutshell - Negative and fearful emotions can hold students back but a good strong Growth Mindset can help them see beyond these paralysing thoughts.
To assist student dancers to develop a strong Growth Mindset try the following:
Find, face and embrace challenges that are achievable but not unattainable.
Set Aims - Short, Medium and Long term to tackle these challenges.
Learn new work by breaking it down into achievable sections taken very slowly and carefully.
Focus on the process that makes students into better dancers and not the trophies won or lost.
Do not allow setbacks to deter from the final aim but learn from these and embrace the effort.
Develop persistence, resilience and perseverance. These are vital ‘dancer attributes’ that assist with attaining a healthy self esteem. High levels of Self Esteem and Self Confidence will in turn bolster a developing Growth Mindset.