You know the old saying about making the best of any given situation. Well, I wanted to talk about set backs and challenges in the field of dance. Everybody will encounter obstacles at some time in their life; it is an inevitable fact. Rather than think about how awful it is that we have to endure such hardships every once in a while, try to think about what you can gain from the situation. I know it’s easier said than done, but it’s completely pointless to dwell on what went wrong and to feel sorry for yourself. You may not know how else to handle your disappointments, but treating everything as a learning experience is a more productive way of dealing with all those emotions. Don’t get me wrong, it’s completely acceptable to let yourself get upset about something for a little while. It’s a natural reaction that everyone has experienced. But once you get all of those negative feelings off your chest and start thinking positively, I guarantee you’ll feel better immediately. This only works for me if I let myself grieve and feel angry or sad first. When I get that out of the way, it is easier for me to put that aside and think about how I could’ve handled the situation better or what I can apply from this lesson next time.
This topic especially relates to dancers and I would like to discuss that now. Dance as an art form is very challenging and many dancers tend to be perfectionists because of the nature of the field. We are always expected to get the steps right and make them look extremely easy. We set ourselves up for disaster when we focus on perfection because then when we don’t get the part we wanted, or God forbid we get a bit of criticism, it sets us over the edge. We have to stop thinking that everything is going to go our way 100% of the time. If we didn’t have those low moments, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the high ones. A perfect example, is when I auditioned last year to be in a section of Towson’s dance company show that included pieces choreographed by Alvin Ailey (you can learn more about Ailey’s work by checking out my post, Celebrating Revelations at 50). I was one of the very few people who did not make it. There must have been at least 40 people who auditioned and there were probably less than 10 that didn’t get to be in this section. I was devastated. There were multiple casts for each part and there were so many opportunities available that I could not believe I didn’t even get a chance. This was such a downfall for me that I actually considered giving up. But, there was another audition for the dance company after winter break and I dragged myself there thinking I would do it just for the heck of it. I made it into a piece entitled "Suite Farewell" and I was in 3 out of the 4 sections of this dance. I got a lot of stage time including group parts and I was featured in partnering sections where it was just me and another dancer onstage. Some people that made it into the Ailey section only got to be in one show because there were so many casts. This just goes to show you that what they say is really true: when one door closes another one opens.
It would be silly to just give up after one disappointment. Making mistakes is how you learn! So here are some tips on how to turn your life around when you hit a speed bump along the way.
1. Let Yourself Grieve First. I don’t mean sulk around for a month, but give yourself a day or maybe a couple to just let all those emotions pour out. You know yourself so you know how long you need. You also know what works for you when dealing with these feelings. I like to go for a walk or take a nice, hot bath. Once I have a little cry and get all my anger out, I feel like there is a weight lifted off of my shoulders. It’s not a good idea to bottle all of your emotions inside and bury them deep down because the more you hold them in, the more they are going to grow and it’s just going to be ten times worse when you finally let them out.
2. Learn From the Situation Without Rehashing Every Detail. It’s important to reflect on what happened and understand what you could have done differently. Don’t let this turn into a bashing session where you punish yourself for everything you did wrong. You did your best at the time and now that you have this new knowledge, your best will be even better next time. That’s how we learn and grow. I find that when I go over every little, tiny detail of a negative situation in my head I just feel worse. Learn to let go. Hang onto those important lessons and throw away those feelings of guilt. For example, if you don’t make the dance team at school you now know what they are looking for so you can practice hard and try again next semester. When you feel yourself criticizing that jazz combination that you had to perform in the audition and you start asking why you couldn’t have just landed the triple turn, stop yourself and move on. It’s never productive to punish yourself for something that you can’t change now.
3. Understand that Some Events Are Out of Your Control. You can control what you say, what you do, and what you think, but you can not control other peoples’ actions. This was a huge revelation for me even though it seems like common sense. Often times, we want everyone to like us and we wish that everyone else had the same thoughts and opinions as us. This never works because you are trying to control what someone else thinks. There are going to be certain people who think your performance was outstanding and some that aren’t really feeling it. It is impossible to please everyone, so don’t waste your time trying. The person who you should please is you by respecting yourself and by putting forth your best personal efforts no matter what others think. When you get criticized, no matter how much it may hurt, you have to know that that person has the right to their own opinion and if they can not see how hard you are working towards a particular goal, that is their own problem. When someone lashes out at you, they usually have their own issues going on behind closed doors. So, next time you experience a disappointment or unfortunate event just think, what is the opportunity in this?