Growth mindset for dancers – how to unlock a dancer’s true potential
Teaching dance is a truly complicated business. We KNOW how to teach the technical elements of dance, we can see when dancers have the potential to achieve great things but what if they don’t want to learn? What if they are afraid of making mistakes, fearful of failure, worried about what others might think of them? What do we do then? This is where we an implement growth mindset for dancers When you hear those dreaded words, ‘I can’t’, ‘I won’t’, ‘I don’t want to’, take a deep breath, especially if these feelings are disguised in more emotive language, like ‘this is boring’, ‘this is too easy’, ‘this is silly’. When young dancers say things like this, it is often because they are are afraid, afraid of what will happen if they try and then fail. Perhaps they are a perfectionist. Perhaps many, many people have told them what a great dancer they are, how ‘talented’ they are. These compliments are given with the best of intentions but they can really harm a dancer’s mindset. This is where the theory of growth mindset for dancers comes into play. If our dancers begin to believe that their success is due to natural talent, to the fact that they are ‘good’ dancers, then they can begin to fear new things. They begin to believe that their abilities are fixed, out of their control and that mistakes are something to be feared. What if they try something new and they aren’t immediately good at it? Does that mean they aren’t a good dancer anymore? Maybe it might just be easier not to try it, to feign an injury or ask to use the bathroom. That way, the belief that they are good and talented can’t be threatened.
If a dancer has perfectionist tendencies, and many dancers do, they can perceive mistakes, not as steps to learning but rather as things to be feared. “If I make a mistake, I won’t be perfect, I won’t be a good dancer, I won’t do well at the competition on the weekend”. Competitive dancers are often under immense pressure. They are judged, sometimes weekly on their performance, mistakes mean marks lost and lower placings. Is it really little wonder that young dancers want to avoid mistakes at all costs. Not trying something new, is a very ‘safe’ method of mistake avoidance.
Social pressures can also play a huge role in avoiding trying new things. It is not only young dance students who worry about what other people will think of them. We’ve all been guilty of it from time to time. If a dancer is feeling at all self conscious or is trying to fit in or not draw attention to themselves, avoiding trying new things and potentially ‘looking bad’ is another ‘safe’ move. It’s not just their peers that dancers may be worried about disappointing or looking bad in front of. Young dancers often have a huge desire to please their dance teacher and anxiety about failing to do this by making mistakes or not being able to do something well can also play a role in avoiding new things.
Not having refined goal setting skills can also lead to skill avoidance. Goal setting for dancers is a key part of dance training and growth mindset for dancers, but like all other skills it needs to be properly scaffolded and taught. Once dancers understand how learning new things can be broken down into achievable steps and are given a framework for achieving these steps they are much more willing to try new things as they know it is just a matter time and effort before they will. master it.
Parental pressure is an additional factor. Our young dancers want to make their parents proud, they don’t want to not be able to do something. This can be particularly complicated if the parents have praised their child in a way that has lead to the development of a fixed mindset. If the child has constantly been praised for their achievements rather than their effort, if huge emphasis has been placed on trophies and being picked for special roles then a dancer can develop the mindset that their abilities are fixed, that they are where they are because they are talented, rather than seeing past their surface successes and appreciating all the effort that went into what they have achieved. If dancers and their parents are not focused on the effort, on the process then they may be much less willing to start on the journey of mastering something new.
Growth mindset for dancers is all about helping our dancers to see the effort behind success, to understand that abilities aren’t fixed or the result of something out of our control, to let go of their fear of failure and be willing to try and strive and fail and then try again. Dancing with a growth mindset means that mistakes become just part of the journey. I can’t, becomes, ‘I can’t…yet’. This stair case graphic below really helps illustrates growth mindset for dance. Grab your free copy by entering your email below. If you would like to learn more about how top studios worldwide are using growth mindset to unlock their dancers’ true potential and leading them to new levels of success, check out our growth mindset resource packs in the Resources for Dance Teachers store.
Want to REALLY help your dancers succeed? Do you want to set them up with skills that they will use for the rest of their life, regardless of their chosen field? Check out our growth mindset resource packs – the results will astound you