Dance and the power of YET – helping your dance students succeed with a growth mindset
As dance teachers, some of our most powerful tools are the words we use in the classroom. Carol Dweck’s research on the power of believing you can, shows how the humble word YET can change the way your dancers feel about themselves and fast track their success. Such a powerful tool for dance teachers Learning how to live in a world of YET fast tracks success by shifting your dancers’ mindsets from focussing on their limitations and on what they can’t do towards setting and achieving goals. Carol Dweck’s research on growth mindset and success shows how important it is for a child to believe that they can learn new things, that their abilities and talents aren’t fixed, that making a mistake is really just another chance to learn and grow…on other words, the power of YET. You can learn more about growth mindset here. Dweck’s concept is based around the idea of learning as a journey and that just because you haven’t accomplished something yet, doesn’t mean that you never will. This is SO relevant to dance. Try it out for size.
“I can’t do my left leg splits” versus, “I can’t do my left leg splits yet.”
“I suck at pirouettes” versus “I am still working on my pirouettes, I’m not that good at them yet“
See how the YET sentences instil such a feeling of hope, how they convey the idea that, ‘yet‘, a time in the not so distant future is coming, that with work and effort you will be able to master these things. It gives you the idea that you are on a learning curve. This is the power of YET.
Yet gives you a path to the future – Carol Dweck
You can listen to Carol Dweck’s Ted talk on the power of believing you can improve here but I’ll summarise it as it applies to helping your dancer succeed. In one of Carol Dweck’s studies, a group of 10 year olds were given a problem which was right at the edge of their abilities. Some of them were in growth mindset and so embraced the challenge, they saw the problems as an opportunity to develop their abilities, to learn. Others saw the challenge as test of their intelligence that they had failed. They interpreted the challenge as a judgement of their intelligence.
instead of luxuriating in the power of yet they were gripped in the tyranny of now – Carol Dweck
So what did the two groups do? The group that saw the challenge as a test of their intelligence, as a failure, ran from difficulty, some even looked for someone who did worse than them in order to make themselves feel better. Whereas the group that saw the challenge as a chance to improve, to learn, to grow, did just that. They embraced the challenge, they weren’t afraid to fail and they reached for bigger goals.
Here is a lovely colouring page for you to print out for your dancers to remind them of the power of YET. To download a PDF version fill in your email address below.
How to apply the power of YET to dance.
So how does this apply to dance and how it applies to helping your dancers succeed? Let us imagine you dance team is preparing for a competition. They find out that a ‘big name’ company is going to be there. What is their mindset? ‘bring it on’? Do they think, ‘great, here is a chance to try and do a bit better than last time’? Are they keen to see how they do and then look back and analyse their performance and make a plan for how they can improve. Do they come away from the competition inspired and ready to work harder? Or do they talk themselves out of it, think they have no chance so there is no point in trying. Do they actively try to avoid the competition? After their performance do they, or their parents find excuses for why they won’t do well. Do they leave the competition feeling demoralised or maybe happy that they at least did better than such and such.
Are they keen to see how they do and then look back and analyse their performance and make a plan for how they can improve. Do they come away from the competition inspired and ready to work harder?
The kind of dancer that will try to avoid competition or that makes excuses or deflects and blames their lack of success on factors outside their control, such as an injury, bad choreography, lack of preparation, may well be in a fixed mindset. They see a challenge as an affront to their talent. If they don’t win at a competition then they have failed and as they believe that their talent is fixed, there is no way out of this, they are locked in the tyranny of now, not in the world of YET. The kind of dancer that is willing to embrace a challenge, that see’s it as an opportunity to improve, lives in the world of YET. For them, now is just now, its not everything. Just there, just within their reach is the world of YET – the time when they will be able to land a clean triple or straighten their legs in jetés or increase their flexibility. They can start to take to corrections, set goals and then, then the possibilities are endless.
The kind of dancer that is willing to embrace a challenge, that see’s it as an opportunity to improve, lives in the world of YET.
This, of course, carries over into class time. When it comes to moving from a double to a triple pirouette, we want our dancers to be the ones who aren’t afraid to try, who will fall down and then think, “I fell to the right, I think maybe I need to transfer my weight a bit more to the left”, who thinks, “oh well, I didn’t get it today, but I’ll keep trying, I just can’t do it YET”
Competitions and an obsession with validation.
Carol Dweck asks whether we are raising children who are only obsessed with getting the next A, where their biggest goal is the next grade, kids who strive for constant validation. This is so close to the world of competition dance and I see it ALL the time. Kids who are ‘on the competition circuit’. One of the problems with constantly competing is that you can get into a zone where you are only as good as your last result. You have a big win one week but the next week you don’t and everything that came before is erased in that moment. As soon as one competition is over, the next one becomes important only in terms of its validation of the last competition. If you did well in one completion then it is important to keep doing well in order to validate that competition. If you do badly then the next competition becomes a chance to show that the last result was really wrong, that this win is ‘well deserved’.
When we talk about training young dancers what we are really striving for is a dancer who can take ownership over their training, who can learn from their mistakes, who see’s challenges as a chance to grow, not something to run away from, a dancer who will enter the toughest competition and judge themselves only in terms of their personal achievement. We are striving to raise and train dancers who live in the world of YET, who learn a new skill and think, “hey, I am struggling with that now but I will keep working, I can’t do it yet but I’ll get there. I’ll try to figure out what I’m missing and ask my teacher and then just keep on trying”.
Applying growth mindset to dance.
So what can we as dance teachers do to really help our dancers succeed with a growth mindset living in the world of YET.
First up, download this popular worksheet which will help your dancers appreciate the power of YET and move from focussing on what they can’t do towards setting future goals to achieve. To download the PDF version, enter your email underneath the 5 bullet points.
- Whenever your dancers tell you they can’t do something, simply add the world yet
- Remind them of other skills that they once couldn’t do but that with persistence, practice and hard work they achieved.
- Praise the process.
- Compliment them on how hard they have been working, on how much effort they have put in.
- Don’t focus on results, focus on personal achievements. Winning is nice but try to focus on how well they did fixing their corrections and performing a certain skill that they have been working on.
Download your own printable YET worksheet sheet here.
For more articles on how to help your dancer succeed, check out
This one on how to help your dancer succeed through goal setting
or this one on growth mindset and dance
or this one one on understanding corrections