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Psychology of a Dancer

One of the most important things that determines your success is your mindset.

- Understand the difference between Confidence and Ego.

- Gain tools to help maintain a sense of calm before auditions and performances. 

Learn tools to manage negative self talk. 

- Dance with a sense of determination and power. 

- Learn how self-care can put you on the right track. 

I chose this topic as my number one component because I feel it is the most important, but discussed the least in the dance world. We often hear catch phrases like... "You can do anything you put your mind to." But are we really trained in how to manage our thoughts, feelings, and emotions? If you are struggling please don't be afraid to reach out. This is common and dancers don't realize how much they are holding themselves back by dancing from a place of fear, judgement, and self-doubt. 

Watch this fantastic video on managing stress as a dancer. By: Linda Hamilton Ph.D

Consider these books written by a performance psychology specialist.

Dance Psychology: An Introduction



by Lynda Mainwaring, Ph.D., C. Psych.

Alexandra and Micah were skilled soloists who trained at prestigious schools. Their technique was flawless, and their artistry mesmerizing. They were loved around the world, yet, both suffered from intense anxiety that created muscle tension, stomach upset, elevated heart rate and a barrage of doubts about their performance. At times they were paralyzed with the fear of not living up to their usual perfect performance. Before major events they would psych themselves into a state that made them feel ill. This is performance anxiety.

Feeling a heightened sense of arousal and anxiety before a performance is common. A certain level of energy sparks a good performance. However, on occasion our thoughts and feelings can be out of control, and they can negatively impact performance. They can create a situation in which we think we are not good enough, or we fear that we may not be the right body shape. Before stepping on stage we may worry that we will miss the jump in the opening sequence.

What do you think about when you dance? What do you think about just before or after dancing? Do you experience performance jitters? Do you worry about what you look like, what others look like, or what others think about your dancing? These are the kinds of questions that often arise in performance. Knowing how to handle intrusive and sometimes negative thoughts, or how to manage performance anxiety, are some of the topics addressed by dance, sport and performance psychology. Today’s blog is about dance psychology in general. The next will be about managing your performance jitters.

What is Dance Psychology?

Dance psychology is a field that entertains the following questions, among others:

  • how the mind can facilitate performance?

  • how can performance anxiety can be managed?

  • how do you recover from injury?

  • how do you cope with the stressors of working in highly demanding situations?

It is an area of study and practice that uses research, theory and practitioner’s wisdom to address psychological issues related to dance and dancers. The field of dance psychology has evolved from sport psychology, which is some 50 years old. Dance psychology is about using the mind to enhance dance, improve well-being, and offset negative aspects of life in the unique and challenging world of dance. It is about using psychology and the mind to help us be the best that we can be.

Using The Mind In Dance

Often we overlook the importance of the mind despite knowing that the mind and body are intimately tied. The interaction between the two can have profound effects on our performance, health, motivation, and sense of who we are...  Read the rest of this article HERE!

BIO: Lynda Mainwaring is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Toronto, and a Registered Psychologist in Ontario. Her background in human kinetics, performance and rehabilitation psychology focuses her research and professional practice on emotional sequelae of mild traumatic brain injury in sport, psychological impact of injuries in sport, dance and work; perfectionism, and performance enhancement. She is a member of the Research Committee for the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science, and is co-founder of the Canadian Centre of Performance Psychology. Dr. Mainwaring has presented and published over 200 works to international audiences.     

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