How dance can improve your confidence
Dance has a bad reputation when it comes to self-esteem. In the media, dance is all about mean teachers and stick-thin girls who think they’re fat. People think “dance” and they think of walls of mirrors, huge expectations, and tiny lunches. In reality, dance helped me realize who I truly was and gave me more confidence than I had ever had before.
Like many young girls, I dreamed of being a ballerina when I was little. Once I reached High School, however, I pursuaded myself to follow a more realistic dream/ I entered university as a Russian language major, determined to become fully fluent. After two years, I could order food in a restaurant or talk to you about your family, but I certainly wasn’t fluent.
I was also miserable, spending hours on grammar homework, trying to memorize conjugations that never stuck in my head. Desperate for some stress relief, I signed up for a ballroom dance class through the Sports & Recreation department of my university.
The next semester was more fun than I had had in a long time. It was a fairly basic class, small and held in a gymnasium, which had way more space than our class of ten needed. We cha-cha-cha’d and salsa’d and foxtrotted across the wood floor. I found myself practicing steps in the campus coffee shop where I volunteered and smiling more. My arms formed a strong frame and I responded well to my lead while dancing, which gave me more joy than my hours in a cramped classroom ever had.
This joy led me to sign up for two more dance classes the following semester, a modern dance class and a combination of ballroom and swing dancing. In another gym, though this one small and in a church basement, I met Dane during swing dancing. Dane was one of few guys in the class, and I always rushed to be his partner. He moved with ease and laughed often, and I learned that he was a dance major at the university ("What's he going to do with that?" I hear you ask? Well there's actually a ton of options which I've written in this guide). We joked and I teased him, and he told me that I should become a dance major as well after I confided in him about my childhood dreams of doing ballet.
With his blessing, I did the unthinkable: I auditioned for the dance department. I auditioned with almost no modern experience, no ballet experience but a little knowledge, and nothing at all in my head about African dance. My solo was clunky and uninspired. Needless to say, I didn’t get in.
But I was hooked. I took ballet and modern the following year, adding in jazz and yoga as I cut out all of my Russian history and language classes. I began to understand my body. It was no longer just something to dress in the morning and haul to campus for class, but a means to express something beautiful, or at least meaningful. I shimmied along to show tunes and rolled around on the floor to the rhythms of acoustic guitars and drums. I ended up bruised and sore and tired, but never before had I felt so alive. I made friends like I had never done so before. I made friends that I could talk to about strange things: our feet, our favourite pianists, the awful strengthening exercises our teachers put us through.
Worried that dance is expensive? Check out this guide on How to dance when you can't afford to dance.
Dance gave me a safe place to express myself. Despite what people may see in dance-related television shows, it isn’t about having perfect technique. The best dancers are those who can make an audience feel, who can portray a character using only movement. The freedom to show my personality while I danced made my classes into an artistic and spiritual experience rather than an hour-and-a-half of a teacher giving instructions.
As I danced, as I saw myself in a giant mirror for hours every day, I began to act differently. I stood up taller and I spoke louder. I simultaneously stopped caring about what other people thought (I often simply pulled on sweat pants and a tank top over my tights and leotard) and began to focus on what I wanted. I came into my own being and began to carve out a space in the world for myself. I began to smile again.
After taking more hours of dance classes than I can count, I am a firm believer that a dance class can be a positive step for most people. For many people, simply being in a dance studio is enough to make them feel like they’re finally taking a step towards a dream of dancing. For others, it’s the music that puts a smile on their face. And for some, like myself, it’s the whole experience. It’s the sound of your feet against the floor, the sweat drops on your neck, the teacher counting time that reminds you that you are alive in this moment. And that moment of pure life can infect the rest of your day, lifting your spirits and relaxing your mind.
Want to learn more about dance and how it can improve your confidence? Join the Back On Pointe Tribe, read up on Which type of dance suits you and go to the Dance page for more Challenges and chat about dance.
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