Psych Central defines self-care as: “any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it’s a simple concept in theory, it’s something we very often overlook. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also key to a good relationship with oneself and others.” When we hear the term, it often conjures ideas of massages, mugs of hot tea in front of a fireplace, or even watching your favorite TV show. While it certainly can include any of these, more accurately the term refers to something deeper and more holistic. As dancers, there are particular aspects of our relationships to our bodies and minds that we should pay attention to so that we put our best foot (ahem) forward in this dance.
To build confidence as a dancer:
Keep track of your progress
Even if you are dancing as a hobby, it can be helpful to remember your progress as you take classes. Set some goals to reach by the end of the year so you have something to drive you forward. Keep in mind areas for improvement, and try to focus on those in private practice outside of class. Some easy ways to keep track of your progress include making videos of yourself, during practice as well as performance, keep a journal or set of notes of what you learn in class, or ask your teacher for some personal feedback. Setting aside time for self-reflection can be helpful at any stage of your dance, whether you’re just starting or you are an experienced professional.
Be kind to yourself regularly
While setting goals and pushing yourself can help build self-confidence, make sure you’re not focusing so much on what you haven’t achieved or comparing yourself to other dancers. While you’re in front of the mirror, try not get stuck on tiny imperfections--instead shift your focus to the positive aspects of your form, technique, and expressiveness. Dancers tend to struggle with negative self-talk, as we are often taught to scrutinize our movement. Remember to talk to yourself as you would to a close friend.
To boost your inspiration:
Watch performances by more experienced dancers
Seek out performances in person as much as possible. Austin has a variety of performances happening every month (check out our calendar!). In person, you will be able to truly get the nuances the dancer is projecting--their mood, style, and technique are more evident. In a pinch, video can serve as inspiration as well, particularly for dancers outside of the area. There are thousands of videos by amazing dancers on YouTube, Tumblr, Instagram, and many more platforms.
Take opportunities to dance with no pressure
Look for opportunities to dance socially or perform for welcoming audiences. Use these opportunities to take risks with your choreography and improvisation. Belly dance as we know today evolved from social dances, so explore dancing in this style without the added pressure of a formal performance. Bring friends along to add to the fun and dance for the joy of it alone. Low-stakes performances in intimate settings can also help build your confidence and stretch your own repertoire.
Get inspired by belly dance music
Truly the easiest way to get inspired is to listen to more belly dance music (start by checking out the playlist of the month below!). There is such a wide variety of genres, countries of origin, styles, and more, that anyone can find something that inspires them. Explore music from new artists or styles that you haven’t listened to before, or go back in time through the classics. Play belly dance music while you’re doing chores around the house, practicing on your own, or on your commute. With time, you will likely find a song that clicks with you that you’ll want to get creative with. Dance is all about interpreting music, so if you’re seeking inspiration, music should be the first place you look.
What are your favorite ways to help build your confidence or stay inspired in belly dance? Let me know in the comments below!