Editorial: This article was originally written article in November last year. I was hoping to include it with some new features on the website but, due to time constraints these haven't materialised and with a new set of competitions upon us I didn't want to wait any longer. The article takes a look at how we can get the most from our dancing by thinking about what it is we want. It's an excellent, thought-provoking piece which will give food for though for the beginner and experienced competitor alike
Published Thursday January 15 2009, by Andrew Dancer
Attitude Towards Competition
Have you ever competed and felt you were knocked out prematurely? Does this have a familiar "ring" to it - ‘That's it, I've had it? It's all political! Why bother when I'm never going to win?".
Before going any further, remind yourself why you started dancing in the first place.
Reasons, as simple as, just wanting to dance and to socialise will probably come to mind.
And what are competitions about really? Are they not an opportunity to socialise with fellow dancers and to try out the skills you have been endeavouring to learn. Yes, it is nice to get call backs, make finals and even win. However there is only one first place and only so many opportunities to obtain it. Ultimately there will be many of us who may never quite achieve this goal.
So, on that basis, should we just pack it in as a waste of time?
Or do we need to re-evaluate our attitude towards competitions? Many of us have probably grown up viewing sports participation as a win-lose proposition. Maybe a better objective balance needs to be established, so that although our attitude is focused on winning, it should also have a "personal development orientation" where one seeks "enjoyment and mastery of the task."
It is easy for the negatives of the dance scene to take over. As a good competitor we should focus on winning. However, we can get so caught up in the proceedings that we lose our objectivity when interpreting these events.
Motivation is essential to accomplish any task and whilst things are going well, it's easy to meet the challenges and enjoy dancing. But motivation can easily be restricted when the results are not as we hoped. Pessimistic feelings, such as mild depression, frustration, or self doubts regarding one's ability, can quickly creep in. The question here is, as a dancer, how do you remain upbeat, in order to maintain the motivation and effort, necessary to improve?
This will depend on your attitude and choices.
For example if you choose a positive attitude and view competitions as exciting, learning and motivational tools, whereby YOU compete against YOURSELF and strive for perfection in YOUR work, suddenly, they can be used to inspire and motivate you to work harder and perform better.
Some may say this is a loser's way of justifying the situation. I don't agree. If you allow competitions to "pull you down" you cannot derive any enjoyment, from the situation. However, by applying correct strategies and drawing positive aspects from the results, you take control and put yourself into a position whereby you can start to gain insight, control and motivation from the experience.
Although competing against fellow dancers can be stressful and on some occasion "soul destroying", try not to see it as competing with others; but instead as competing against YOURSELF, i.e. has your performance improved from the last competition?
If you decide to view the dance competition as being about striving for perfection and gaining excellence in your work; and not only about being ‘better' than others, then suddenly the event takes on a new perspective.
Ask yourself, which would satisfy you more:
- to dance an average performance and win, or
- to dance the best performance you could and maybe only making quarter finals?
In addition when you expect to do well and don't, it is important to determine whether the reason/s are controllable or not. What do we mean by this? Theoretically, effort and mental preparation are factors that are controllable. But factors such as the Judges, the skill level of opponents; or the environment are things that the dancer can not control. Don't waste your energies and emotions on factors out of your control - there is nothing you can do about it.
Highly-motivated individuals remain positive and are undeterred by failure, as they won't take it personally. Thus, have the confidence to make an honest assessment of your weaknesses and take responsibility for upgrading your skills. Once you have decided to remain focused and positive, when you are around other students, who, as far as you are concerned, are talented, more advanced and dance with seemingly effortlessness, instead of feeling envious or being intimidated, try telling yourself, ‘I like the challenge, I can do this and I am improving'.
Note which dancers you can learn from and who possess a high energy level. Use them to be inspired and to positively influence your work. Rise to their level of energy. Don't just associate with the best dancers, also identify and socialise with those dancers who maintain a positive outlook, no matter what the result.
Although never a guarantee, with dedication and a commitment to continual improvement, your chances of achieving your goal will improve. And if you don't, well at least you enjoyed the experience.
Things may not always go your way or turn out the way you want them to. That's just a fact of life.
At some point you may need to acknowledge that just maybe you are not as good as you would like to be or thought you were. It is important to be honest with yourself whilst at the same time not put yourself down. Once you have made an honest self-evaluation, you will have taken control of the situation and put yourself into a position to make objective positive decisions.
It's not easy, but self-confidence and accepting who you are, are essential, in order to compete with fellow dancers in a healthy way. Your competition days will one day come to an end. You may or may not win many titles, but more importantly is how you enjoyed the experience and how you interacted with your fellow dancers.
I have heard it said that you will get better results if you Perform to Win and not compete to win. There is a big difference if you stop to think about it.
I do not try to dance better than anyone else. I only try to dance better than myself.
- Mikhail Baryshnikov
Competitions should be about, the excitement of exhibiting your talents, of stretching yourself to reveal abilities you never knew you possessed.
Finally what is a good competitor? I believe the answer is someone who:
- Is well rounded and balanced;
- Aims high and wants to achieve;
- Remains focused and motivated even through the tough times;
- Remains positive and happy no matter what the result;
- Genuinely loves to dance for sake of dancing;
- Encourages those around them and is first to congratulate those who have achieved more on the day.
There is nothing original in what has been said here. Most of these thoughts have been derived from various dance and sports articles I have come across. Often we know this already, but it helps to be reminded on occasion.