Overcoming Dance Anxiety
Even people with two left feet want to get up and shake their money maker every once in a while, but finding a comfortable space to do it in may be an issue.
Your cousin’s wedding doesn’t really seem like the best time. As you sit watching everyone enjoy themselves on the dance floor, the liquid courage starts to get in your system; almost making you feel brave enough to get out there, but that voice in the back of your mind quickly reminds you that people are sure to notice your uncoordinated convulsions. Then they’ll start pointing and laughing like the prom scene from “Carrie.” You’ll make a dramatic exit running through the double doors in the back crying uncontrollably as the whole room chants “No chance! No chance! Don’t even try to DANCE!!” You click back into the present moment and that’s when rocking side to side and snapping your fingers in your seat becomes the extent of your dance vocabulary for the night.
For others, the anxiety stems from the word CHOREOGRAPHY.
It’s a weird word; long and complicated when you use it in different contexts. Even though you can get down with the best of them, having to remember a combination of movement taught in a room full of people is frightening. But then that’s not always the case either. In some instances, it’s your own thoughts of self-doubt that’ll act as a dance floor deterrent. I’ve had students tell me that their idea of themselves versus what’s actually happening is what scares them the most. Looking into the mirror and feeling like nothing they’re doing is coming out right.
In a society that’s become fanatical about sharing, people like the ones I described above see a multitude of talented dancers on social media and network dance shows on a daily basis. That can definitely be a bit intimidating. You are not alone! Summoning the confidence to jump into a full on dance class is sometimes just as terrifying as skydiving during a lightning storm.
I believe that anyone can dance if they put their minds to it.
Maybe you won’t be the next Usher or Janet Jackson, but a signature two step to get you through family functions and casual business gatherings will make life a whole lot better. Dance helps express a part of your spirit words could never convey. People who are in the habit of taking dance/fitness classes are ALWAYS happy to dance another day and that energy is infectious. Not only do you benefit from the encouraging atmosphere, but gaining a new level of self-confidence and improved mobility sweeten the deal.
In your everyday life, you’ll find yourself becoming more social and interact with people whose aura is invigorating. It’s also one of the growing ways people are losing weight and maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle. Even if you don’t make it into the studio, check out a few benefits dance offers. You may just burn a hole in your living room rug every now and then.
Dancing can be a way to stay fit for people of all ages, shapes and sizes. It has a wide range of physical and mental benefits, including:
- improved condition of your heart and lungs
- increased muscular strength, endurance and motor fitness
- increased aerobic fitness
- improved muscle tone and strength
- weight management
- stronger bones and reduced risk of osteoporosis
- better coordination, agility and flexibility
- improved balance and spatial awareness
- increased physical confidence
- increased sexual performance
- improved mental functioning
- improved general and psychological well-being
- greater self-confidence and self-esteem
- better social skills
Now that I’ve got you excited and ready for a new adventure, how do you get started?
The world of dance/fitness is an extensive community to navigate.
Throughout my life, I’ve wondered what it was like not to have any rhythm; to be wholeheartedly afraid and uncomfortable of moving my body to a beat. That’s what I focused on a lot while building the Old School Skinny format. Movement and music that brings the party to the dance floor without the added pressure of being perfect. Some students like to breeze through a follow along and others need a challenge everytime. Instructors are always having to calibrate their level of intensity keeping in mind that there may be people present with hesitations about staying in sync with the rest of the group. Public events and community classes are a totally different ballgame. You never know who’s in the audience and what physical ailments they may have. It’s really all about the instructor’s ability to make everyone feel like they’re included.
Students who go take a class regularly find it easy to fall into the fun of it all because they know the instructor’s mode of operation and can follow along better with in-studio dance experience. What helps the most though is finding your inspiration and holding on to it. Is it a summer body you’re after or losing weight for an important surgery? Is it just for fun or are you willing to focus in and develop your dance skills over the course of six months, a year?
When choosing a dance style, ask yourself questions such as:
Do I want to dance to improve my fitness?
Am I trying to improve my flexibility and coordination?
Do I prefer fast dancing or slow dancing?
Do I want to dance with a partner, or on my own?
Do I want to join a group, or have private lessons?
Will I enjoy competitions, or do I want to dance just for fun?
What type of music really gets me going?
By now, you may have looked at a couple studio schedules and found that there are a lot of options. Just know that instructors inherently tend to give a bit of a special attention to students they know are new to the environment. Even with that notion, it’s better for you to go into this brave exploration of movement well prepared.
Here are a few tips to put in your back pocket that’ll help ease some of the apprehension you might be feeling.
Pick the right studio
Some studios are more advanced than others and in the North Hollywood area, many of the professional studios may not be the best choice if you’re looking to get your feet wet. Be very careful to read the verbiage used in the description of the class. Level 1 at a dance/fitness studio is not the step by step breakdown and attention you need. Sometimes it’s not the carefree and supportive environment you were hoping for. Classes are focused on teaching routines to get great Instagram videos. We all know reading is fundamental so you don’t want to get yourself into an hour-long episode of “What the hell am I doing in this class?!?”
Do a mental inventory
Get rid of all the negative thoughts you have about yourself and this experience. I’m too old. My knees are bad. I’ve never had much rhythm. I’m not sure these classes will move too fast for me. They walked out sweating, it must be really difficult. Most of our worst criticisms come from inside our head. Clear your mind of those pessimistic thoughts. Once you do, you’ll be able to walk in with peace and confidence. Nothing else will matter.
Don’t let your reflection distract you.
The mirror is your best and worst enemy. Focus your attention on the instructor and music; not on what you look like doing the movement. Absorb the particular hits in the music and the overall style to better understand the entire combo. It’s about progress, not perfection.
Listen to the layers of the music to pick up on where your body connects. That point or pose or walk should be met with a snare drum hit or heavy bass moments in the song. Throw on some headphones and dissect a few of your favorite jams. Listen to the rhythm and the way lyrics move in, out, around and on top of the beat. Practicing this consistently will enhance your overall music experience. There are foods with an acquired taste, but as you eat them more frequently, your pallet becomes more familiar. That’s the same with musicality.
Get a Tutor
Online tutorials are great for beginners! You can learn combos and build on your skills in the comfort of your own home. Even with some more difficult routines, you’ll build an arsenal of understanding that you can take into the classroom setting. Private sessions are even better. If there’s an instructor whose style you really love, book a few one-hour privates to work on basic movement techniques and expand your range of movement.
I GOT THIS!!
Only depend on yourself!! It’s great to have friends around and people to hide behind while taking a class, but it’s better to assimilate the combination in your body through muscle memory. Taking the time to map out the transitions usually helps with this. How to transfer weight from one side to the other using your core and other techniques.
Stay on your toes.
“Float like a butterfly. Sting like a bee” You don’t literally have to be up on your tippy toes the entire time, but some classes will have you focus in different directions or do turns. Find an object on a wall in your house, do a turn and focus right back in on that object as you face the direction in which you started. That’s called spotting. You can use objects in the studio to give you an idea of where you are and what side you should be on. If the instructor turns the class to a sidewall or to the back, you’ll still be able to spot.
Express your true self.
Find a class that plays music you LOVE. Knowing the songs and understanding that culture helps put the mind at ease. Sing along while you sweat; reminisce on moments that song was played in your life. Whether you prefer slow and sensual burlesque, throwback 90s grooves or need to start at a Zumba / “follow along” pace there’s something for everyone.
Franki Floro / Floro Choreo
Dance class is the best place to lose yourself, find yourself and most importantly, better yourself! If you feel like an idiot then you’re doing it right. Just remember to breathe. It’s not a life-or-death situation. It’s just dance class. I promise it’ll be over in an hour.
Radha Ruiz / Cardio Dancehall Instructor
Forget you’re supposed to be working out. Just feel the rhythm and Let the groove take over you!
Benjamin Allen / owner of Groov3
Dance is a muscle memory and it takes practice to remember steps. Give yourself at least three to five classes to start to pick it up! Get out of your head. Dance is about letting your body feel the music.
Carol / Student at LA DanceFit
Taking class fills your heart and soul with joy. It’s not exercise, it’s an expression of who you are. It’s a feeling of love and acceptance for yourself and everybody else in the room. Make friends and lose inches for life!
Galit Friedlander / Fitness Instructor
Give your judgment a timeout and create a safe space for you to try something new and acknowledge yourself for that bravery.
J’Nelle Luckie / Old School Skinny
Dance takes time. Make it about the journey, not the destination so you’ll always be open to learning new things.
Candis Yamamoto / Dancer & Event Producer
Find a friend to go with you and have fun together. Be okay with the fact that you’ll be frustrated with your first class. It’s new so you have to stick with it. Take at least three to five classes of the same class. That’ll give you time to figure out the instructor’s style and become more comfortable.