Thoughts on swing dancing and Lindy Hop, one word at a time…

Less Talk, More Rokk (Rock)

A topic I have been encountering in real life and on the internet on a fairly consistent basis is anxiety related to swing dancing, usually its one of the following:

“I am afraid to…”

  • compete because I won’t do well/people might look down on me/I won’t make finals/people will see me dancing badly/I am not a good dancer and shouldn’t even be in this division/everyone in this division is at a skill level way higher then mine
  • dance with (insert person here) because they are a really good dancer/i’m below their skill level/they are in high demand and other dancers will get upset/they are attractive.
  • dance to this song because it is too fast/its too slow.
The list could go on for quite awhile, but I think you get the point.

"But if what if I trip and fall during the spotlight in the finals?"

The Good News

If you feel you are the only one in this boat, you aren’t.  Its quite normal and many people in the swing dance community deal with these anxieties ranging from newbies taking their first swing dance lessons to seasoned competitors.  I’m not exempt from this myself even though I have been in around twenty different competitions at this point there are still some moments that I get nervous and second guess myself beforehand. I’ll even candidly admit there was a follow who I didn’t dance with for a long time, not because she was fairly skilled (which she was), but because I thought she was cute and I was afraid I would choke and mess up my leading.

Awkwardness aside,  on a positive note if you are anxious it is a good sign because it means you are considering challenging yourself to move out of your usual comfort zone. Anxiety doesn’t seem like such a bad thing if its used as an indicator that one is considering decisions that lead in a progressive direction for ones dancing.

How To Deal With It

What works for one person may be the completely wrong thing for another, so I have a list of different mental suggestions that approach the problem in unique ways.
  1. Realize the logical flaws behind the issues that are causing anxiety: Many people are afraid to dance with people they perceive as “advanced” dancers because of an apprehension that they will bore them. This conflicts directly with the fact that many of them openly say in their classes, in conversations, and online that they are more then happy to dance with anybody as long as they are enjoying the dance and not hurting anybody. Often if you can logically deconstruct why fears are on a weak logical foundation, often they become trivial.
  2. Find a counterexample to the issue causing anxiety: This is a more specific version of suggestion one, but for people who like weighing pros and cons this is useful. An example is a lot of people feel like they shouldn’t compete because they won’t do well. It can be easily argued the other way that by not competing they are preventing themselves from having an opportunity to do well in a competition.
  3. Re-framing the anxiety into a positive opportunity: I actually did this in the second point, but re-framing is a great tool to feel positive about an issue that originally may have worried you. A big game changer for myself was when David Fritos told his story about his first competition with Ryan Francois and he mentioned to see competition as not competing against people but with them. Competitions become a lot less intimidating and stressful when one views it as dancing their personal best versus trying to dance better then everyone else in the division.
However I am going to share with you an important strategy which for at least myself is the best approach:
  • Just f$#@!%$ do whatever you are anxious about: You can always go over the multiple reasons of why something won’t work or will be less then optimal. But in reality the best way to make yourself grow as a dancer is to put oneself through those awkward experiences, until it doesn’t feel so awkward.
When it comes down to it, this is dance we are talking about. You can write or talk about apprehensions when it comes to dancing or even about dancing itself all you want, but what often speaks volumes to oneself or others is what is done on the dance floor.
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One response

  1. e.

    When I was about to swing out in a comp against a long term teacher of mine, he turned to me and said, “Let’s put on a good show for these people”. Instantly re-framed the situation for me, all the fear that I was carrying disappeared. Might be helpful to someone else!

    October 18, 2011 at 12:05 am

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