Dear Dance Students,
Hi, it’s me again – Your Dance Teacher. As I am writing this, we are at the tail end of another spring performance season. Maybe you have another recital or two coming up, are preparing for a summer intensive showcase, or are gearing up for Nationals. Maybe you’ve booked a summer gig at a theme park or with a community theatre, or are a graduate looking forward to the start of a company contract in the fall. Maybe you won’t have another show until Nutcracker or even until next year’s recital. But no matter what your upcoming performance schedule – and no matter what time of year you happen to be reading this – today I want to talk to you about the importance of gratitude when it comes to the opportunity to perform.
We all know that dance performances can be stressful. Countless hours of organizing, planning, rehearsing, promoting, and miscellaneous kinds of work – not to mention literal blood, sweat, and tears at times – go in every performance. For some of you, the act of performing itself can be stressful, fraught with nervousness, anxiety, or stage fright. For those of you who get to do a LOT of performing at competitions or as part of a performance company, the strain of multiple shows during the spring months can start to lead to burnout. Even though performing is an integral and vital part of what we do as dancers, it can sometimes start to feel like a burden.
But the reality is, dancers, that every opportunity to perform is a gift. And no matter how stressed, anxious, tired, nervous, or burned out you feel on show day, it is my hope that gratitude will be the thing you feel the most. I hope that you will approach every performance the awareness that it is a gift, and with a spirit of gratitude for it.
After all there are so many things to be thankful for when it comes to a dance performance. Here are just a few …
I hope that you are grateful to yourself….
After all, you have worked HARD to get to this point. Every performance marks the culmination of weeks or months of rehearsal. It is also a celebration of the many years of training that got you to this point. You’ve given your all in class, rehearsal, and at-home practice. You’ve sacrificed other hobbies and school activities, missed hanging with your friends at times, and juggled late nights of homework and rehearsal. You’ve pushed yourself through difficult times and challenged yourself to dance better day in and day out. This performance is your reward for all of that hard work and dedication. Be grateful to yourself for the persistence and perseverance you’ve shown as you’ve prepared for this show.
I hope that you are grateful to your team …
Have you ever stopped to think about how many people support your dance performances? Of course, there are your teachers and directors who have helped you grow in dance technique and artistry throughout your training, and the choreographers and coaches who prepared you for this particular show. There are your cast mates, classmates, and teammates with whom you’ve shared the studio and stages over the course of your dance career. Then, you have the stage crew, production staff, and creative team who worked hard to get this show up, running, and looking great in terms of lights, costumes, and stagecraft. Beyond that, you likely have family who support your dancing in many ways: paying for classes, shows, costumes, entry fees, and tickets, driving you to classes and rehearsals, volunteering backstage and cheering you on from the audience. Chances are, you have an incredible team behind you – and it’s important to acknowledge with gratitude the people who make this possible for you.
I hope that you are grateful for the opportunity …
All over the world, there are dancers who do not have the opportunity to perform for many different reasons: economics and politics, war and violence, ability, discrimination, injury, illness, and more. We all experienced this to some degree during the Covid-19 pandemic, but it’s amazing how quickly we forget what it was like to not be able to perform during those years of social distancing and quarantine. Be thankful for the opportunity to take the stage, express yourself through movement, tell your story, and do what you love! Whether you are dancing in a recital, community event, competition, or as a pro, never take this opportunity for granted. The reality is you can’t be sure when the next one will arise.
I hope that you are grateful for the audience …
Dance is a gift, not just one we receive from our teachers, families, and those on our team, but one that we also give to others through our performance. Some people who find their way into the theatre for our performances might come with the mindset that dance is frivolous, boring, or hard to understand. Even those audiences who love dance might walk into the theatre feeling jaded, weary, and fed up with the world around them. Every time you perform, you have the chance to help your audience see that there is still beauty, magic, and grace in this world – and that it comes from dance!
How to practice gratitude during performance season
Dancers, I hope that you feel this gratitude deep in your bones – but I know sometimes it can be difficult to feel it in the midst of a busy, often hectic, and sometimes stressful show day. With that in mind, here are a few ideas to help you actively practice gratitude your performance opportunities:
1.) Intention Setting: Set an intention of gratitude before you get to the theatre. Take a moment as you are getting ready to leave for the show to pause and reflect on all the things that you are thankful for. Dedicate your performance to those who made this opportunity possible for you.
2.) Being Present in the Moment: Performance days often pass in a whirlwind. It can feel you as though you blink, and you are at your final curtain call. Being present in the moment is a great way to cultivate gratitude for the experience. Try.to slow down as often as you can throughout the day and remind yourself that you are fortunate to have the opportunity to perform. Say thank you often- both in your thoughts and out loud to those around you.
3.) Journaling: Keeping a dance journal is a great practice for many reasons, not least of which is that it can help you cultivate a spirit of gratitude throughout the rehearsal and performance process. Keep a list of things and people that you are grateful for after each rehearsal and before performances.
4.) Thank You Notes: There is really no better way to express your gratitude than by writing a personalized thank you note to someone who has supported your performance aspirations. Your teachers, cast mates, and family members will cherish a personalized note of thanks for their support.
5.) Social Media Shoutouts: When you are posting photos from your performance, don’t forget to thank the cast, crew, production team, and all the unsung heroes who made it possible for you to shine on the stage. Be sure to tag them if possible and let everyone know just how awesome they are!
So not matter when your next performance is – I hope that you will approach it with gratitude. I know that I am grateful for you: the students I have been able to work with personally and those I’ve connected with through this blog and social media. It is truly a gift to help encourage and support the next generation of dance performers (and teachers, and choreographers, and dance enthusiasts!).
Your Dance Teacher
Check out my Dance Resource Shop for great items that will help you make the most of your dance training, including the Dance Student Journaling Prompts and the Dance Goal-Setting Guide and Worksheets. I’m also available for private lessons and coaching, online and in-person, with the goal of helping dancers be at their best in dance technique, artistry, and overall well-being through social and emotional learning.