Do you Recognize the Eight Early Warning Signs of a Dance Disaster

Article written by Chris Lynam of Arthur Murray California


“Shutting down logical brain function.”  

“Pumping blood to extremities.  Commence fight or flight recovery efforts.”

“Glaze the eyes, cue the sweat… we have reached critical mass.”

Dance Disasters:  They are bound to happen, but will you be prepared when they do?

These 8 Early Warning Signs are not the tingly, sweaty, pit of your stomach queasy feelings associated with a dance disaster or nerves.  These signs are the little choices, feelings, and behaviors that will bring on the tingly, sweaty, and queasy feelings.  After all, disaster on the dance floor strikes those who are the most susceptible.  Hopefully, after this article, that will not be you.

1. Non-Committal

Warning Sign Summary:  When your decision to participate wavers from week to week, day to day, or minute to minute

Think of it Like:  If this were a wedding, and you were the wavering, non-committal type, your fiancé would have left with one of the groomsmen before the rehearsal dinner.

The Doctor’s Orders:   Commit… and leave no escape plan.  Take on the next event like a Viking.  Reach the shore, then burn the boats.  No retreat, no surrender.

 2. Staying Casual

Warning Sign Summary:  When your teacher worries before you do.  Without imminent danger, it’s easy to stay casual and turn down the lesson strategy your teacher is suggesting.

Think of it Like: There’s always a character in a horror movie that scoffs at everyone that is worrying too much.  “It’s not like anything bad can be in there.”   Then they realize their approach was wrong… when it’s too late.

The Doctor’s Orders:   Start the strategy sooner if you want to enjoy the process. The more time you commit early, the more relaxed you’ll feel leading up to your next event.

3. You Aren’t Nervous

Warning Sign Summary:  Denial

Think of it Like: Saying that you’re nervous, is different than saying you are a wimp.  It’s okay to be nervous, excited, or just under-prepared.  That’s what keeps you human and sounding like you care about the result.

The Doctor’s Orders:  Say, “I am nervous, but I’m not panicking.” Or, “I think I am just excited, and really want to do a great job.”  It’s honest, denial free, and there’s nothing wimpy about it.

4. Your Mental Reactor

Warning Sign Summary: The dance version of cramming.

Think of it Like:   Cramming for comfort is exactly like having a suitcase packed and ready to go.  It’s full.  That’s your muscle memory.  Your last minute items, your non-essentials – everything you’ve got in your backpack, those are the bonus items that your “mental memory” can handle.

The Doctor’s Orders:   Cramming for repetition is great.  Cramming for survival is not.  Taxing the reserves of your mental reactor with mandatory items like choreography changes, or heaps of new technique could put you on the fast track to a meltdown.

 5. Lost Landmarks

Warning Sign Summary:  Mental shutdown due to missing landmarks from your studio rehearsals

Think of it Like:  Whether it’s your next PowerPoint, your lines for community theater, or an away game in your softball league:  The best people get acclimated to the arena they are performing in… before they perform in it.

The Doctor’s Orders: Your body, no matter how prepared you may feel, needs to get acclimated to the room, and the surroundings.  Arrive at your next event early and, even if it is only for a few minutes, simulate your dance performance in the new environment.

 6. The Learning Shield

Warning Sign Summary:  Closed off to coaching, compliments, and general conversation.

Think of it Like: Your teachers are like your coaches. There is coaching before, during, and after the game.  That’s how we learn as students.  Compliments, feedback, and questions are all designed to keep the lines of communication open, and keep you on the right track.

The Doctor’s Orders:  Keep in mind that your dancing will rarely resemble how it feels to you. Your teachers are the interpreters of the world outside of your head.  Listen.

7. Isolation Island

Warning Sign Summary:  Do you process fear, worry, nervousness or regret… like a superhero?

Think of it Like:  Batman goes to his cave.  Superman, the fortress of solitude.  Your teachers can’t fix potential dance disasters if you are isolating yourself.

The Doctor’s Orders:  Don’t be a superhero.  If there’s a potential problem, share it with the people that can fix it.

 8. Help Yourself

Warning Sign Summary: The Dance version of “Self-Medicating”

Think of it Like:  Giving yourself a “snap-out-of-it” pep talk is one thing, but this can be a sign of an immediate dance disaster.  The problem is the degree of feedback you’re giving yourself, and how much of it is actually productive.  When in doubt, seek out your teachers.

The Doctor’s Orders:  Only Rambo should perform surgery on himself, and never at a dance event.

In closing

At times, you may have felt frustrated, regretful, or even angry for having a minor dance meltdown at a dance event.  What we fail to realize, in that moment, is that these little disasters are what improve us, and prevent us from complacency.  If this were golf, how interesting would the game be without the threat of a bad shot looming around every corner?

You see, your teacher will never be able to guarantee that you won’t have a disaster, just like your financial planner can’t guarantee a certain return, or your doctor can’t guarantee that you won’t get sick.  It’s the risk that prompts the best practices and behaviors that keep you healthy.  So, embrace the risk.  It’s the sweaty, queasy way of making you a better dancer… in the face of disaster.

Happy Dancing!

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