Imagine being asked if you were blind because you weren't in a perfect line with all the other girls. Doesn't feel too good huh? Next, imagine getting a role you worked SO hard for, only to find out a month later that you really suck at dancing and you're being replaced. Now, imagine that all the critiques your dance instructor gives you are directed at you, personally and not at your dancing.
Doesn't sound like fun, does it? Every dancer deals with a super mean instructor (I know I have). So what do you do when the criticism is either too personal, or just plain over the top? Read on for the scoop about dealing with criticism. (credit for this article goes to dancespirit.com)
1. Remember the Reason Why
You go to dance class because you want to get better, correct? Linda Hamilton, a dance psychologist points out, “to improve in anything, we need feedback to know what is working and what isn’t.”
Try not to take criticism personally, especially when it relates directly to your technique. Getting negative feedback doesn’t mean you aren’t talented—even professionals get criticized. The key, says San Francisco Ballet principal Vanessa Zahorian, is to remember that your teacher or coach is on your side. “Sometimes you look at a video and think, ‘I wish someone had told me to turn out!’ Coaches use pointers to make you look the best you can before you get onstage,” she says.
2. Consider the Source
If you’re feeling bombarded by criticism, take a moment to prioritize. A technique-related comment from a teacher usually carries more weight than a note from a peer or a parent. Similarly, if you’re in rehearsal for a specific piece, the choreographer probably has the final word on how steps are performed.
Technique or performance-related comments are different from remarks about your body, the latter will probably hurt more, even if they’re intended to help you. So, how do you know when to take body-related comments seriously? That’s where delivery matters. If your teacher speaks to you in private and respectfully suggests cross-training, that’s worth listening to more than a peer, parent or overzealous costume mistress commenting that you must have really enjoyed your birthday cake last week.
Although your teacher or company director is in charge, don’t automatically discount advice that comes from other sources. “If you’re in class with a leading dancer who happens to notice something and takes you aside, that’s useful, too,” Hamilton says. For example, if a fellow dancer shares how she overcame a similar technical problem, it might give you a new angle from which you can attack your issue. However, if a note from a peer runs counter to something you’re working on with your teacher, speak to your teacher before making the change.
3. Learn when to let go
Your first instinct after getting in-class criticism might be to practice a problematic move again and again. But sometimes, no matter how hard you try to incorporate the correction into your body, it isn’t going to happen that day. And that’s okay! Sleep on it, and look at the issue through fresh eyes later. Though your technical issue may be the result of something you can’t necessarily fix—short Achilles tendons or tight hip sockets, for example—odds are your body just needs time to adjust.
Taking a break to problem-solve isn’t the same as giving up. “Think about why something isn’t working,” Hamilton advises. “Maybe there’s a learning curve, and you need to give yourself time to pick it up. Maybe there’s a weakness that could be corrected with cross-training. Or maybe it’s just an off day, in which case, leave it alone and go back to it later.”
Also, remember that being a dancer isn’t always about pleasing others. During her run on “So You Think You Can Dance,” after several weeks of tough criticism from the judges, Karla Garcia got a much-needed reminder of why she was there. “The week I was kicked off,” she says, “Desmond Richardson was performing. Before I went on to dance my solo, I was disheartened and asked him, ‘What do I do? Everyone’s watching.’ Desmond said, ‘You’re a performer. You have to block all that out. They don’t exist. This time is about you taking the stage.’ I went on after that and gave the best performance [of my time on the show]. I wish I had thought about just enjoying being onstage from the very beginning!”
4. Be Kind to Yourself
Handling criticism with maturity and positivity requires inner strength. You have to try to love yourself as you are and forgive yourself when something isn’t progressing as fast as you’d hoped. Easier said than done, right? But think of it this way: As a dancer, you’re never done learning. Once you overcome one challenge, you’ll discover another.
“It’s important to use the drive for perfection in a productive way,” Hamilton says. “Excessive self-criticism can sabotage your goals by making you push through pain or hate everything you do. After a while, this often leads to depression and injuries.” Instead of becoming frustrated, reframe the issue by learning to work within your body’s limitations. Hamilton recommends asking your physician for an orthopedic screening to learn how your body can perform to its best potential.
As you progress in your training, remember that you are your most important critic. “Stay humble, but know that what you think of yourself is the thing that matters most,” Garcia says. “That has helped me develop a tough skin throughout my career. People have different tastes, and there will always be someone with something negative to say. Just be your best dancer—and your best person—and enjoy taking the stage.”
That about wraps up all the knowledge I have on dealing with criticism. It's a hard thing to deal with and we're all our own worst critique so always take criticism with a grain of salt, especially if you're sensitive to things along those lines (like I am). I hate it when people criticize me and it always makes me feel like a horrible person, especially if said person's critiques are correct (such as sometimes I can be self-centered). To deal with that, look at the context of who and why this person gave you criticism. If you're close with them and you trust them then get their help to change your behavior. But if their personally attacking you, being extremely rude and saying things that aren't true then by all means, don't listen to what they say. Above all, believe that you are an amazing person and remind yourself of that.
I hope you all enjoyed it and found it helpful and informative. If you did please don't forget to give this post a +1 on Google+, share it with all your dance friends and teachers who need to know about hyper-extension. I will see you all in December.
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