[中][ENG] 舞者的抗逆力 The Resilient Dancer
Optimizing Dancers’ Performance
The Resilient Dancer
Text: Brenton Surgenor
Photo: HKAPA School of Dance
The relentless pursuit of technical and artistic excellence can take a toll on dancers mentally as well as physically. Dancers need to be resilient to thrive in the dance world. But what does it mean to be a resilient dancer, and how can we work with dancers to help them develop the resilience they need to flourish?
Resilience is the ability to cope with stressful and difficult moments in life and is often described as a person’s ability to bounce back after challenging experiences. Resilience can also be seen as extra protection against the negative thoughts and feelings that come with life’s more difficult experiences. Whether they are faced with an injury, an unsuccessful audition, or performing badly in a dance class, by developing resilience dancers can cope with these and other major and minor life challenges.
Positive relationships play an important role in building the resilience of a dancer. This starts at a young age when family environments that provide structure and safety have positive effects on the development of psychological resilience. Dance training environments also have a major influence on building resilient dancers, as they provide structures and opportunities for students to learn and develop skills and talents. However, even if your early life experiences were not ideal for the development of resilience, research shows it is never too late to become a more resilient dancer. Here are two ways to help you and/or your dancers develop resilience.
Focus on Your Strengths
Rather than focus on what you are not good at, focus on what you are good at and use this to support areas of weakness. Before you can use your strengths, you will first need to identify what these are. The good news is everyone has strengths. These are the things that you are naturally good at and come easily to you, which is why sometimes it is difficult for us to recognize them as strengths.
Sometimes it is easier for others to see our strengths, so one way to identify your strengths is to sit with a good friend and ask them what they think your strengths are. This should lead to a very affirming conversation as your friend helps you identify all the things which you are great at doing. Another way to identify your strengths is to answer the following questions with a focus on the objective truth. This is no time for modesty, you are the only one who will see your answers, so be honest about the things you do best.
What is the best thing about you?
What do you like most about yourself?
What are you like when you are at your best?
What, or who brings out the best in you?
What is your most significant achievement?
How have your strengths helped you in the past?
How can your strengths help you in the future?
There is even an online questionnaire that can help you identify your top five character strengths (the VIA Brief Strengths Test: https://bit.ly/3uz5i8B). This is part of a research project by the University of Pennsylvania in the USA and requires registration with the programme. If you are interested in doing this, the questionnaire will give you a list of your character strengths and you may take the top five (discard the rest), pin the list to your fridge or in your locker and look at it every day to remind you of your character strengths.
Once you have identified your strengths, commit to using them in a new way at least once a week. It might be that you discover you are a really well organized person. Commit to looking for moments in your day when you notice how organized things are and how you have helped others (and yourself) with you excellent organizational skills. As you do this you will begin to see how being organized is a strength and that you are really good at it. You can also look to apply these strengths at times of difficulty.
If you have a great sense of humour, remember to use this when you encounter a challenge. Laugh it off, make a joke, and remember you may not have got the job you wanted but you are a fun person to be with and can always make people laugh.
Another way to develop resilience is to have a gratitude practice or to keep a gratitude journal. Research suggests that focusing on what we are thankful for has a significant and positive impact on our wellbeing. Starting a gratitude practice does not have to be a big effort and a great way to begin is to start with small activities. Start the day by thinking about something you are thankful for. It could be getting a good night’s sleep, speaking with a friend, or taking a class that inspired you. You could then start a gratitude journal where you write down three things that you are grateful for each day. These things might be as simple as a great yoga class, a healthy breakfast, or seeing improvement in your dance technique. By becoming aware of what we are grateful for, and taking note of these things, we can replace, or avoid altogether, the negative thoughts associated with difficult situations in life.
These are just two approaches to help care for ourselves and develop resilience. By developing resilience we are putting a reserve of positive energy in the tank for when things are difficult or when we are becoming preoccupied with negative events. Resilient dancers can maintain their self-efficacy (i.e. a personal judgment of how well (or poorly) you are able to cope in a given situation based on the skills you have and the situation encountered) and their confidence even when they are facing difficult and challenging situations. If you are interested in learning more ways to develop and maintain resilience check out some of the references below and learn more ways to thrive and flourish as dancers and in everything that you do.
Seligman, M.E., 2012. Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. Simon and Schuster.
Duckworth, A., & Duckworth, A. (2016). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance (Vol. 234). New York, NY: Scribner.
Authentic Happiness website: www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu
Senior Lecturer in Dance Science at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.
Brenton is a teacher, qualified psychotherapist, and wellness coach. He integrates a variety of somatic, physical, and psychological practices into his work, and is an active member of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy.