Conquering the Fear of Flying: For the Anxious Dancer

There’s no magic word that I can say to make you take that first step.  I can’t quantify exactly what gave me the courage to do it, after so many years of not feeling capable.  The only person who can make that choice is you.  However, here are some ideas that I hope will help the anxious dancer:

  1. Align your breathing with the music: If you’re an anxious person like me, you’ve probably had people ask you to focus on your breathing. This isn’t easy! For me, it helps a lot to have something to focus my breathing on.  Listen to the music and try and breathe in time with it.  This will help you to move in time, too! It also gives you a way to disconnect from your nerves and feel the music instead.
  1. Relax into your posture: I struggle a lot with tensing up whenever I’m anxious. I’m often surprised when other people comment on how tense I am, because I don’t even notice.  Take a moment to assess your posture.  Do your shoulders want to creep upwards?  Does every step feel like you are unwillingly dragging your upper body after your legs?  Are your knees in a vise?  Are your fingers clenched?  If your dance feels like a lot of work, try taking a moment to take stock of your body and relax these or any other areas of tension.
  1. Communicate, but don’t apologize for existing: If something isn’t working in your dancing, I’m of the opinion that it’s best to talk about it. This doesn’t mean complaining about what you see as someone else’s faults.  It also doesn’t mean that you need to apologize for not being the world’s most expert tango dancer! If while you’re dancing, you feel that something is not right, start by trying to narrow that feeling down.  Does breathing with the music help?  Does relaxing into your posture help?  If not, did ruling out those options help you determine what is not working for you?  I bet it did.  Now you can say to your partner, I’m having trouble with ____ , can we work on that again?  Or, can we slow down and try that again? Try and resist the urge to hide your difficulties from your partner.  It’s not doing either of you any favors!
  1. Find a mantra: My inner monologue tends toward the critical.  It helps me a lot to come up with a mantra that I can repeat to myself whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed by that critical inner voice.  Some examples:  It’s okay to fail.  We’re in this together.  Everyone was a beginner once.  You’re having fun!  Everything is okay!  Find one that works for you and repeat it to yourself whenever that inner critic tries to take over.
  1. Gather inspiration: Maybe you love watching tango videos.  Maybe you have certain pieces of music that really make you want to dance. Find things that inspire you and return to them whenever you feel frustrated or overwhelmed, and even when you don’t.  Even if it’s something more abstract, like watching your dog leap or seeing leaves fall, eating a delicious apple or listening to people laugh, remember that feeling when you’re dancing.  Embody that joy.

I hope these ideas inspire you to dance, and to love and forgive yourself while you are dancing.  I know different things work for different people, so if something else works for you I would love to hear about it!  Until then, I’ll see you on the dance floor, flying.

There is freedom waiting for you,

On the breezes of the sky,

And you ask “What if I fall?”

Oh but my darling,

What if you fly?”

Erin Hanson

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