Tips for Building Confidence

The following are strategies intended to build confidence and encourage resilience. Though this list was composed with dance students in mind, these approaches could be used working with students across disciplines or in some general situations. To utilize with students in other areas of study, simply replace dance with another subject or field.

*Many of these principles derive from the work of Anne Gilbert Green and Nyama McCarthy-Brown, both scholars in the dance field who advocate for brain-compatible technique and cultural inclusivity, respectively.

Connect with students beyond dance. If students seem distracted or bothered by something, checking in can be a good first step. Allowing students to share personal experiences either privately or in a group (depending on the circumstances), can demonstrate to students that they are cared about. It can also provide an opportunity for students to feel heard and ultimately lead to improving rapport, both with the instructor and with fellow pupils. If students feel they are able to be authentic, they can use these experiences to fuel their dancing. Authenticity can contribute to a culture of listening and understanding.

• Provide meaningful and constructive feedback. It’s necessary to provide observations and corrections when dancers are working on developing their craft. If corrections need to be given, briefly sharing something positive can boost confidence even when coupled with aspects that need improvement. Both general and specific encouragement ensures students they are on the right track.

• Incorporate inclusive, collaborative experiences. Students feel heard when they are able to generate their own meaningful experiences. Allowing students to come together and learn from each other will create a general feeling of inclusivity. This collective invites an opportunity to build community, share experiences, and develop problem-solving skills. It also provides space to become more motivated and responsible.

• Encourage questions and make room for conversations. Asking questions is a great way for students to feel heard and to address their needs. Demonstrating interest can allow individuals to feel they have a voice that can be used. A group discussion where everyone feels welcome to contribute can be an opening for students to share their observations and feelings. A non-judgmental and embracing atmosphere may dissolve hierarchy in favor of a more collaborative approach.

• Offer time for creativity. Another way for students to feel encouraged and personally connected to dance is through innovation. Creative expression has many benefits including allowing space for dancers to process what they are learning, physically and emotionally. In addition, creativity can be a catalyst for self-expression. Students can experiment with imaginative choices that may enhance their performance and allow exploration of dance beyond the expectation of perfect technique.

• Be mindful of student needs and challenges. If a student is struggling, take a gentle approach. The student may already be experiencing a myriad of emotions about the situation. Expressing empathy and compassion will likely allow the student to feel safe, which will lead to better outcomes. Providing space for students to communicate openly will likely create higher levels of comfort and trust.

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