Isn’t it strange how powerful a transition in environment can be?
It’s the beginning of the school year and so many students have embarked on new training programs in new studios. In a class on self-talk this week, someone mentioned how being a new student can really change how you dance- and not in a good way. Most agreed that the newness of the space and the sudden pressure of unknown faces watching you takes its toll physically.
Why is it that class, which you did successfully two weeks ago at your old studio, is suddenly giving you so much trouble?
The students came up with some interesting answers:
- Comfort Level: It’s true that most of us feel good in our own space after awhile; that comfort level allows us to let go of our physical tensions and mental anxieties. The mind relaxes and the body follows. It is surprisingly difficult to accomplish much when the body is tense; yet so much of ballet is about letting the dancing happen rather than over-thinking and over-muscling. It takes time to transition and feel comfortable in a new space- to reach that level of being able to relax into yourself again.
- Being a little fish for the first time: This is one of the most challenging parts of transition in general. And yet, moving to a bigger pond is such an important part of pushing ourselves towards our goals. But even with that knowledge, the mind can still talk us into a hole about it. Comparisons can become constant and distracting; telling ourselves that we aren’t good enough only feeds the fire.
- Adjusting to new training takes time: The first time you’re told to change something about the way you dance, the experience of applying that correction can be frustrating. Although your mind completely grasps the concept, the body often does not follow. Brain: Adjust arm. Body: I like it the old way, thanks. Brain: No, adjust arm. Body: No thanks, old way is a-okay. What is that? It’s muscle memory and it takes a while to change it. If you have been holding your arm the same way for years, your body will not just adjust to the new way because you tell it to. Getting frustrated, while natural, won’t help. Your muscle memory doesn’t respond to emotion, only to repetition and re-training.
These are just a few examples of triggers that can challenge our self-talk. It’s easy to let the situation take control and to allow yourself to be dragged into negative thinking because you feel helpless. Instead, try to actively use your self-talk to help you through these challenges. Reframe negative thoughts to make them more positive. It might feel silly at first, but trust in the process: your mind and body are listening all the time to these messages. How you feel at any given moment during the transition can be managed by sending positive messages to your brain.
And slowly, the transition will become smoother. You’ll soon find that comfort level that allows you to push forward again. Just hang in there!