Thursday, August 13, 2015

Tips for the Socially Awkward Dancer

It's no picnic being socially awkward. You tend to say the wrong thing at the wrong time,  inadvertently hurt people's feelings, walk into stationary objects, have no idea when to stop (or start) talking, and get excited at inappropriate moments. It feels like you missed a day at school and, while you were gone, everyone else learned how to communicate with each other.

I started dancing so I would be cool.

Because I wasn't cool.

I saw people dancing and they seemed cool, so I figured I'd dance and be cool, too.

But you can't chase your own dorkiness away with a few hitch-kicks and a pirouette. As a matter of fact, the further your average awkward human gets into the world of dance, the more they might feel hamstrung by their social limitations. Dance is about communication. It's about collaboration. It's about moving with confidence. It's about being able to hold 1000 different conversations with your audience.

There's also an ingrained hierarchy to much of the dance world, which means you have to be able to network your butt off if you want to get ahead. Not the easiest task for the socially awkward amongst us.

Here are a few tips that have worked for me:

1. Don't take it personally.

There are all kinds of people in the world. Chances are, a lot of them aren't going to "get you". Taking it personally can cripple your progress. Brush it off, keep working on your chaine turns and find a positive mantra you can repeat to yourself. Negative thoughts are easy to dwell on. Don't get lost going down that path.

2. Find your tribe.

No matter how alone you might feel, there are others out there like you. Maybe they're in dance class. Maybe they aren't. Maybe they're online. Maybe they aren't. You might have to put some effort into those relationships, but they can be invaluable. Not just for the support and validation you get out of them, but for the support and validation you can give. Which leads us to our next tip…

3. It isn't about you.

Self-conciousness is often at the root of social awkwardness. You grow overly aware of every little thing you're doing or saying, subscribing too much weight to those moments, and allowing them to crumble beneath an artificial importance. You don't have to do this. Instead, ask a question. Ask a follow-up question. Allow yourself to think about what you're being told. (Normal people out there might laugh, but this doesn't come naturally to everyone.) If you can turn the spotlight softly onto someone else, that means you don't have to burn beneath its light.

4. Fake it till you make it, baby.

Dancers hear this a lot, but it's true. Pretend you're a bad ass and, not only might you trick a couple of people, you might also convince yourself. Keep putting yourself in challenging positions and don't let discomfort or fear stop you from giving it 100%. If dancers only danced the way they felt at any given time, we would end up with a lot of tired, hungry, cranky dances. It's the same way for conversation.

5. But don't sacrifice your authenticity.

"ARGHHHHH," you're probably saying. "How am I supposed to fake it while I make it, and be authentic at the same time?"

Beats me. I'm still working on it.

If you figure it out, let me know.

Here's the good news:

This is the best time in history to be a socially awkward dancer. Our culture is embracing nerds like never before, the internet gives us previously unheard of opportunities to connect with like-minded people and there are a million fun, wacky and weird things going on in the dance world. Being different allows you to contribute to dance in a way that is wholly unique. Eventually, if you stick around, the awkwardness that haunted you so much early on becomes a gift.

Show us the world from your point of view.

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