As in most skill sets, willpower and advancement comes from within an individual. You can teach to the best of your ability, support a students’ desire to achieve, and encourage students to improve and excel, but, ultimately, greatness and motivation comes from within a student. As instructors, it is our duty to foster our students’ independence, tenacity, and perseverance and encourage our dancers’ to subscribe to mental strength and focus.
One evening, I was teaching a class of students that are right on the technical threshold of being really great performers. Each student has an incredible amount of potential, though they do not always have the confidence to fully pursue that potential. For a few minutes, I watched them slop through their across the floor progressions, and I realized that they were timidly, halfway attempting the skills. I stopped the music, and I said, “Do you realize that you have the potential to be great?” They looked confused, but it seemed to hit a nerve. I reiterated that class is a safe place; a haven to try new skills and attempt new movements. If you do not get it the first time, get back in line and try again.
At that moment, the energy in the room shifted. Students were striving to do their best, asking concise questions, and attempting multiple times to succeed at varying skills. In that moment, they subscribed to the belief that they could be better, and by the end of the class, they were.
Mental strength is an incredible tool that effectively works in class, performance, and life. The students that subscribe are more motivated, determined, hard-working, and self-confident and will likely accelerate faster in their training. As instructors, it is our responsibility to encourage students to buy into this mentality. Watching a student independently take responsibility and accountability for his/her success is one of the great rewards of this profession. Don’t you agree?