Generally speaking: the stronger a dancer gets, the larger their ego becomes. Very often, the speed of ego expansion surpasses their actual dance growth. As the ego grows, it’s also a potential side-effect that the speed of dance growth will slow, and that they will become a toxic dance presence.
Who is at Risk?
All dancers are at risk of developing Dance Ego Syndrome, but you may be at an elevated risk if you fall into one of the following categories:
- Have been dancing more than 1 year
- Are no longer taking dance classes
- Are popular with dancers of the opposite or same gender
- Are frequently told you “look good” by other dancers
- Have a high dance ambition level
- Are considered to be a fast learner, or ‘naturally talented’
- Got the bulk of your instruction through YouTube, or other video devices
- Are considered physically attractive to the other dancers in your dance scene
Of course, falling into a category also does not guarantee that a dancer will develop DES, but the dancer must watch their ego carefully.
What are the Symptoms of Dance Ego Syndrome?
- Beginning to teach before ready, or before being trained by a professional
- Teaching and failing to upkeep professional development
- Taking advanced classes before ready, and focusing on patterns over technique
- Being overly critical of other dancers, and unable to accept constructive criticism of their own dancing
- Blaming others for a “bad dance” and/or being unable to have fun with a lower level dancer
- Feeling superior in a class setting
- Not taking advantage of opportunities to better their dance
How can a Dancer Prevent or Heal Dance Ego Syndrome?
By taking advantage of every opportunity to learn.
Never feel you are “too advanced” for a basic class, or that you are so competent you will get nothing out of attending a workshop on safety or technique. This is a key to stagnation in dance.
Recently, my partner and I taught a free Safety Workshop for our community. Online, the entire community was readily sharing/re-posting and commenting on what a great initiative was, and we had a great turnout.
But… missing were some of the people in the community who were very vocal about the workshop online, and/or those who needed it most. Many of those who felt their dancing was not “risky” do, in fact, engage in some of the behaviors we were trying to correct. By keeping ego in check and taking advantage of learning opportunities, you can only ever grow.
By focusing on their own learning in class, rather than the level of other dancers.
I have heard of and, occasionally, seen dancers who are far more concerned about everyone else in class rather than themselves. When you do this critique of others, you slow your own learning. If your partner is bad, work on how you can compensate the movement. If they’re too fast, work on following even if your partner is on time. This way, you will only ever grow, and your ego will recognize that by focusing on your own learning, you can see the holes in your own dancing and keep any burgeoning superiority crises under control.
By honestly assessing and asking for feedback on their actual dance level from professionals.
Social dancers are great, but unless they are a teacher-level dancer who can feel how you dance, they’re probably not the best qualified to give feedback. Even if every social dancer tells you that your dancing is amazing, there are likely still holes. Seek your feedback from the Pro’s, who are in a position to give you honest feedback on your progress. It’s very tempting to listen to all of the “you’re amazing”‘s and ignore the “this is not there yet”‘s, but doing so sabotages yourself and fosters an unrealistic ego.
By recognizing the areas they need to focus most on for improvement (particularly connection).
It is not easy to take critique and swallow the areas of dance that you need to work on, but it’s a surefire way to keep your ego in check. If someone gives you feedback (especially a professional), barring certain exceptions you should recognize there may be something there.
I pride myself on my ability to emote and perform, but I also have occasionally received feedback specifically in relation to unclear dramatic presentation. It would be very easy to write this off as “oh, well, they just didn’t get it”… but underneath, if they “just didn’t get it”, I didn’t do my job as well as I should have. Being able to take this feedback is critical to containing ego and moving forward as a dancer.
By reminding themselves that they are no better or worse than any other dancer in the room.
It is tempting view a less experienced dancer as less-than, but try to see beyond ego and recognize that every person in the room with you has different skills. You may be among doctors, lawyers, concert violinists, accountants, and auto repair geniuses. It wouldn’t be very nice in their area of comfort if they treated you like an idiot or inferior human.
Let your ego recognize that, while this may be your home, they have other skills you can learn from and other attributes. Even on the dance floor, if it is a strong dancer aspire to be like them. If they are struggling but really trying, admire their will in learning something that for some is incredibly tough. If they are doing this for fun, recognize that they have a rich enough life that this hobby is a fun, relax time… and admire that they still carve the time out to come out and share this love with you.
A dancer is not solely valuable because of their surface dance ability. At the center, all of us are multifaceted. I’m a law student, theatre technician, dance instructor, and absolutely horrible figure skater. I’m really glad that no one judges my worth on my skating skills, and hope that in dance we can set our dance ego’s aside to value other dancers as people.
If we keep our minds awake, we can prevent and reverse Dance Ego System. Spread the word, and remember:
Keep Dancing, Stay Happy, and Be Dance Humble 🙂