Helping a Dancer Rebuild Confidence

I’m pleased to say I’ve started a new job – one that is working into our schedules much better than the full-time one I just left. Sure it’s a big pay cut but I can now get my daughter to her dance lessons and practice sessions, I’m not bringing “work” home with me and I have more time to get back to writing – which I’ve missed. After all what’s more important – blogging or money? If only I could make money blogging…..but to the point…

We’ve been to several feiseanna this year with mixed results and it’s been a time of soul-searching for my daughter who has had a tough time getting back into the swing of things in her eyes. This is a girl who’s used to coming home with a fist full of medals and when she comes home with 1, or worse yet, none it brings her down. Only now she’s been getting down to the point of talking about quitting competition.

The Cincinnati Feis was a difficult one. DD felt off her game – missed a dance (not her fault – stage assignments were brutal) and after finishing her hornpipe she came back to our camp in tears and on the verge of a temper tantrum which is out of character for her – it’s isn’t for me because I’m a dance mom – but it is for her. She was frustrated with herself, unhappy with her performance and saying she’s lost her mojo and couldn’t compete anymore. I got her calmed down – mostly because I hate public outbursts but more importantly because she needed to catch her breath. Thank goodness one of her dance friends was there to help talk her off the ledge. Her friend told her it wasn’t her day, wasn’t a reflection on her as a dancer and a person, that she was a good dancer and sometimes the judges just don’t like the way you dance. With that DD’s friend took her by the hand and down to look at results – which brought DD a 5th place in her hornpipe – the dance she felt she did terrible in and was consistent with her results in Detroit. DD admitted she had calmed down and felt better but I still felt a trip to Buffalo Wild Wings for a mother/daughter/feis mom/dancer chat was in order – not to mention the feis mom needed a bevie.

How to handle a dancer who’s losing confidence? Do you try to save her or let her step back from feising a little to practice and regain some confidence? Over lunch I asked her a number of questions (that BA in Psych hasn’t gone to waste!) including what she felt was wrong, what she felt was right, what she was enjoying and what she wasn’t. It was also time to ask her about her goals. When DD first caught the feising bug she rattled off a list of goals including getting a solo dress, going to the Oireachtas, getting into Prizewinner and recalling at the Oireachtas. Well guess what – she achieved all of those before she was 10! She never replaced any of those goals with new ones and has, IMHO, been floundering.

I’m a goal orientated person. I need something to work at – even if it’s just getting my to do list accomplished. I can wish about things all I want but if I don’t get a plan of some sort into my head I waste a whole lot of time – I think that’s human nature. During our chat I reminded DD that she’s goal orientated too – she achieves what she sets out to do – like getting straight As, moving up to clarinet 1, getting her solo dress, etc – and maybe it was time to set some new Irish dancing goals before throwing in the towel.

I also felt the need to remind her that life isn’t always easy and you have to work for what you want. You can’t lay on the couch watching TV, texting your friends and take a dance class or two a week, not practice and expect to do well at a feis. It’s like me wanting to lose weight and get back to a size 6 while drinking beer, eating wings and watching work out programs (not doing the exercises) and expect the pounds to fall off – it’s not going to happen. She can dance to compete and/or she can dance for fun but if she wants to win a competition or place she needs to work at it. If she wants to take one or two dance classes a week and only dance for fun that’s fine too. I’m not the dancer – only she can make that decision. We’ll support whatever she decides. It wasn’t lost on me that DD was frustrated with herself – it showed that she cared and maybe didn’t really want to quit feising, she just needed some encouragement.

Since that time I’ve had her pull out all of her medals and ribbons, count them and her father found a way to display them in the studio. To her surprise she has close to 75 medals, ribbons and trophies all achieved in Irish dance before 11 years old. Still want to quit competing? Her answer was no.  It’s now time to take things to the next level.

We’ve also started private lessons with a coach who is helping her sharpen her technique, working her hard and refocusing her goals. This has helped bring the smile back to face and give her a boost she’s needed. She confident going into this week’s Rochester Feis and looking forward to the journey. Yes, it will be great if she places and brings more hardware home but if she can dance with confidence and feel good about what she did then she’s won.

Til Next Time – Slainte!


1 Comment »

  1. Ally said


    I am writing on behalf of Antonio Pacelli. We are launching a new site and are looking for parents of Irish dancers to blog.

    If you want to find out more then please email me and I can explain further!

    Many thanks,


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