Are You Anxious About Your New Dance Class and Having the ‘New Class Jitters’?

It’s normal when starting nearly anything new to feel like the ‘odd man out’ or to have temporary doubts and feel nervous and anxious about something you were looking forward to. Even when something isn’t new – maybe you’ve done it for years – but now you are taking it up a notch, or are about to perform and have all eyes on you…it’s normal to feel jitters then, too.

We’ve compiled a list of common thoughts we hear expressed from time to time, and give you some advice to help you through.

Tips to combat those jittery new class thoughts:

“I have no idea what I’m doing and I just know they are all whispering about me.”

  • Every dancer – every single dancer – feels this way at some point. Even that girl with the long, lean legs who can développé up to her cheek with hardly any effort in ballet class. But when she is in her Hip Hop class she may feel out of place and afraid she can’t make her moves look funky. Instead, she thinks she just looks weird. At some point – everyone feels as though they are the clueless one. The ability to conquer fears is one that will aid you over and over in life. And success breeds success – the more you face your fears – the stronger  and more confident you become.

“I don’t understand all the words in ballet class…why does it have to be in French?”

  • Ask the teacher to explain what “Tendu” means. You can even ask after class in relative privacy at first until you feel comfortable speaking out. They’ll happily say, “To Stretch” which then will click with you right away when you think about the movement and connect it to the word.
  • Keep a Terminology Notebook and write down what they describe the words to mean in French.
  • Feel proud that no matter what country, what studio, what ballet class you take anywhere – you will know the language of ballet. Even in Russia – ballet class uses French words. Even in China – ballet class uses French words. Ballet is not just good for the body, it’s good for the brain.

“All the dancers already know each other, I feel so awkward standing here alone at the barre.”

  • First days are part of the journey through life for all of us. It starts with your first babysitter, first school elementary teacher, first date, first room-mate in college, first interview, and on and on. Life will continue to be filled with many firsts. Practicing these three things will make it easier:
    • If you are the new one, smile at the others and make eye contact
    • Ask their name
    • Use their name often – they’ll feel valued and you’ll have a new friend
    • When you see someone else is new, be the one who reaches out and makes them feel welcome in the way you’d like people to do for you!

“I think they promoted me to this class by mistake! I’m going to be so embarrassed any moment now when they realize it.”

  • Trust your teachers! Northland School of Dance has been teaching dance students for over 45 years, and our instructors are very good at knowing the right place for you.  If they see in you the things that are needed to place you on a certain line – be confident and know you earned it and you are where you should be. They know you aren’t going to have everything mastered right away, but they know you’ll keep working at it and they are confident you’ll get there.  Don’t waste a second of your life doubting yourself – your teachers didn’t doubt you and that’s why you earned the spot you did!

“I don’t have trendy dance clothes. My outfits are boring and not brand-name, and they’ll never notice me.”

  • It can be easy to get caught up in wanting to fit in with the same styles and brands as others, whether in dance, at school, or just hanging out. But as cliché as it may sound, it is 100% true that ‘clothes don’t make the man’ (or woman or dancer), Think about the strongest dancer you know at your studio. Think about their great performance in the last class you saw them in. What were they wearing? You might not even remember, at least not the details. Because it didn’t matter. You saw THE DANCER – not their clothes. People feel the same way about you. It’s your heart, soul, spirit, talent and determination they care about and are drawn to – not the logo on your jazz shorts or the style of your leotard.

“I am nervous and embarrassed to try those new leaps – what if I look dumb?”

  • It may sound odd, but in some classes there is a practice of applauding when a dancer falls onto the floor while attempting a difficult turn set or new leap. As in –  falls onto the floor – imagine applauding!! Why do we applaud? Because we recognize and celebrate that the dancer went for it! They were  ALL IN and gave it 100%! Yup, they may have fallen on their backside but they are a braver, stronger dancer already for trying. Next time – they’ll do it better.  That is what practice does – it takes you from a beginner to the point where you master a move.  And then you are a beginner all over again with the next turn set or leap sequence you learn. Remember – you’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take! 

“I am just not flexible! I give up, I’ll never catch up with the girls who clearly have rubber bands for muscles”

  • Ever seen the Grand Canyon? Pretty big huh? Pretty deep? Guess what – it took an extraordinary amount of time to cut through all the rock and make the canyon through which the river flows. And it started with a tiny stream of water. But year after year, decade after decade, century after century and so on and so on – that water flowed through and got bigger and stronger. Over time – it cut through the rock. It happened because it never gave up and it was willing to do the work – every day – even when it was just a little stream with a dream. Your splits can be flat, your turns can be solid, your leaps can be high. But not in one class, or one week or it might even take months or longer. If you decide you’ll get there no matter what – you’ll get there. Sheer force of will is stronger than any tight muscle! Be a stream with a dream! And don’t worry about catching up with others who are at a different point in their quest to be more flexible.  Just keep at it, strive be more flexible today than you were yesterday, you’ll get there! 
NORTHLAND SCHOOL OF DANCE