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Dance Like Nobody’s Watching

By Dr. Brad Kent, Director of Music | Monday, March 10, 2014 12:37 PM

Dance like nobody's watching.

This is a phrase we often hear when we are encouraged to be uninhibited and to express ourselves.  But why do we need this reminder?  I am often inspired when I see my daughters “dance like nobody’s watching” or do anything “like nobody’s watching.”  They have not yet acquired the learned behavior of fearing someone else’s judgment.  Therefore, they typically “perform” their best.

At some point we adults learn this element of fear that inhibits us from doing our best.  Human beings can be very judgmental by nature, so as we get older, this fear becomes firmly baked into our psyche.  Sometimes we are on the giving end of it, and sometimes we are on the receiving end of it. But most agree that when not handled properly this fear becomes a roadblock to achieving maximum results in performance.  Yes, we cannot do our best without a defined system of preparation, but we can maximize our performance potential in the moment by letting go of fear.  For instance, the performer must know that in order to achieve nirvana in a performance he or she must truly let go of any concerns and know that those concerns serve only to inhibit the performance. 

As music teachers we have the privilege of performing with our students, not only conducting the music but facilitating the artistic experience.  Therefore, it is essential for us to remember when the lights come on at the UIL stage and the announcer butchers the last name of the composer of one of our pieces, that our students will only be as nervous as we are.  Prior to that moment, find peace in knowing that everyone has done his or her best in the preparation process, and let go of any inhibitions that you may have — become the music and live in the moment.  We all know that as musicians we are never sure when those magical moments will happen, but we can be sure that they will not happen if we allow the mental minutiae of performance anxiety to infect an otherwise peak experience.

May your spring semester be filled with fruitful musical experiences and may you and your students always “dance like nobody’s watching.”