Finding confidence through dance


Joey He

The hot glare of the stage lights obscured my vision as I stood frozen in the center of the stage, my heart pounding. My fellow dancers swarmed around me like a school of sequined fish, outfitted in red, ruffled jumpsuits. A song from the Mamma Mia soundtrack blasted through the speakers, overpowering my thoughts as I tried, with increasing desperation, to recall the next steps in the choreography. However, my memory stayed resolutely blank. I could feel my face burning as red as my costume, and I closed my eyes against the tears threatening to spill over. In a last-ditch attempt to disguise my panic, I ducked behind another row of dancers and hid, flushed with mortification, until the curtain came down. 

I have never been the best dancer. Despite years of classes and the tireless efforts of my teachers, my average coordination and less-than-average sense of balance have never transformed into an exceptional flair for performance. The memory lapse that my eleven-year-old self suffered during a Mamma Mia dance show exemplifies my general ineptitude in dance. My lack of natural talent used to make me feel insecure and undeserving of the opportunity to attend dance class. Whenever I performed, I felt as if I was being judged and criticized, both by others and myself. However, as I’ve grown up and learned more about myself, I have realized that the value of dancing lies in the fun of it, not in earning outside approval. Through dancing, I have learned to disregard my fear of others’ opinions in favor of enjoying myself and working to improve my skills. This mindset allows me to express myself and explore my interests with no inhibitions. 

Through dancing, I have learned to disregard my fear of others’ opinions in favor of enjoying myself and working to improve my skills.

Nearly four years after my ill-fated Mamma Mia performance, I found myself, once again, panicking onstage. I had fallen behind in the choreography, and in my rush to catch up, I made a thoughtless mistake. I miscalculated the distance of a leap and landed clumsily at the front of the stage, in full view of every spectator. In the few seconds that it took for me to steady myself, I accidentally made direct eye contact with a member of the crowd. Face to face with another person, my fears diminished as I realized that this person’s opinion of me was inconsequential. What truly mattered was the way that I felt about myself, and the joy that I felt while dancing. Despite my embarrassment, this moment of unintentional connection gave me the confidence that I needed to continue. Armed with a newfound sense of liberation, I stared into the blinding stage lights, gave the audience my biggest, fakest smile, and began to improvise. Flinging my arms out to mimic the rest of the dancers, I twirled and jumped until I reached my spot. I looked out at the audience, noticing that the view no longer felt so daunting. As the music faded and the applause began, I felt my fake smile becoming real. I left the stage feeling dizzy and out of breath, but proud.

This incident taught me that confidence is a crucial part of any skill. Whether I’m on stage, in school, or in a social situation, having a sense of inner confidence allows me to push myself to improve and find joy without fear of judgment from others. For example, I used to avoid making new friends because I was afraid of rejection. However, I have grown to realize that if I want to better my life, socially or otherwise, I have to be willing to risk failure. The person that I was at eleven years old wasn’t able to find the strength to continue dancing after making a mistake, but the person I became four years later did it with ease. Through my experiences with dance, I have learned to fight insecurity in order to become the best version of myself.

Joey He

My progression from insecurity to confidence in dance, despite little discernible skill improvement, represents a shift in my approach to life. A bad grade on a test used to send me into a spiral of shame and self-doubt. Now, I recognize that my failures don’t define me or limit my future potential. A bad grade is no longer an insurmountable obstacle to success, but rather a chance to learn and better myself. Struggling in dance taught me that success doesn’t always come from talent, and perfection is an impossible goal. Rather than worrying constantly about the way that others view me, I’ve learned to devote my energy to seeking joy and personal improvement.