The 4 ways that Dancers deal with Mistakes

Have you ever been in class and seen a fellow dancer or student mess up a step? Yes, of course.

dancers in rehearsal

My beautiful friend and fellow dancer, MJ

dancers in rehearsal

I see you!

Here are the 4 main ways that dancers respond to mistakes:

  1. Get really frustrated. Repeat step again and again with increasing anxiety until that sloppy double pirouette turns into a failed balance. Usually includes a facial expression of clenched teeth, maybe tears, and the all-important angry foot stomp
  2. Shrug and walk away. Think to self, “I’ll get it next time”. Successful approach about 50% of the time.
  3. Laugh it off- make a joke to someone else about how bad of a dancer you are. Don’t try again. Let that subtly affect your self-consciousness even if you aren’t aware of it.
  4. Laugh it off- recognize that this new movement or last attempt at a gargouillade (why do people even do these ugly things?) wasn’t very good or isn’t in your body yet, and try again, fully committed. Not in the ‘mental-institution’ kind of way. See #1. Or Black Swan. Or don’t, because that movie is bad.

I was cast in a fantastic Latin Jazz piece with choreography by Alycia Monique Perrin-Rodriguez for the 2017 production of this showcase from NYU Steinhardt. Alycia has toured the world as a performer and brings many world influences in her work. For instance, Afro-Cuban makes an appearance.

Unless you’re looking at me during that section, and then it’s just ‘someone help that child! is she having a seizure?’ style of dance. And yes, that is the technical term.

This piece is detailed, dynamic, challenging, but fun in a way that imbues confidence and joy. Until we get to that section and my eyes get stuck in the mirror. The good thing is, if there’s one lesson that life has taught me, it’s how to laugh at myself. This is what stretching your boundaries looks like. Not so pretty, but oh-so entertaining. And hey, it’s cheaper than a ticket to the movies.

dancers in rehearsal dancers in rehearsal dancers in rehearsal dancers in rehearsal

With this point, I leave you with this twitter account that I gracefully stumbled upon- ‘Pennywise the Dancing Clown’ who can dance to anything. I particularly like the Taylor Swift ‘Shake it Off’ version. This YouTube compilation shows off Pennywise’s versatility.

It is important that laughing at yourself not become a defense mechanism towards the fear that others are already laughing at your attempts. This sort of self-imposed judgement will sabotage efforts in taking your craft seriously, and damage work ethic.If you find yourself making a lot of self-deprecating jokes, maybe stop and consider what in dance makes you feel good about yourself and your abilities and how to strengthen that or translate it to the moments where you feel weak, bad, untalented, etc. I felt a profound shift in how I felt about myself when I started making an effort to not make these kind of jokes or statements, even in jest. I wish I learned the power of the words that leave our mouths a lot sooner.


dancers in rehearsal

in Alycia’s rehearsal. I”m 5th in this line

I think that it is part of a good teacher’s job to help coach not only proper dancing, but proper response regardless of the result. And also a responsibility of being a supporting member of class. If someone falls or doesn’t do something quite right, be sensitive to their feelings. I wish I had known this in college when I laughed to the point of tears at a teacher who fell. Whoops.

I am working on that section. I worked on it line at MIchael’s craft store where I had to buy more balloons for my new ballet. I think some other people being overcharged for fake flowers and party junk were getting a chuckle out of it. I don’t mind. When I hit the stage, I’m going to mean serious business.

Lightheartedness. It’s the only way we’ll all float down here…

jess ruhlin choreography

rehearsing the new ballet with my wonderful dancers


5 thoughts on “The 4 ways that Dancers deal with Mistakes

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