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Strategies for coping with audition disappointment.

It’s the audition season, and many students will have recently attended auditions with many having already received a response in terms of outcome. Having put in a lot of hard work and commitment, in terms of preparation, a disappointing outcome can be difficult to deal with; yet this is likely to be the reality for many students at this time. This post is written to help students deal with such disappointment constructively and help keep things in perspective.


Artists working within the field of performing arts do have to deal with ‘ups and downs’ frequently and most importantly use these experiences, from both ends of this spectrum, constructively. Taylor and Estanol suggest the dancer should, ‘…keep the ups and downs in perspective by acknowledging that they’re a natural and expected part of the art form’ (2015, p.7). They suggest attending to the way in which you measure success and failure, for small changes to your mindset here have the potential to assist in dealing positively with disappointment. If your definition of success is defined in very narrow terms, such as fixed only upon gaining a place in a school or gaining a particular role in a performance, this is not a very constructive way of measuring success and will make failure in these narrow terms difficult to deal with. If you can define success more broadly and positively this can facilitate progression in a positive way. Your definition of success could be performing at your best, really enjoying the experience of performing, perhaps achieving goals you had set for yourself. Taylor and Estanol make a crucial point in identifying that such a definition of success “…lies entirely within your control, you have the power and to pursue and achieve success at will” (2015, p.9); it is not dependent upon an external factor.


A ‘failure’ in these terms can be viewed positively as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and your practice. You can learn how you perform under pressure, perhaps for the first time as only these experiences can offer this, and you may be able to identify more easily areas that require further attention in order to find improvement – again these factors are all within your control and could be used to inform your current and future goals, keeping you motivated and inspired.


Research suggests it might also be helpful to give yourself some breathing space after a disappointment. The strategy of taking time off from performance-related concerns and emotions is known as mental detachment, and research suggests it is effective in the process of recovery (Sonnetag & Fritz, 2014; Balk et al., 2018). We all know how easy it is to dwell upon particular incidents or experiences to the point that such attention affects our wellbeing significantly causing fatigue and even playing a factor in a higher susceptibility to injury (Noh et al., 2009; Balk et al., 2018).


If we truly keep the audition disappointment in perspective, we can see that it is but one negative which actually has the potential to bring about so many positives that might otherwise have been missed - opportunities for the growth and development of you as an artist. Coping with adversity is also a valuable lesson for life, not only for dance. It is through dealing with such setbacks that we learn about ourselves, perhaps learn about humility, and gain an appreciation of what it takes to achieve our goals.


References:


Balk, Y. A., de Jonge, J., van Rijn, R., Stubbe, J. (2018). “Leave it all behind”: The role of mental demands and mental detachment in relation to dance students’ health and well-being. Medical Problems of Performing Artists, 33(4), 258-264. https://doi.org/10.21091/mppa.2018.4038 



Noh, Y. E., Morris, T., & Andersen, M. B. (2009). Occupational stress and coping strategies of professional ballet dancers in Korea. Medical Problems of Performing Artists, 24(3), 124-134. https://doi.org/10.21091/mppa.2009.3027 



Sonnetag, S., & Fritz C. (2014). Recovery from job stress: The stressor-detachment model as an integrative framework. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 36(S1),  S72-S103. https://doi.org/10.1002/job.1924 



Taylor, J. & Estanol, E. (2015). Dance psychology for artistic and performance excellence. Human Kinetics.

Denise Horsley MSc - Blommaert Ballet School Dance Science Advisor