WARNING: This post is a long one. Dance slumps are a serious problem and require a serious number of words to address properly.

When the initial infatuation with dancing has worn off, alien feelings can take up residence. Instead of exhilaration and constant excitement, you can experience frustration or boredom, even hurt or anger.

You might have a sudden plummet, or a long downward spiral. Or a fog may slowly creep over you until you once day notice you’ve “lost the spark.” Know this:

You are not alone.

As bad as it feels to have a sudden change in your feelings toward dancing, you need to know that this is normal. Every single dancer on Earth deals with it. Most of us have lots of ups and downs.

Here’s what we’ll talk about in this post:

  1. How to identify when you’re in a dance slump by knowing what it feels like.
  2. How to pinpoint the source (or sources) of your unwelcome emotions.
  3. How to decide which concrete actions you will take to get yourself out of a dance slump.

What a Dance Slump Feels Like

Here’s a collection of feelings you might experience:

  • Frustration, disappointment
  • Disgust for dancing
  • Discouragement
  • Sadness, depression
  • Hurt, sense of loss
  • Loneliness, isolation
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Longing
  • Blah, indifference, general lack of interest
  • Listlessness, mindless searching for answers
  • Exhaustion after dancing, or even just thinking about dancing

And a few more with explanations:

  • Procrastination or resistance (to practice, social dancing, organizing your event, etc.)
  • Self loathing (“I’m such a bad dancer. I learn so slowly. I’m always making mistakes.”)
  • Questioning (“What’s wrong with me? Should I quit? Is lindy hop even the thing I want to do right now?”)
  • Blame, of yourself or others (“I wish these dancers were better so I could have better dances.”)
  • Community hate (“My scene sucks! These dancers aren’t very good/challenging/inspiring. No one loves lindy hop like I do.”)

Remember, these are symptoms. The way you are feeling is not the problem. I’ll say it again:

Your emotions are not the problem.

Is is 100% okay to feel any number of these things! Really and truly, I promise you. Don’t make emotions your enemy.

By trying to “fix” how you are feeling, you cover up the true source of your feelings. Instead, dare to take a deeper look at what’s really got you down.

The 5 Common Causes of Lindy Hop Unhappiness

Take some time to think about which of these applies to you. More than likely, you’ll identify with more than one of these core issues. You may even being able to think up a category I haven’t mentioned. (If so, leave me a note in the comments!)

Note: any of the above mentioned feelings can associated with any of these causes. Especially when you begin combining causes, emotions can get intense and unpredictable.

Growth Slump

Plateau, lack of challenge, lack of achievable goals, lack of progress, inability to win competitions. Any time you realize you’re not as good as you thought.

Burnout

Doing too many things, too much responsibility, too much social or scene pressure, too much practice. Consequently, you haven’t had enough rest time.

Social Woes

Trouble making friends. Perhaps you’re not getting asked to dance, or you’re afraid to ask others. Maybe you don’t like the friends you’ve made or have trouble being yourself around them. You could feel at odds with your scene.

Identity Crisis

Who am I as a dancer? Why do I dance? Where do I fit in? What’s my calling? Am I a performer, competitor, deejay, organizer? What if I don’t want any of that?

Fear of Missing Out

All the events you’re not going to, the people you aren’t dancing with, the opportunities you don’t have. Usually, you’re also thinking about the great opportunities and dancing everyone else seems to be having.

How to Deal With Your Unwelcome Emotions

The source of your unhappiness determines what actions you take. However, no matter the cause, there are 3 things you MUST do:

First, understand reality.

Everyone experiences the doldrums. People feel it differently and frequently hide it, but you’re not special. You too get to deal with lindy hop melancholy.

Second, adjust expectations.

The ups and downs will keep coming, year after year. The downs are even more prominent if you expect to keep progressing. You will not accomplish everything at once. There will be no magic bullet, only growth and discovery won through patience and determination. “Victory is sweetest when you’ve known defeat.

Third, allow for change.

Your relationship with lindy hop will change over time, and it’s not always predictable. Six years ago I thought I wanted to be like my idols on YouTube. It turns out I wanted to be a blogger. You will continue to discover who you are as a dancer.

Sidebar: Unreasonable Expectations and the Havoc They Wreak

Here’s the straight dope on unreasonable expectations: they kill you slowly. Root ’em out and evict them from your brain. I promise you’ll be happier.

A few common ones:

  • “I should be learning faster.” Better: “I’m not learning as fast as I want.” Then google how to learn faster.
  • “That person should ask me to dance.” Better: “Whoever wants to dance with me should ask me to dance.”
  • “Other people should love lindy hop as much as I do.” Better: “I should connect with people who share my love of lindy hop.”
  • “I should have won that competition.” Better: “Next time I’ll do my best, and that will be enough.”
  • “Other people should like the music and/or style of dancing I like… because my tastes are better.” Better: “People are at different places in their artistic tastes.”

Unreasonable expectations encourage your sense of entitlement, an extremely poor way to get what you want.

11 More Concrete Actions

1. Analyze the cause. Maybe it’s several causes! Ask yourself which is the worst, and start there. Discover your unreasonable expectations and give them the boot.

2. Take a break! It’s okay! Really! Many of my slumps have been addressed by taking a vacation from lindy hop.

3. Focus on what’s good, the opportunities you do have, the things you do right. When you get distracted by the things that are bad, tell those thoughts, “Shut the hell up, you’re not running this show!” Thoughts can be really stupid sometimes. Culturing positive thoughts takes practice.

4. Deepen your relationships with the people who support you. Don’t focus on people who don’t support you. Remember to look at people as individuals, not means to an end. If you focus too hard on what function people serve in your life, you may forget how to enjoy simply being with them.

5. Talk about it. This is critical, especially if you feel isolated or lonely. Support can also come from unexpected places. If you don’t have supportive friends, try talking to an acquaintance you’d like to know better. A great friendships could begin with, “Man, my dancing has been really blah lately. Have you ever experienced that?”

6. Make opportunities and take chances. This is really hard, because it can kick up your inner voice that says, “I’m not good enough.” My entire first year of blogging, I was a nervous wreck before publishing each post. “Am I good enough to post this? Will people think I’m stupid?” Yes, some of them will. In which case refer to #4 above.

7. Learn better practice skills. All practice is not created equal. How you practice can mean the difference between growth and stagnation.

8. Do something else. Don’t be ashamed of trying new hobbies or different dances. Lindy hop is a non-monogamous lover, and it values the liberal arts. Get education in many subjects. Each will enrich your relationship with lindy hop.

9. Try again. Whether it’s right now, tomorrow, or next year. “Fall down seven times, get up eight times,” the proverb goes. There is always another opportunity to try.

10. Find a niche. Nothing is more motivating than choosing a calling. What are you here for? What do you do best? How can you give unique value to the community? Ask, “Who am I as a dancer?” These questions won’t be answered in a day.

11. Find a mentor, a more experienced friend you can be honest with and who will be honest with you. Though we don’t have official mentors or coaches in lindy hop, filling this role can be invaluable. We need more guidance than we realize.

And in Conclusion, One Final Secret

My secret, above and beyond all the actions I’ve mentioned above, is simple. I made a decision that lindy hop is a top priority, and I’m sticking to it.

The benefits of commitment are huge.

It gives me an identity, an unmistakable direction to travel. Commitment frees up my brain to move forward. Feeling down becomes another way of experiencing lindy hop, rather than a sign that all is lost. Instead of letting a rough patch determine what I do, my feelings inform my dancing, writing, and practice.

Being committed also puts everything in perspective. I’m going to be dancing for many decades. One bad day, one bad month (even a bad year!) is only a drop in the bucket.

But commitment didn’t come easily.

A friend who’s going through a dance slump recently said: “I read all your blog posts and emails and I wonder, how do you find time to do all that?”

In the past I’ve wondered the same about other dancers who seem to be successful. This question is about more than time management. It’s almost asking, “How do you dare to find the time? How do you dare to set everything else aside? How do you dare to put yourself out there?”

I wasn’t always this committed. At the beginning I believed I was taking lindy hop seriously. But outwardly I acted nonchalant most of the time, rarely daring to act in full accordance with how I felt.

Two years ago, I finally couldn’t stand it anymore. I was angry and disappointed in myself for not doing my absolute best. So I posed myself some questions: “What do I ultimately want to be as a lindy hopper? If I were serious about this, what would I do?”

I’ll admit I’ve stumbled a lot while trying to bring my actions in line with my feelings. But I’ll save those details for another post.

If your actions speak differently from how you feel in your heart, this could be the ultimate source of your misery. As you thrash your way through your lindy hop issues, remember that becoming a lindy hopper is  not a singular goal. It’s a constant process of discovering who you are.

Leave a comment and share your story:

1. What has your dance slump felt like?
2. What caused it?
3. What did you do (or are planning to do) to get out of it?