Body Rock is just around the corner and most of you are in the midst of hell week(s). There is grumbling that inevitably occurs, countless hours you spend living in the studio, and promises you make to yourself about being ‘done with the struggle of late night practices and early mornings‘. And yet, despite the hardship, you feel uplifted post-performance, and are once again rejuvenated and ready to get back into the swing of things. Post-performance adrenaline and endorphins play their part, but there is also a psychological reason why we as dancers are addicted to performing.
Flow, as coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi (say that 3 times fast), is effortless focus; it is the byproduct of knowing your craft so well through practice, that concentration with such ease allows you to tune out any distracting or conflicting thoughts. It requires passion, practice, finesse, and a mental challenge. We have probably felt Flow at one point in our lives outside the realm of dance, but since it occurs while we are doing an activity we truly enjoy, perhaps Flow is most apparent to us while dancing. Whether it’s during a performance or even during a productive rehearsal, Flow is that zen-like feeling you get when you’re so in-tune with your performance yet so comfortable with the movement, that over-thinking does not occur; you lose track of time and choreography is executed without much thought.
According to this concept, there are 7 conditions that need to be met for Flow to occur:
- A challenging activity that keeps you stimulated
- The combination of action and awareness
- Clear goals and feedback
- Paradoxical control
- Loss of self-consciousness
- Transformation of time
Dancing challenges us and keeps us on our toes (quite literally). We constantly seek improvement, we are constantly hungry for growth, and when given a challenge, there is a marriage of awareness and movement that creates a moment of spontaneity and presentness. As a dancer, as a team, through cleaning and hell weeks, you know exactly what each picture should look like, how the texture of each move should be executed, and your team directors do not hesitate to give feedback, letting you know which pictures look good and which require more crispness. While performing we are concentrated, we lose self-consciousness (because we are engrossed in movement), and because of this, we become unaware of time passing by. This sequence also creates a sense of paradoxical control (my personal favorite condition of Flow). The idea of paradoxical control is that the actuality of having control holds less weight than knowing it is possible to exercise control over our actions if need be (although we should be so comfortable with the sequence at hand, that we never worry about the loss of control).
Ultimately, being in Flow means you’re not only happier, but that you’re also at your most productive state. It allows you to feel that, even though you spent hours on end cleaning and meticulously going over details of each choreography, the practice was well worth the gratification. With such positive experiences being elicited by being in Flow, who can blame us for being addicted to performing?
What is your favorite aspect of performing? Do you relate to any of these conditions of Flow? Leave a comment below to share your experiences!
If you can relate to having felt Flow before, see if you can relate to these small pleasures dancers know!