A Fun Way To Overcome Your Fear Of Dancing!

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In 2016 I experienced the pain and loss of a divorce and was devastated. I came through it alright, and I talk about it on my About page if you’re interested. But one thing that really helped me at that time was discovering country dancing. It was a great distraction and turned out to be something that I really enjoyed. But there was a big hurdle to getting there! I suffered from a life-long chronic fear of dancing!

And believe it or not, there’s a name for this condition! It’s chorophobia! So, another phobia word for you. I knew about agoraphobia, claustrophobia, and arachnophobia (I’d say I have the last two!), and I think it is safe to say I was also chorophobic!

I did some dancing at those awkward high school dances in high school. But later, as an adult and then as a dad raising kids, something changed, and the idea of dancing in public was now off the table. Of course, this didn’t matter until I went to a wedding! I hated the prospect of a wedding where there was dancing. I don’t know which was worse, braving a try at joining in the dancing or being the only one left at the tables alone and standing out. Both were awkward propositions, and I was caught in between.

But then I discovered the country bar with partner dancing and line dancing, and over time, everything changed. Read on to hear how it happened and more about the causes of chorophobia and some good strategies to overcome the fear of dancing! But, just to cut to the chase:

A fun way to overcome your fear of dancing is by learning to line dance! Dancing that has improvisation can be intimidating. Line dancing helps since it is learning to dance in a structured, clear step-by-step way. Line dancing is a great entry point to dance. Line dancing is less intimidating.

Table of Contents

Reasons for A Fear of Dancing
Ways to Overcome A Fear of Dancing

A Fun Way to Overcome A Fear of Dancing
Why Does It Matter? Reasons To Overcome A Fear of Dancing
“Why I Dance” (Fear now Joy)

Reasons for A Fear of Dancing

While I’m very excited to write this blog post about the freedom I’ve found to dance, I realize that there are many reasons why people might be afraid to dance and that there can be some big things in the way. It’s important to know that there can be many reasons for your fear and what is keeping you from being able to let go and go dancing. Here are a few:

Social Anxiety–A fear of just everyday interactions, possibly because of a fear of being judged and embarrassed, could surely encompass and produce a fear of dancing. If just social settings seem unsafe to you, getting out on a dance floor where you feel like you are performing will certainly add to any sense of too much vulnerability.

Negative Experiences–Maybe something happened to you once when you were dancing. A negative experience where someone criticized you, or somehow you ended up being embarrassed. There’s no shame in having an aversion to dancing after something negative like this. If the experience was traumatic, it could even leave you with some Trauma or PTSD. Individuals who have experienced trauma to the point of having post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the experience was somehow tied close to dancing might associate it going forward with the traumatic event, leading to a fear of dancing.

Perceived Lack of Skill–It’s normal and quite common to believe you don’t have dancing skills. Of course, one of the most common sayings is: “I have two left feet!” Some people think they don’t have that dancing DNA or lack rhythm. As mentioned in the Arthur Murray blog post on this topic, this is just a myth! The Good news is that dancing is simply a skill and, like other skills, can and must be learned. Devote time to developing it, and you will discover you have one left foot and a right one to go along with it!

Body Image Issues–Negative body image or dissatisfaction with appearance can make individuals reluctant to dance in public. It’s natural to feel exposed or vulnerable while dancing. But the fact is all body types can dance and have a good time!

For me, part of the beauty of dance is that it is all about individual expression, and part of that expression is just who you are. Nobody will dance quite like you because they aren’t you! It doesn’t matter if you’re big or small, short or tall–dance is for you, and you are for dance!

Fear of Judgment–I relate to this one because it is an issue that sometimes still gets me to this day. Even if you don’t typically fear dancing, it’s still easy to fall back into that state of self-consciousness and wonder if people will judge you if you aren’t quite the dancer they are!

Lack of Exposure–Lastly, maybe you just have lacked the opportunity to dance or take dance lessons, so it is just a matter of the fear of the unknown and all that’s involved.

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Dancing the 10 Step at The Ranch.

Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Dancing

As convincing as that fear about dancing might be and the resulting aversion to it, it is possible to change things! The crazy thing about it is that as inconsequential as fear and disinterest in dancing might seem, facing it and tackling it head-on can lead to a life change that affects your life beyond a dance floor!

The main thing is to work on it! Treat this like any other problem to solve. Depending on where you are and how you got there, you may need a specific strategy for you.

Psychotherapy If Needed To Overcome A Fear of Dancing

If something traumatic has led to social anxiety and/or dread of trying to dance in public, maybe psychotherapy is a place to start. A good therapist will partner with you with kindness and enthusiasm to give you ideas on how to approach it.

One interesting thing is that psychotherapy and dance actually have an intersection in the existence of DMT–Dance Movement Therapy. Check it out!

Exposure Therapy To Overcome A Fear of Dancing

Many suggest that overcoming a fear of something like dancing is tackled by finding a way to slowly expose yourself to said activity in a safe, welcoming, non-judgemental environment. The Arthur Murray blog says: “The only way to improve your confidence in something is to participate in it.” I think that is so true. All of us have competence, expertise, and confidence in many things. We got there by just doing the thing over and over!

As I slowly overcame my fear of dancing (I will unpack the how below), it really was largely attributed to consistency. I had many setbacks, but I just kept at it. I kept going out and exposing myself to the next social dance event on the calendar and braved whatever happened as best I could!

A Secret Mindset For the Dance Floor

Another tip for overcoming a fear of dancing is to have a secret way of looking at it–something to keep in mind. It’s that while a fear of dancing is fueled by the thought that everyone is watching me“they see how bad I am…I look awkward and goofy!”–The truth is, they’re not! Generally, everyone is more like you on a dance floor than you think! Everyone is just concerned about themselves, how they respond to the music and rhythm, and what is happening with their body parts!

A good friend of mine at my local dance hall always says, “Dance like nobody is watching!” And the truth is nobody is! This isn’t easy to always believe and use as a way to overcome anxiety, but try it!

Another thing about worrying about being watched. Just know this: if someone is watching anyone, generally, people are watching the best dancer on the floor and nobody else.

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A good country bar always has rail seats! A good place to order drinks and watch the dancers!

A Fun Way to Overcome A Fear of Dancing

Observing Other Dancers

When I first started going to my local country bar, I was not interested in dancing and really had no intention of participating. But I found that there was something quite therapeutic for me in just watching other people dance. Since then, I’ve heard that “there is a benefit to even being on the periphery, and just to watch people dance. It is known that there is a benefit neurologically from just observing. The brain can get activated in the same way as if you too are moving!” –Christina Devereaux, PhD (Dance/Movement Therapist)

I believe this was happening to me without me knowing it. Instead of judging myself for not having the talent, I just forgot about myself and appreciated the movement of the dancers. Little did I know it was preparing me for the next steps! So, for starters, go where dancing is happening, try not to worry about the fact that you aren’t dancing, and lose yourself in the observation of dance.

Line Dancing! The FUN Way I Was Able To Overcome My Fear of Dancing!

Yes, it was line dancing that was the thing over time that got me there, but it did take a little time. My journey to dance freedom started out just by spending several nights enjoying just watching others dance. When I considered doing it myself, the dance floor seemed like a forbidden pit of lava! I was terrified about how I could ever actually step out onto it!

But at the bar I frequented, each night featured free dance lessons, and one was a line dance. I finally ventured out to take a lesson. The thing about line dancing that helped me was, first of all, we all just stood there, and then there was a simple, clear demonstration of exactly what to do! Where to put your left or right foot and when! They told me exactly what to do.

This, to me, was the game changer. The apparent improvisation and how the dancers somehow mysteriously knew what to do were the most intimidating about dancing! But when I was given specifics, it became accessible and right where I was at!

meDancing forAboutPg

But, to finish the story… about halfway through my first line dance lesson, I did exit the dance floor in haste! A typical line dance is 32 counts – 4 sets of 8. Well, this was all new to me, and the accumulation of the steps and challenge to keep committing them all to memory in the space of 10-15 minutes got a little challenging and overwhelming. I couldn’t keep up!

But here’s where just continuing to come and keep trying comes in. I tried it again the next week and did the same thing again–left about halfway through! But, then, as they say, the third time’s a charm!” I finally stuck it out and made it all the way through the third lesson I took!

In the weeks to follow, I used YouTube to keep learning new line dances in my kitchen and grew my skill and confidence. I also continued to come and take more lessons, slowly building skills and confidence over time. In time the dance floor was less of a firewalk and more of a fun playground I looked forward to! For good tips about how to learn to line dance, go to my post: 4 Popular Ways to Learn to Line Dance.

One of the great choreographers, Maddison Glover, teaches her dance Never Gonna Not Dance in a workshop and danced to Pink’s song Never Gonna Not Dance Again.

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Why Does It Matter? Reasons To Overcome A Fear of Dancing

I want to conclude this post with an argument for: “Why even bother with it?” Maybe you have a fear of dancing or have no real interest in it. The truth is that dancing can benefit our lives in a wide range of ways. Therefore, it’s something to think about finding a place for in your life and/or removing the barriers to participating in it!

The Physical and Emotional Benefits of Dancing

Because dancing involves movement, it is a given that it is an exercise that can enhance your cardio fitness, muscle tone, and overall physical endurance. It also helps with balance, coordination, and flexibility. And, like many forms of exercise, dancing is a great way to reduce stress, but with the added perk that it often leads to a connection with other people.

The dance community I have found has led to many new friends. Sometimes, nights out dancing seem important because of the connection with people and friends more than the dancing itself. In the end, it is more about the people, less about the dancing. But dancing created the opportunity and was the catalyst.

The Emotional Healing Power of Dancing

The physical and emotional benefits of dancing seem fairly obvious. To go a little deeper, here’s a little more about what some studies have shown can be achieved by dance.

Marian Chace, a pioneer in dance/movement therapy, discovered in the 1940s that her patients who were suffering from PTSD were able to lessen the tension they held in their bodies by the use of dance as therapy. The American Dance Therapy Association is based on the central belief that what happens to the body can affect the mind and vice versa.

The idea of the research is that if we hold in our body trauma and that’s where it gets stuck, we can use our bodies as a tool when it is seen as an expressive vehicle and a resource to process our feelings.

Studies have backed up this idea, showing that dance can decrease anxiety and boost mood more than other physical outlets. One particular study working with people with anxiety disorders had them spend time in one of four activities: an exercise class, a music class, a math class, or a modern dance class. And, as you’ve probably guessed, only the dance class impacted reducing anxiety!

But how is dance effective for coping with daily stress and severe trauma? It is thought that because it is not just physical exercise but also an innate expressive art form. This is both wonderful and mysterious; it seems that the artful expression of the body through dance is a key and secret to processing the stress and trauma of our daily lives.

Furthermore, a modern dance therapist, Christina Devereaux, has done great research on this topic and has really focused on something she calls “state shift.” In some ways, this is obvious. It’s something we do constantly. So many things in this world can affect our moods and outlook, and we can easily be up and down. We can feel safe one moment and threatened in the next.

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Dancing is where physical exercise, artistic expression, and social connection happen in one place!

She talks about how we can effectively affect our minds and “state shift” by mobilizing or moving in social relationships. But how can we do that? By dancing, but not just dancing, but dancing together in an attuned relationship. This attuning with another can shift us out of disorganized and fearful states!

A typical night at The Ranch Saloon and Dance Hall, Anaheim, CA.

I think I experience this sometimes. At times, I don’t really feel like going out and being social, but what’s interesting is that once I’m dancing some of my favorite line dances in sync with my favorite people, I have long forgotten about my hesitation while still home or even on the way! My state has shifted! I’m always thankful I didn’t miss out on a fun night dancing!

Rhythm–A Natural Connection We All Long For

Another reason to dance is that rhythm is a natural part of the world and our lives. It has been said that “Rhythm, which is crucial in giving order to life and structure to art, serves to integrate, inspire and regulate individuals and events” –Sarah Schmais

Whether you are a dancer or a non-dancer, I think we all have a natural innate longing for rhythm and its predictability. And with that, an instinct to try to synchronize with other people. We’ll all find ourselves tapping our feet, nodding our heads, etc.! It is like we all subconsciously want to be in sync with others and each other. Dance provides an opportunity to be in rhythm with each other, but also the opportunity for creativity within the predictability.

If we all have a natural longing for rhythm, dance provides a way to embrace it. You could argue we were made to dance!

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“Why I Dance”–(Fear now Joy)

Lastly, I want to close this article with two great videos. The first one asks several dancers from all walks of life why they dance! I think it is a beautiful and perfect montage of what we that dance feel about it. It captures the joy dancers experience, and I hope convinces you to dance! Below, I’ve included some of the quotes, but it’s just a small sampling! Check it out! And please note there’s no fear at all going on here–It’s all joy!

“There’s nothing really like it.”
“I just feel really great while I’m dancing–it lets me be free.”
“It lifts my spirits, makes me feel happy.”
“It makes me feel joyous. It makes me feel like I have real joy in my life.”
“It takes me to another world that has no troubles, no worries, and it makes me happy.”
“Dancing makes me feel so alive. My spirit does feel overwhelmed with joy.”
“I do dance, that’s it! I live for dance–I’m a dancer.”
“I think what it comes down to is I feel like a kid again.”
“Dancing, I just get a sense of it being a natural part of life.”
“Absolutely, It’s natural. I believe that if you try it just once, you will love it, and you will always want to continue dancing.”
“I think it’s really hard to answer why I’m dancing…why do you breathe?”

Lastly, the great classic country song from Lee Ann Womack–I Hope You Dance!

I Hope You Dance!

For more songs about dancing, also check out my post on 25 Country Songs with Lyrics About Dancing and Honky-Tonks!

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Talkspace – Top 10 Phobias
Fred Astaire – Do You Have a Fear of Dancing?
Arthur Murry – How Do I Overcome My Fear of Dancing?
Psychology Today – Are You Afraid To Dance?
Psychology Today – Why Should We Dance?
Christina Devereaux, PhD (Dance/Movement Therapist)
American Dance Therapy Association

Brian Sheridan

I'm the owner of CDT. I live in Fullerton, California, and enjoy country dancing with my friends at least once a week.

3 thoughts on “A Fun Way To Overcome Your Fear Of Dancing!

  1. Great article! When I tell people that I go dancing every weekend I can, they ask “are you a good dancer?” I always tell them that it doesn’t matter. Dancing is for everyone not just the good dancers. Once I completely understood and adopted the idea to “dance like no one is watching “, I felt such a freedom on the dance floor that I can’t imagine how I lived without dancing in my life! Thanks for the great article Brian!

  2. What a great article. I particularly loved the video “Why I Dance”. It is true what they said. I feel pure joy when I dance. It lifts my spirit and makes me extremely happy. So many of us, including myself, live in our heads; it’s a safe place. As a result, we don’t feel things. After all, if you live in your heart, you get hurt easily. Dancing moves you out of your head and into your heart and all you feel is overwhelming joy. I hope you will all try dancing. It is not only therapeutic, but so much fun!

  3. Brian, this was so fun to read, you know I have danced a lot and in all genres, and still it is one of my favorite things to do even though I am not doing it. The video Why I dance spoke to me because when I was young I didn’t play sports. Dance gave me confidence, posture and body awareness. It is truly JOY.

    I hope if your readers connect with this article that they will give it a try if they have been fearful. At any age or size or time in life, dancing is truly life-giving.

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