Imagining Yourself Dancing to Perfection? Correlates of Perfectionism Among Ballet and Contemporary Dancers

in Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology
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  • 1 Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, UK
  • 2 University of Birmingham, UK
  • 3 University of Wolverhampton, UK
  • 4 The Australian Ballet School
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The present study investigated perfectionism prevalence and its relationship to imagery and performance anxiety. Two hundred and fifty (N = 250) elite students (66.4% female; Mage = 19.19, SD = 2.66) studying mainly classical ballet or contemporary dance in England, Canada, and Australia completed questionnaires assessing perfectionism, imagery, and performance anxiety. Cluster analysis revealed three distinct cohorts: dancers with perfectionistic tendencies (40.59% of the sample), dancers with moderate perfectionistic tendencies (44.35%), and dancers with no perfectionistic tendencies (15.06%). Notably, these labels are data driven and relative; only eight dancers reported high absolute scores. Dancers with perfectionistic tendencies experienced more debilitative imagery, greater cognitive and somatic anxiety, and lower self-confidence than other dancers. Dancers with moderate perfectionistic tendencies reported midlevel scores for all constructs and experienced somatic anxiety as being more debilitative to performance than did those with no perfectionistic tendencies. Clusters were demographically similar, though more males than females reported no perfectionistic tendencies, and vice versa. In summary, the present findings suggest that “true” perfectionism may be rare in elite dance; however, elements of perfectionism appear common and are associated with maladaptive characteristics.

Sanna M. Nordin-Bates is with Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London, UK. Jennifer Cumming is a lecturer of Sport and Exercise Psychology at the University of Birmingham, UK. Danielle Aways is Senior Lecturer in the Dance Department at the University of Wolverhampton, UK. Lucinda Sharp is the head of student welfare at the Australian Ballet School in Melbourne.