Narcissism has increased at an alarming rate these last 10 years in our dance community, and the damage has been far reaching. As such, it's important that we who love the dance family become aware of the behavior and its affects. That way we can protect ourselves, the joy of our dancing and the joy of others when they are struggling and confused.So what exactly IS a Narcissist? To put it very simply, it's someone who is ruled by "egotism, vanity, conceit, or simple selfishness." Though glamorized in the movies and on TV, the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a social disorder that's extremely destructive, especially in the lives of those that surround them. Because a Narcissist is incapable of putting anyone's needs before their own, and in fact, see others as only a means to meet their needs and boost their ego/image, their presence comes at a great cost to those in their family, workplace and community.
Now, do I think every dance scene in the world is flooded with full blown NPD's?
NO. But I can bear witness to a number of communities with 50% or more of the people being Nissies. And that number is growing fast for two reasons. First, Nissies tend to attract other Nissies to the dance. They often form a group (aka elitism). Secondly, those who used to have healthy personalities have come to believe that they must mimic Narcissistic behavior in order to be accepted, to win, to be admired and to be danced with. It's time we admitted the problem, acknowledge the behavior and take action to protect ourselves accordingly, because good partner dancing, amazing partner dancing... worthwhile partner dancing... can never ever be done by a Nissy.
If you 'google' Narcissism, you'll find a list of traits on a number of websites: haughty body language, exaggerates their accomplishments, uses people without considering what it will cost them, flatters and enjoys the company of those that admire them, but detests, belittles or ignores those who do not, etc. etc. But one Narcissist is not like the other. The textbook type of Narcissist is what they call an "exhibitionist," but there are many other types of Narcissists, including "aggressive," "elitist," and even "sexual." The list is quite extensive. Not all are alike and they aren't always easy to identify, because they are rarely rude in the beginning. They can be charming, charismatic and flirtatious, and others are quiet, reserved or even awkward.
But more importantly, how can you identify Narcissism in our dance community?
In her book, "The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism," Sandy Hotchkiss outlines the 'deadly sins' a Narcissist will commit. They have found their way onto our social dance floors, into our workshops, our private lessons and our competitions. I'm sure you'll think of a dancer (or two, or three, and depending on where you live, a whole lot more!) when you read through these characteristics and examples: -ARROGANCE:
A Nissy who is feeling deflated tends to re-inflate by diminishing, debasing or degrading somebody else.
Example: They didn't make finals, so they dance in front all night like they won. They'll bad mouth the judges, their partners, or say the event didn't mean anything in the first place.
Another example: a teacher makes off-hand, dismissive or rude remarks about another teacher when that teacher is referenced or praised.
-ENTITLEMENT: The Nissy holds unreasonable expectations of special treatment and automatic compliance to them because they consider themselves special. Any failure to comply with their expectations is considered an attack on their perceived superiority, which often triggers what's called Narcissistic Rage.
Example: A high level dancer doesn't make finals, rips off their number, stomps it on the floor and curses.
Another example: A couple doesn't place how they thought they should have, and publicly yells at the event director, contest coordinator or competitor liaison.
-MAGICAL THINKING: Nissy's see themselves as perfect using distortion and illusion known as Magical Thinking. They will dump shame onto others who don't support their views.
Example: Teachers who teach without real training. They may do well competitively and start teaching immediately.They are amazing at making up rules, sayings and teachings on the spot to protect their views, and will have no issue with referencing other respected instructors as "irrelevant, out of date, nonsensical," etc. etc.
Another example: An Event Director will change history, facts and agreements in their heads to save money. They will attempt to shame an instructor, judge or volunteer into accepting lower wages or returns by questioning their value, their time given, etc, etc.
-BAD BOUNDARIES: The Nissy does not recognize that others are separate from themselves. Others exist to meet their needs or may as well not exist at all.
Example: A leader who is off-time dances with a follower who is on-time. The leader wraps his thumb and/or whole hand into a grip around her hand or wrist to control her, despite the rough and dangerous position it puts her hand and arm in.
Another example: A promoter finds a competitors flyers on the flyer table and either removes them and replaces them with their own, or simply places their own on top of the competitor's flyers.
-ENVY: A Nissy inflates their sense of superiority in the face of another person's skills or attention by using contempt against them.
Example: A dancer takes his partner and dances in front, blocking a birthday girl having her birthday dance.
Another example: A good dancer is in town. The Nissy, used to being the center of attention, asks the better dancer to dance but grimaces, looks bored or overpowers the better dancer in order to publicly diminish the better dancer.
-EXPLOITATION: Can take many forms, but always involves the exploitation of others without regard to their feelings or interest. They put the other in a subservient position where resistance would be difficult or even impossible. The subservience is not so much real as assumed.
Example: A leader sees his follower as the subservient. Instead of the follower being danced, they are danced around. The leader expands while the follower contracts.
As I write about the sin of EXPLOITATION, I'm struck once again with the fact that the largest percentage of Nissies in our community are men. No wonder. To lead a woman in Abstract Improvisation
is a Narcissists dream. And I believe it's why talented women are leaving our sport in droves, but the ones replacing them are women who are wounded themselves... enablers... lovers of utter submission... women and girls who base their identity on the approval of men, not an internal sense of power and worth. This has to be stopped.
Now that I've used a lot of big words, and have probably scared you a little, I've gone ahead and made it a little more simple. Here are some boiled down ways to pinpoint a Nissy in your dance community:-They Dance in Front:
No matter what level they are, they believe people want to see them dance more than better or more respected dancers. They will not give way to a champion dancer, and some will actually run into the champion dancer in order to make them obtain more room. They will often tell you they are a champion dancer or are on their way to being one... "it's just a matter of time."-They Appear Supremely Confident:
They stand out on the social and competition floor with their fantastically stylish dress, cocky attitudes and triumphant glow. Judges constantly put them in because they APPEAR successful, despite horrific errors in lead, follow, timing and footwork. Drop your eyes to a dancer's feet and count with the music. You will be surprised how many make finals with a four (or three, or three and three quarters) count push break.-They Don't Take Lessons:
Nissies believe they can take one workshop and teach it the next day. They think they are an expert in the dance a month in. If they do take, it's with another Nissy, and they don't get any better, just more arrogant on the floor.-They Have Terrible Floor Craft:
They will not recognize another couple's established slot, even if part of the couple is an established dancer of a higher level.-They are Easily Disagreeable:
If you, as a partner, do not smile, help show them off, or do exactly as they expect, they will become moody, pouty, impatient and even angry, no matter what their level.-They Point the Finger:
It is always someone else's fault. If they don't make finals, it's the judges, the music or their partner's fault. If they don't place, their partner didn't give it all they had. -Their Partner Isn't Seen:
If a Nissy is dancing with someone who ISN'T another Nissy, then the healthy person is overpowered, overshadowed and in general thrown around. If the partner ever tries to shine, the Nissy will not light up in delight at the creativity of their partner, but rather, will look annoyed or interrupted.
You probably have a few in mind, but honestly, there are a lot more that just aren't easy to spot. They know the criteria I just listed is easy to spot. The true NPD's that have been around for awhile are charming, witty and can talk their way out of everything. They sound amazing. They sound brilliant. They make you feel so very special when you're around them. But when you walk away glowing... it's not with self improvement. You don't feel empowered. You are left wanting and a little nervous or scared... wanting to be around them again, wanting to be like them and wanting to have their approval.
But one thing is true.
"A narcissist is not capable of putting the organizations
(i.e., studio's, club's, partner's, community's)
needs before his or her own needs."
Remember that. I have seen studios literally close because of Nissies. I have seen entire clubs shut down because of Nissies. I have have seen dancers injured and put out for more than a year because of Nissies. I have seen the words of a Nissy stay with a person for decades and eat away at them.
Nissies don't build a community; they create their own.
I encourage you to watch for the Nissy or Nissies on your dance floor, DJ booth or workshop. They are the people you feel driven to please. Driven to worship. Driven to look like, emulate and be. They are the people you feel like you never get a good dance with, no matter how hard you try, and you feel like it's all your fault, because they are just SO good.
They are the people who, quite often, seem "cool." And because of this, it will take bravery to identify them. Remember, they do not take it well when you not longer hold them in admiration. But you will save yourself a great deal of stress you didn't realize you had. Trust me. And you'll enjoy your dancing a whole lot more. Believe me.
And then, I encourage you... do not feed into their frenzy. Don't bother dancing with them. In fact, they are usually attracted to one another, so find a dance where they don't feel special and enjoy dancing with normal healthy and more satisfying dancers.
Who in the world wants to dance with a partner who is absolutely NOT interested in you, protecting your needs, your physical well being on the dance floor? Partner dancing, at its very core, is an agreement between two people to love, respect and honor one another on the dance floor in order to create and enjoy a beautiful, intimate, exciting and fun experience that dancing on our own cannot create.
The Nissy will never know the potential gifts of partner dancing beyond that of being "seen."
If you want your partner to "see you,"
just say NO to the Nissy.
Katherine Krok Eastvold
First published March 4th 2011
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