Are ballroom competitions stressful? Yes.
Rohleder et al. (2007) examined dancers’ levels of cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress, on competition and non-competition days.
Salivary cortisol levels taken from over 40 German dancers 6 hours before competition were already higher than cortisol concentrations taken at the same time on non-competition days.
As you can see in the graph below, cortisol levels continue to climb and stay elevated throughout competitions.
The good news is that elevations in cortisol were, to some extent, accounted for by a) perceived stress and b) the number of factors identified as stressful by the dancers.
Which psychological factor related to cortisol elevations the most? Concerns about being evaluated by judges. And dancers who were satisfied with their performances had the lowest cortisol levels.
I’ll be covering other studies from this paper soon. Stay tuned!
Ballroom competitions are physiologically stressful, but psychological factors matter. Strategies from sport psychology can be used to modify perceptions of threat and other concerns that have a negative impact on performance.
Source: Rohleder, N., Beulen, S. E., Chen, E., Wolf, J. M., and Kirschbaum (2007). Stress on the dance floor. The cortisol-stress response to social-evaluative threat in competitive ballroom dancers. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 69-84.
Photo by Laura La Gassa