Children are little sponges for information. Have you watched a young child regularly acquiring information? It is crazy to see what they are able to take in over small periods of time.
When children start dancing at a young age, the really young just do as they are told and think nothing of it. There isn’t the self-awareness to realize that others may be judging. They were put in a program and told to do something and that is exactly what they do.
I was at a competition recently and observed children from previous years who had reached a turning point of self-awareness. Some who had been blissfully unaware of everyone else on the floor and full of joy when they had walked on the floor were now fearfully eyeing others on the floor, aware that they were competing and being observed. There was self-conscious mannerisms that had newly developed. It was interesting to see this brain maturation in motion while sad to see that maturing meant increased fear.
Fear does not have to be a debilitating thing. In fact that stress can become a eustress (beneficial stress) that propels greatness. If not groomed the right way, that stress can breakdown into distress which will halt growth in the activity. That distress may become debilitating and force a dancer to retire from the activity as the anxiety becomes too overwhelming to gain any outweighing benefit.
We have to be so careful with the children once they reach self-awareness and make sure they are still doing things for positive reasons. This applies to the parents as well. Often the competitive parent becomes competitive on their child’s behalf and can take the fun out of the dance for the child. The distress may not develop into full blown anxiety until a later stage, but the seed is planted in the young, so be mindful what you want to sow.