Even professional dancers suffer from bouts of anxiety and stress when it comes to new performances, and so it is no surprise that dancers on an amateur level suffer too. The pressure that comes from the competitive world adds to this already nerve-wrecking feeling and can leave some dancers (particularly novice performers) describing feelings of stage fright.
So how do we combat those nerves and make the stage our friend, not our foe?
Here’s some tips from the team here at Dance Comp Diaries, aided by some advice given by varying health and fitness practitioners:
It may sound obvious, but the one of the best pieces of advice is to tell you... These feelings are normal. What you are feeling may be scary, and it may even make you feel unwell, but what you need to know is that it is common and you are not the only one.
Dancers- Try repeating to yourself “What I’m feeling is normal" and " I am not alone”
Adults – Try repeating this to the dancers too, because it’s true. And any ounce of judgement heard or felt by the dancers only makes it worse ;)
The hardest thing about stage fright is that you have to face it head on. Easier said than done, right? But it’s true. The longer you avoid it the bigger it becomes. And the more you practice the smaller it becomes.
Dancers – Try small steps... start by showing a video of your routine to a small group of family or friends. Then try dancing it live to them. Then in front of the same group of people but with maybe 5 or 10 more people. Then in front of your whole class. Then your whole school... you can see where we are going with this right?
Adults – Encourage the above practice; allowing dancers to ‘try again next time’ will only encourage the ‘fright’ to manifest. Lots of practise in as short a time frame as possible will allow muscle memory to take over and silence the ‘fright’ which will eventually be left in the mind.
Meditating – Many of you might not really know what this word means, or you might think of it as a silly concept. But for those of us with anxiety, it is a sure way of taking control of it. Calm and silent time throughout the day, and as close to performance time as possible will really help.
Dancers – Try sitting or lying calmly, closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing only. Counting your breaths can help (for example ‘Breath in for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Breath out for 5, 4, 3, 2, 1’. Saying this in your head like you are talking to yourself will help drown out the noise). As you do this, you can also begin to incorporate muscles releases (for example, make your body really tight to make it look like your hand when it makes a fist, then stretch it out like you are making a jazz hand, then shake out your limbs and head like your jazz hand is a blowing in the wind).
Adults – Do it with the dancers! You can sit with them so that they don’t feel alone, or you can lead the practise verbally in a calm and soothing tone. Now you have some tools that can help you on competition days! So go ahead dancers, try them out and see if it helps. If there’s a tiny chance that you will feel better, its worth a go right?
Check in with our follow up blog “Winning isn’t Everything” which can help you re-evaluate and might also help your stage fright further.
By Stephanie Clark Porter