I am a dancer in a successful West End showand a year ago I nearly quit.
My anxiety came suddenly and without warning. We were in the middle of a stressful cast change and tensions were high as everyone wanted to prove their value to the production.
I felt as though someone flipped a switch in my brain. I started to feel pressure about perfecting my performances and suddenly felt unworthy of being there. My mind became consumed with negative images about what I was doing wrong, or what could go wrong.
The range of emotions dancers feel during performances can run the gambit from calm transcendental elation to complete dread. If you're the shaking and sweating sort, there's good news for you: Those performance jitters don't have to be a bad thing.
Your mindset can make all the difference. Photo via Unsplash
You're standing backstage, and your mind won't stop racing.
What if, after weeks of rehearsal, you suddenly forget the choreography? What if that terrible critic gives you yet another embarrassing review? Did you remember to sew your pointe shoes correctly? Why won't your partner stop cracking his darn hip joint? Why can't you stop freaking out?
Even the most veteran of performers can suffer from nerves before hitting the stage. While most of us feel most at home in front of a crowd once we're there, sometimes the wait to go on can be uneasy.
Breathing with intention is a simple way to calm this stage fright. According to Psychology Today, deep breathing, specifically through the diaphragm, can activate the vagus nerve, and trigger the "relaxation response" of your parasympathetic nervous system and lessen anger, anxiety, stress and even inflammation.
In my career, I've gotten to dance several of my dream roles. But sometimes I felt so nervous before a show that I just wanted the whole thing to be over and done with.Don't let this happen to you! Here are my tips for dealing with pre-performance butterflies:
Your pulse is racing. Your mouth feels dry. You can't stop sweating even though you feel cold. But what's most worrying is that you can't stop your hands and knees from trembling, even though you're only moments away from stepping on stage.
Performance anxiety can sabotage even the most talented dancers. Studies suggest that at least 50 percent of all performing artists—regardless of experience level—suffer from serious stage fright.
Which is why we're excited to hear that, in collaboration with edX, Juilliard just launched a series of online courses, and one of the first is "Conquering Performance Anxiety." Taught by Juilliard professor and sport psychologist Dr. Noa Kageyama, the class will cover mental techniques used by top athletes and musicians: strategies for staying in "the zone," insight on how to overcome mistakes on stage, tips for silencing self-doubt and more.
Unfortunately, unlike regular edX classes, the course is not free: It's a steep $497 for six weeks. But although it's targeted to musicians, the syllabus looks very much applicable to any performing artist, including dancers.