After all the practice and effort, you have put into learning and perfecting your dance routine, there comes a time when you are ready to perform in front of an audience. As you stand in the wings, you can feel the steadily growing nerves and before you know it, you have stage fright!
Stage fright is not unusual, and some famous people have suffered from it. Mikhail Baryshnikov, probably one of the greatest dancers of them all, admitted that stage fright has plagued him throughout his career.
The key with these nerves is not to let them get the better of you. That, of course, is easier said than done. It’s difficult when you are in a state of panic to think clearly. What you need to recognise is that you are still in control and there are things you can do to calm those fears and bring your emotions back on an even keel.
Acknowledge Your Fear
It is human nature to try and avoid unpleasant things. When we feel that fear growing, we do our best to ignore it. As the time of the performance nears, we feel that terror rising even more and the closer we get to the big moment the more overwhelming it can seem.
It’s important to take a step back and acknowledge how you are feeling. Accept that this is perfectly natural and that it is just as much a physical reaction as a mental one.
Concentrating on different unpleasant sensations can help reduce them. For example, if you feel butterflies in your stomach simply draw your full attention to them rather, they try to ignore them. You’ll probably find that feeling will then lessen. The same can be said for your heartbeat or your breathing. Focus on the here and now and push away negative thoughts when they pop into your head.
Tune into Your Senses
You have five senses, and it can also help to register each one in turn – taste, hearing, sight, smell, and touch. Pushing a strong physical sensation into the mix can sometimes help to energise you and give you something tangible to focus on. That’s why you sometimes see people performing jumping jacks or running vigorously on the spot before they go on stage.
Remember to Breathe
It might seem trite, but breathing is an essential part of the flight-fight response and something that is affected when in a very stressful situation. When we’re in a panic or the fear is overwhelming us, the breath becomes short and rapid as the body tries to grab more oxygen for any potential conflict. Concentrating on your breathing, slowing it down and making it deeper can help relax the body and send a message that everything is okay.
It's well worth doing some research into the nature of stage fright and finding out more about it from both a physical and mental perspective. It can be liberating to realise that some great names have suffered from this problem over the years, and you can learn a lot from how they managed to cope.
Having strategies in place before your big night can also give you greater confidence – the nerves will still be there, but they will not control you.