The nervous energy you experience at a dance competition is totally normal, and when channeled properly, can help you achieve your best performance. The extra boost of energy you feel before you step on stage is caused by a chemical called adrenaline. Adrenaline is released in your body when you perceive a stressful or dangerous situation — this is the fight or flight response that basically helps save your life if any serious hazards are presented in front of you.
Adrenaline has helped people accomplish some pretty incredible physical tasks that would be nearly impossible under normal circumstances. Your body has a pretty cool way of helping you out when you may not even realize it. So, how can you use this extra boost of energy to benefit your upcoming performance instead of inhibit it?
1. Take slow, deep breaths. When adrenaline is released in your body, breathing rate and heart rate increase. But, you can take control of your breathing to help calm yourself back down. Do these things to slow down your breathing and help your body relax back to its normal state:
- Inhale through your nose for 8 counts.
- Exhale through your mouth for 8 counts.
- Repeat this simple process for 2-3 minutes focusing ONLY on your breathing. Other thoughts will undoubtedly try to creep their way back into your mind — release those thoughts when you exhale and continue to focus on your breath.
2. Step away and take a moment for yourself. The competition environment is basically mad chaos. There’s blaring music, a cheering crowd, bright lights, and dancers EVERYWHERE — and all that comes with them: piles of costumes, dream duffles, cases of makeup, 11 shoes (yes, you lost one) 6 pairs of tights, a thick cloud of hairspray, 100,000 selfies (somehow there is magically time for these). When you are in this atmosphere, it is no wonder you’re stressed out. So, how can you remain calm and focused amidst the craziness? Find a hallway, a corner, the restroom…anywhere you can escape to take a moment to collect your thoughts. Pop in your earbuds and listen to a relaxing song (not one of your competition songs!) and continue on to steps 3-5.
3. Get perspective. When you are feeling really stressed out emotions can get the best of you and before you know it, your imagination is running wild envisioning all the things that could go wrong. The fear of making mistakes during your performance (especially a solo) can feel like the absolute worst.case.scenario. If you find yourself panicking about all the what-ifs, you’re in good company — it’s happened to us ALL at one point or another. But, it’s important to realize that these types of thoughts are not reality. The actual reality is this: You’ve worked hard for this moment and you are prepared. This is one performance, one time, ONE day of your life. Recognize that although you want to do your best, this performance will not make or break your life. Life will go on and you most likely will not think much of this performance tomorrow, next week, or next year (and neither will the audience). There are big, life-changing events that will occur throughout your lifetime and your 3 minutes on stage at competition is not one of them.
4. Remind yourself why you dance. You dance because dance is a part of you. Dance is your escape from a bad day, your safe place and your passion. You dance because you love it. You were wired to move your body and when you do, you feel alive. Do not forget that. No competition is bigger than what dance means to you. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the pressure, remind yourself that you dance because it’s FUN. This performance is a chance for you to get lost in your movement and do the thing you love. Seize this opportunity.
5. Give yourself permission to be human. Guess what? You are not perfect and neither is anybody else. Stop putting so much pressure on yourself to have the perfect performance. You will never have the perfect performance. The ONLY thing you can do is give your best in this moment. That’s it. Accept that you are a human being with flaws — that’s what makes dance so amazing! Think about how much you enjoy watching a passionate dancer on stage. You know those times when you cannot take your eyes off of a performer who is lost in the moment. It’s not about having perfect extension or hitting 500 fouettés or executing the routine like a perfectly programmed robot. It’s about being real and being YOU. It’s about the magic that happens on stage when a dancer is doing what she loves, executing each move with so much passion that no matter what you just cannot tear your eyes away. That’s what makes a good performance. Share that moment with your audience.