Most of us feel a degree of nervous apprehension when preparing to perform in front of a crowd. But those who are filled with fear and feelings of dread and panic in such a situation may be suffering from a form of social anxiety disorder. The fear of performing on stage in public, also known as stage fright, exacts a huge toll on self-confidence and self-esteem and can cause many dancers to quit. This doesn’t just include your average dancer but can also have an effect on the best in the world including professional tour dancers. A person’s fear of performing on stage is not something that people often admit because they feel embarrassed and as a result, they don’t seek help and take the easy option, which is to quit altogether.
Learning your dancing steps and trying to improve on your performance will help but it is usually not enough to help manage your fear and anxiety. It is also important to know that avoiding your fears is not the answer too. Avoidance may give you immediate relief but it reinforces your fear in the long run.
Some people also get desperate for some sort of a solution and turn to medication or other natural remedies to help reduce their symptoms. Personally, I am not a fan of medication but if you find a natural remedy that you think might help then get advice from a medical professional before making a decision.
If you are willing to stop avoiding your fears and learn new skills to help manage them, you will develop a belief and trust in yourself. It’s like everything else, when you learn to face your fears and learn to manage them it becomes easier and it becomes more possible to overcome performance anxiety.
So here are a few tips to help you to get started…
1. Know your audience
Have you ever walked into a room to only expect a couple of people present, but then you walk into that room and see a dozen people and you are like ‘’wow what’s going on here??’’ You get completely freaked out for those few seconds because you were not expecting the unexpected. If you have the same experience on stage, then this can negatively affect your performance. You are already nervous and your heart is already racing so the last thing you need is that feeling of the unexpected. So get familiar with your audience and know what to expect before you go on stage. Example: Before every football match I would always walk to the centre of the pitch and look at both ends of the pitch and visualise my performance and how the game was going to go.
2. Repetition, Repetition, Repetition
If you have attended one of my workshops, then you would have heard me say this word a few times. ‘’Repetition, Repetition, Repetition’’.
If I asked you today,
Can you think of one area which you need to improve on in relation to your Irish dancing performance?
Think about that for a second…
And if your answer is yes! Then you are not really 100% confident in your performance. If you have doubts when performing a particular step, then you will bring that doubt with you to the stage if you do not face it. The only way that you can build 100% confidence is by focusing on the areas that you feel less confident performing.
3. Know your stage
You can practice hours upon hours. You can do all of the right things. But know that you have been doing all of the right things in a completely different setting, on a completely different stage, and on a different platform. So my last piece of advice to you is to ASK!
Ask other dancers who have performed ahead of you how the stage was, look at the space you have, and visualize your performance. Ask the questions which you feel you need the answer to. Simple.
4. Stop thinking about what might go wrong
If I said to you “don’t think of a bottle of water”, what are you going to think about? Naturally enough, a bottle of water. If I said to you “don’t drop the ball when I throw it to you”, what are you going to think about? You are going to think about the possibility of dropping the ball instead of catching the ball. My point is that if you think negatively, then the chances are higher that something negative will happen. You need to stop scaring yourself with thoughts about what might go wrong. Instead, focus your attention on thoughts and images that are calming and reassuring. Refuse to think thoughts that create self-doubt and low confidence. I remember watching the documentary about the great Michael Jordan on Netflix and he said he was asked something along the lines of “Were you ever scared to take the complicated shot that may cost you the game?” And he replied and said “No. Why would I doubt myself and not believe in myself before I have even tried?” They may not be the exact words but it was something close to it and it stuck with me ever since. Anytime I faced a challenge, I remembered what Michael Jordan said so I change my attitude and believed in myself. And you know it really works. When you approach something with a positive attitude, you will have a much greater chance of succeeding.
5. Look Positive, Look Confident
Dancers look at other dancers and think “I wish I was as confident as her”. I have worked with literally the best dancers in the world and let me tell you that they are just as scared as you and maybe even more. Dancers who are placing at the top are likely feeling under more pressure compared to others because they know that people are expecting big things from them. The difference between you and them is that they know how to hide it. There are a few ways to help you to stay positive and to look positive and confident too:
- Practice ways to calm and relax your mind and body. Deep breathing, relaxation exercises, yoga, and meditation are very effective. You will also see athletes listening to their favorite music or listening to music that keeps them calm and relaxed.
- Visualize your success. Focus on your strengths and abilities to handle challenging situations.
- Stand or sit in a self-assured, confident posture. Remain warm and open and make eye contact with anyone who speaks to you.
I’m going to finish with this point:
IN MY OPINION, OF COURSE, THE SINGLE BIGGEST REASON WHY YOU FREAK ON STAGE IS THAT YOU ARE WORRIED ABOUT WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK. THE SOONER YOU START TO BECOME COMFORTABLE WITH YOURSELF, THE MUCH BETTER DANCER YOU WILL BECOME.
AND! YOU WILL ALSO START TO ENJOY IRISH DANCING EVEN MORE!
Thank you as always for reading my blogs. If you enjoyed it, please give me a like and a share. It would mean a lot to me and it would help others too.
You can check out other blogs and our courses and programs on my website www.irishdancingphysicalfitness.ie
By Peter O’Grady
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