You’re sitting on the sidelines with your dance squad. The buzzer sounds and suddenly you’re center court striking a pose and staring up at the wall of people stacked in the bleachers. The music blasts and your body snaps into action. But since you’re not in a dark theater, you can see everyone—that guy who didn’t call you back, your BFF texting on her phone (we know, how rude!), even your favorite celeb! Then there’s the local camera guy running around the court, getting in your way. And did a basketball just fly by?
If you’re used to dancing in a theater, performing center court can be challenging. In fact, it’s a whole different ball game. According to Jim Taylor, PhD, performance consultant and author of Psychology of Dance, “The closer the dancers are to the fans, the more potentially distracting it is. The intimacy of a basketball arena creates more disruptions.” Luckily, DS has got the help you need. Check out these four distracting situations and learn how, in the words of Troy Bolton from High School Musical, to “get’cha head in the game.”
Scenario: Whether he’s an ex-beau, current fling or even the captain of the basketball team, guys can disrupt your concentration. It happened to former Syracuse University Dance Team member Jacki Cadoret when she got onto the court and saw her ex-boyfriend sitting next to her current boyfriend. “A feeling of panic swept over me,” she says. Knowing he’s (past or present—and in Jacki’s case, both!) out there and hoping to impress him is enough to get your heart racing—and not because you’re dancing.
Solution: Distract yourself with your teammates and the game, and if all else fails, amp up your performance for him! Jacki relied on pep talks from her teammates between dances to keep her from getting psyched out. She also threw herself into responding to the exciting game plays going on and firing up the crowd. If this fails, try using your eye candy (remember the famous “cheer sex” scene from Bring It On?) as a performance tool. Kayla Cunningham, an 18-year-old from Sheridan, AR, did this when she was the captain of the Sheridan High School Dance Team. “Find a cute boy, make eye contact and flirt it up!” she says. “Grab his attention without overdoing it. This will help you put more into the dance.”
Scenario: Your buddies are supposed to be your biggest supporters, but sometimes jealousy or pettiness can get in the way. This happened to Kayla’s squad when two ex-teammates sat in the front row at every game, sneering. “We could see them literally pointing out our flaws,” she says. “Like if someone fell out of a double turn, they would talk about it in an obvious way.”
Solution: Use their critiques as a mirror. “I focused their criticism in a positive way by working harder at areas they pointed out, ” Kayla says. But classmates you’re not as close with can be just as distracting. Laykin Tucker, 16, from Frankfort, KY, is often positioned near the student section when she dances with the Franklin County High School Dance Team. “The students act goofy and make faces at us,” she says. “So I stare at one object, like a jacket, rather than the faces.” The bottom line is: Don’t take it personally. Remember what they say about sticks and stones!
THE CAMERA GUY
Scenario: If his job is to follow you, and your job is to follow the formation, at some point you’re going to cross paths (hopefully not with your foot in his face). ESPN and Syracuse University cameramen often got in Jacki’s way.
Solution: Concentrate on your dancing and ignore everything else. Jacki recognizes that it’s her job to perform for the crowd, not the camera. “It’s like being on reality TV,” she says. “And there’s a lot of thinking to do when you’re out there—recalling the steps, following the music and keeping up your technique, like pointing your toes and pulling up.” Do your best to keep your mind on the routine and your attention on dazzling the audience.
Scenario: Being starstruck center court is the last thing you want to happen. While Madonna probably won’t show up at a local high school game, she might go see an NBA team. Bria from the Los Angeles Laker Girls remembers when Paula Abdul came to a game. “Since she’s an ex-Laker Girl, it made me nervous,” Bria says.
Solution: Remember, celebrities want you to succeed, not fail. Bria got an energy boost knowing Paula was watching. “During our performance, I saw her bopping her head and smiling,” she says. “It was comforting knowing that we got her approval.”
Taylor Walker, captain of the New Jersey Nets Dance Team, agrees that it’s energizing to know that artists (like Jay-Z, Beyoncé and kanYe, who frequently attend Nets games) are performers, too, and can appreciate what the girls are doing.
“There will always be distractions—celebs, cameramen, flying basketballs, etc.,” Taylor says. “Our job is to focus as a team and put on the best show possible!”
Even if your worst nightmare comes true, remember the most important rule—the show must go on!