Tips to Leave Your Stage Fright in the Wings
Stage fright is defined as acute nervousness associated with performing before an audience, often accompanied by fear or panic over a situation that the performer doubts his or her ability to handle. There’s a scientific explanation for the affliction, but chances are you’re more interested in overcoming the symptoms, which can include difficulties in walking, speaking, standing and breathing, as well as trembling, a pounding heart, an elevated pulse, nausea, vomiting, flushed face, dry mouth, shortness of breath and (probably most frightening for dancers) forgetfulness. If this happens to you, here are tactics to beat your jitters and perform with confidence.
Focus on purpose. For many artists, stage fright vanishes once the performance begins, because instead of focusing on fears, they focus on the work at hand. Remind yourself of this, and that your dance is going to enrich the lives of the audience.
Don’t tempt fate. Indulging in what-ifs can allow them to become self-fulfilling prophecies. Instead, ask yourself exactly what you’re afraid of. The answer might help put things into perspective.
Speak in affirmatives. Repeat confidence-boosting encouragements out loud, such as “I’m going to nail that triple pirouette.”
Relax with aromatherapy. Keep lavender and peppermint essential oils in your dance bag for bouts of anxiety. Lavender is calming and relaxing, while peppermint promotes concentration and easy breathing. Apply one drop of either to a cotton ball and inhale when you feel nervous or short of breath.
Create a regimen that works for you. Find a backstage routine and stick with it. Some dancers prefer not to try the tricky elements of a dance, because it only psychs them out; others find that a mark-through is centering, and they feel unprepared without it.
Desensitize yourself. Kansas City–based psychologist Mac Harnden uses a form of therapy known as systematic desensitization to help performers overcome fears. He sits in the audience of an empty theater and asks the artist to begin performing. Gradually, the seats are filled with people (friends as well as strangers). This process will desensitize the dancer to the stimuli or environment that causes anxiety. Try this on a smaller scale: Have each person in your support group bring someone whom you don’t know. Then, run through your number while this group slowly fills up the space.
Breathing Techniques To Calm And De-Stress You
Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing, from yoga)
1. Sit in a comfortable position.
2. Hold your right palm in front of your face, with your middle and index fingers curled toward your palm.
3. Place your thumb next to your right nostril and your ring finger next to your left nostril.
4. Close your right nostril with your thumb and inhale slowly and deeply through the left. Pause.
5. Release your right nostril, close your left nostril with your index finger, and exhale slowly and fully through the right nostril. Pause.
6. Keeping your left nostril closed, inhale slowly and deeply. Pause.
7. Release your left nostril, and close your right nostril. Exhale slowly and fully.
8. Repeat 5-10 times.
Calm Belly Breathing
1. Lie on your back.
2. Empty the lungs without force while watching the navel fall.
3. Practice breathing in and out through the nose for five minutes, while meditating on the rise and fall of the navel.
Harper Watters is a ballet dancer for today's generation. A social media maestro and a charismatic performer, the Houston Ballet soloist is equally at home in front of the camera hosting his hit YouTube series, "The Pre Show"; interacting with fans on his crazy-popular Instagram account; or showing off his beautiful classical technique onstage. It's a multifaceted identity that's proven to be invaluable to his career—and it's taking him to places he never even dreamed of.
Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!
Summer intensive auditions can be nerve-racking. A panel of directors is watching your every move, and you're not even sure if you can be seen among the hundreds of other dancers in the room. We asked five summer intensive directors for their input on how dancers can make a positive impression—and even be remembered next year.
When we think of a dancer who's broken barriers, American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland tends to be the name that comes to mind. And though Copeland has been a crucial advocate for equality in the world of ballet, Raven Wilkinson—a mentor of Copeland's—is considered one of the original pioneers of the movement.
In 1955, Wilkinson became the first African American to dance with the renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Her fortitude in the face of bigotry and hate cemented her legacy. Now, with the release of the new children's book Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, a new generation of dancers will be inspired by her tale of overcoming obstacles to achieve a dream.
The book details Wilkinson's life, from her experience as a young dancer training in Harlem, to her run-ins with the Ku Klux Klan while on tour with Ballet Russe, to her later ballet career in Europe. "There were times where my heart really hurt because of the situations I had to deal with," she says. "But I always had faith that I was made to be a dancer and that I was gonna dance."
Dance Spirit spoke with Wilkinson to discuss the new book and get her take on racial equality within the ballet world.
Postmodern pioneer Trisha Brown redefined how dance is seen and felt. A founding member of Judson Dance Theater, Brown frequently collaborated with other experimental artists like Yvonne Rainer, Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, and Steve Paxton.
She embraced pedestrian movement, pairing everyday gesture with rhythm and fluidity. "It's liquid," says Wendy Perron, who danced with Brown in the '60s and '70s. "Like a river with many tributaries, water coming out of a faucet, or being on a raft and seeing the water move away in different directions." Brown also pushed beyond stages with choreography in fields, museums—even on the sides of buildings.
There's a common misconception that a dancer's body has to be thin. But the truth is that talent knows no body type, and the number on the scale never determines an artist's capabilities. Here are some extraordinary dancers fighting the stereotype of what a dancer "should" look like.
We always love a good halftime performance. And we LIVE for halftime performances involving talented kids. (Fingers and toes crossed that Justin Timberlake follows Missy Elliott's lead and invites some fabulous littles to share his Super Bowl stage.)
So obviously, our hearts completely melted for 5-year-old Tavaris Jones. Tavaris may have just started kindergarten, but during Monday night's game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the Detroit native danced with the panache of a veteran pro at halftime.