Standing in the wings of the stage, your stomach in knots, and adverting your eyes at all cost from the stage of the dancer performing before you. Performing can be terrifying and exilirating feeling and the nerves can get the better of any dancer. So how does anyone stay calm among all the pressure? Just like sport athletes and their obsession with their favorite socks, shorts, or underwear, every performer has weird qwarts such as having objects that need to be with them on performing days or daily and evening routines. Anytime I performed in my high school and college days I had five life hacks that always brought my blood pressure back down.
1. A Stuffed Elephant – I got this stuffed animal when I was sixteen years old from my solo instructor Lisa. She was one of my biggest supporters growing up as a dancer. Always had my back at every competition and performance even when she was no longer teaching me. When she gave it to me it said, “break a leg and remember an elephant never forgets.” I carried this thing everywhere with me and it is a little embarrassing to say that I even had it in my bag at my college dance performances and choreography showings.
2. During the late 90s and early 00s portable disk players and tape Walkmans were the iPod of the day. I had my Walkman with me and before I had to perform I would be listening to the music over and over again to the point where I knew every sound in the music and what sound matched the movement. A little OCD I know, but what performer doesn’t have a type-A personality?
3. The three minutes before you are suppose to go on is the longest three minutes of your life! You try not to look at the stage because if you watch the other dancer and he/ she is great you basically sabotage yourself and if he/ she doesn’t have the greatest performance you get cocky and in turn sabotage yourself. So, I would go to the farthest part of the wing backstage and jump up and down, stretch my feet, shake my arms….basically do anything that kept me moving and focused so I didn’t look at the stage.
4. BREATH – It sounds simple. Breathing is a natural part of a human’s life, but sometimes when a sea of lights hit your body on an empty stage, you have three people judging your dancing ability, and their are thousands of other eyes in the audience watching your every move you can be overcome with a feeling of fear that can paralyze you. The moment I stepped on a stage I would take a deep breath to make my breathing consistent and as the music begin I would release that breath which would send a calming effect through my entire body.
5. And finally, avoid physically doing the dance before you get on stage. Sure practice the hard parts such as that double pirouette to an extension or that switch leap. When I was younger I had an obsession with trying to run the dance over and over again and by the time I got to the stage I would start to get movement phrases confused or forget parts. As I got older I realized that running it was creating a mental block by the time I hit the stage. Trust yourself and your muscle memory.
You are not alone in your nerves. Performing takes practice and continuing to push yourself to the stage is the only way to master it. As Taylor Swift said, “Being fearless isn’t being a hundred percent not fearful, it’s being terrified but you jump anyways.”