Photo Credit: Flickr user Dave_Murr
I doubt there is a person that has never, ever experienced the feeling of anxiety, fear and sudden urge to run away and hide or possibly pee themselves just before they are to hit the stage and dance. We all know it, we’ve all been there before and guess what – we survived! So, why do we still have stage fright, even after dozens of performances?
For me, there are the critical 5 minutes just before the performance that are absolutely hellish, my legs turn into jelly and I feel as if every single thing I’ve learned about Irish dancing has magically evaporated from my head. But the minute I step on the floor or stage, be it at a concert or a feis, the stage fright disappears. Dancing and being watched by a lot of people becomes the most natural thing – in fact, I sometimes completely forget about all of them. This is why I dance, this is why I love it so much, the pure joy of expressing myself through motion, music, and rhythm. I never feel so much alive as when I’m dancing. But letting anxiety and fear of fall or failure into my mind can completely take away that joy and turn performing into a weary duty and something I try to avoid.
In order to escape that, I use a couple of little tricks that might also help you deliver your best performance on stage.
Try to think of the worst case scenario, and then give yourself advice what to do if it happens: I could forget my steps (OK, I’ll improvise). I could fall off or on the stage (well, in case something like that really does happen, I should only worry about not injuring my legs, not my pride, and after all, it will make a great anecdote some day!). I could fall out of rhythm and completely mess up the whole dance (I’ll catch up with it after just a few seconds, I know I will), etc.
Another thing that really helps is – practice! The intensity of stage fright is inversely proportional to the number of times I repeat the steps. When I’ve learned all the steps and I can execute them without even thinking, I become very confident and experience almost no anxiety.
Lastly, just before going on stage, I say a little prayer. Even if you’re not religious, you never know, somebody out there might be listening. After all, it will help you focus on the dance and not on the audience or the judges.
Make the jitters work for you. Make them your ally. Let them keep you focused, concentrated and sharp, but don’t let them be your stumbling block and your enemy. Just tell yourself over and over again while you’re waiting for your turn to dance: You are ready, you can do it, and you are great at what you do!
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