Performance anxiety is something we all experience one way or the other.
I recently had a feature interview on Dancer 360 (thank you Gina Mcfadden for having me it was such a pleasure!) The conversation lead me to reflect on when I had performance anxiety for a good chunk of my younger dance career.
Growing Up Dancing
I often forget that I had performance anxiety and I had it BAD. I would tense up and forget the routine all on-stage… it practically became my “thing” to forget choreography or changes. I hated it. It was a strong internal battle that I had and honestly, no one really knew about it. Eventually, I buried it and it kept me from being the dancer and performer I wanted to be.
I felt lonely and I felt like I was not growing as a dancer nor as a performer. I felt worthless. Sooner or later, I began to question my talents and if I even loved dancing as much as I used to. I was burnt out.
I was at that age (16 or 17) where I felt all this pressure to “know” what I wanted to do/where I wanted to be after I graduated high school. It is a CRAZY and ridiculous amount of pressure that society places on individuals of that age group, and I felt extra pressure because I was a dancer. I did not have 100% of support from most people and I couldn’t handle the negative comments about pursuing a life in the arts. It is possible.
ANYWAYS. Rant aside. Performance anxiety… not fun.
It got so bad to a point that I could not enjoy dance classes, rehearsals, or the best part, performing and living in that moment. I was scared that I lost my passion. That fear was/is real. It consumed me and made my anxiety even WORSE. My brain kept piling up all the thoughts and lies and I eventually kept telling myself that I was not good enough.
After many conversations with my dad who still to this day is one of my biggest mentors and guides me through this crazy life… I was going to take a break.
Yet, I had one more chance. I was accepted to a summer intensive in North Carolina. After some time debating, I went for it.
THAT was the breath of fresh air I needed. (and I am not saying you need to find a summer intensive haha)
I think I realized that something like this was going to help me fuel my passion. I had a new and comfortable dance environment, I was surrounded by people who wanted the same things, I gained new confidence to try new things and know that it is OK to mess up… the list goes on and on.
From those 2-weeks alone I became a new individual and a new dancer.
Though my anxiety did not go away fully, I felt renewed and ready to dance again. I felt like I had a purpose.
Reflecting on the question, “How did I overcome my performance anxiety?”, I am still not 100% sure what made my fears go away.
Tips for Performance Anxiety
Here are my top tips that I did and continue to do to help performance anxiety:
- Spend time praying or journaling your thoughts and feelings. I think this was my number one solution to my anxiety and it’s something I like to practice weekly.
- Talk to others (dancers, non-dancer friends, a mentor you look up to, dance teacher, parent) Talking isn’t easy but it relieves tremendous burdens that you keep buried up inside of you. Let it go. Talk it out. Cry it out. Process what you feel. Heal.
- Find your time away. Time away is often frowned upon in the dance world… but you NEED it. Trust me. You can’t dance 24/7, your mind needs to be at ease too. Find moments to rest and be OK with it. You don’t have to be dancing every minute of your day.
- Go away! A different type of away… travel, go to an intensive, have a mini getaway for yourself… something to get you into a new environment.
- Find a personal ritual to do leading up to a show. For me, I like to pray on-stage before the curtains open and I say a prayer in every blackout I enter in before the lights go up. Find something that can ground you and comfort you before a performance. I even like to limit the conversations I have with people… over talking tends to get my nerves up and with the already present show-day adrenaline, it’s hard for me to calm down.
My Advice to you
If you are experiencing performance anxiety right now, I encourage you to try one of my tips or even something healthy you have been doing on your own. I also want to reassure you that it will pass. Performance anxiety is real and it feels like you’re being eaten alive. You are strong enough to get through it and evaluate what you need at this moment in time to help your mental health.
What do you do for your performance anxiety? Let me know in the comments! I would love to hear from you!
If you want more information about Dancer 360, check out Gina’s Online Course here! Her course, The Competitive Dancers’ Guide to Leveling Up: Body, Mind, and Soul is PERFECT if you want to grow your confidence, build a strong & resilient mind, maximize your flexibility, and OWN your unique artistry as a Dancer!