We dare say that every artist or athlete out there has had to deal with performance anxiety at some point in their career. That dreadful feeling like you’ll surely mess up, sweaty palms, sometimes even nausea. What if you’re horrible? What if you fall? And what if you’ll never make it?

We’ve all been there and we’re here to tell you that performance anxiety is completely normal and, in most cases, relatively easy to deal with if you know how.

We’ll be talking about dance psychology more this year on Season 2 of our She’s Just A Dancer podcast, so if that’s something you’re interested in do check out our episodes!

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what is performance anxiety?

According to goodtherapy.org : ” Performance anxiety is fear about one’s ability to perform a specific task. People experiencing performance anxiety may worry about failing a task before it has even begun. They might believe failure will result in humiliation or rejection.” In performing arts, we usually call it stage fright.

It’s important to know that stage fright is not a mental disorder, but rather a common sensation to a stressful situation like dancing the World Championship or doing a show in front of a live audience. It’s usually a mild reaction but for some people stage fright may result in more serious issues like panic attacks and diminish their ability to perform at all. In those cases, it would be wise to speak to a dance psychologist and work through it with the help of a professional.

symptoms of stage fright

We all react differently to stage fright, but the symptoms usually include one or more of the following:

        Negative thinking (I’m not good enough)

        Fear of failure (What if I can’t do it?)

        Fear of disapproval (What will my coach/parents think?)

        Irritability

        Over-emotional reactions

        Excessive sweating

        Nausea/ dizziness

        Shortness of breath

        Forgetting the steps

        Self-sabotage

what causes stage fright

Performing in front of an audience often makes people feel self-conscious and vulnerable. Even for top dancers like Gabriele Goffredo & Anna Matus stage fright was an issue in their early years!

It’s never easy when you make mistakes whilst being watched and many people think it will damage their reputation and make them seem less than perfect. Striving for perfection is great when used as a motivating factor but putting yourself under too much pressure may result in stronger manifestation of performance anxiety.

People suffering from social anxiety usually manifest stronger symptoms of performance anxiety, so personality traits also play a role in how strong your stage fright is. Perfectionists tend to be more susceptible to experiencing performance anxiety – really knowing yourself and understanding how your mind works is the first step towards overcoming those negative sensations before walking onto the dance floor.

Performance anxiety is often a self-fulfilling prophecy; your body’s fight or flight response triggered by extreme anxiety may distract you and result in a poorer performance- a singer’s voice might shake; a dancer’s turns may be wobbly, and you may even forget parts of your routine!

how to overcome performance anxiety

Treatments of performance anxiety often involve relaxation techniques like breathing exercises and meditation that usually instantly calm the person down. Like everything in dancing overcoming stage fright takes practice and consistency- the more exercises you make, the sooner your performance anxiety will diminish.

Some lifestyle changes can help your stage fright- drinking less caffeine and getting enough sleep during days leading up to your performance are just two of the easy fixes you can try.

When working with dance psychologists you’ll learn specific techniques that can be tried and personalised in order to fit your needs perfectly. These techniques may include:

        using your posture to feel better; standing in a confident, relaxed poise before walking on stage

        learning to maintain the flow rather than focusing on mistakes

        sometimes it helps to focus on the performance rather than on the audience’s reaction; for some people it’s important to focus on the friendliest face in the audience

        visualising techniques

      The most important thing is to share your feelings with someone- your parents, your coach or your partner. It’s always more difficult to overcome obstacles alone and performance anxiety is just an obstacle on your way to success.

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