Dance Competition Tips and Advice: Calming Nerves
You’d be hard-pressed to find a dancer that never gets nervous before competitions. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a newbie or an Olympic gold medalist – nerves are a natural part of competition. As a dance teacher or studio owner, it will often fall to you to help alleviate those pre-competition butterflies that your dancers feel. This can be tough, as different dancers have different degrees of nerves, and might be calmed by different activities. Take a look at some dance competition tips and advice that can help your dancers remain confident and collected before they take the stage.
Banish Negative Thoughts
Positive thoughts are key when it comes to remaining confident before a competition. Hopefully your studio and classes already incorporate positive thinking and positive feedback throughout the year – make sure that your positivity extends from the studio to the stage!
Especially in a setting where dancers are comparing themselves to every other dancer as soon as they step through the dance competition doors, it’s important to keep a positive outlook. That goes for your dancers, and your entire dance staff! If you’re a studio owner or competition teacher who has a attended a competition and NEVER faced a challenge, email us and tell us how you managed to avoid any problems. Because everyone else needs to know how you did it!
As far as the performance goes, Alexandra Cownie, a former professional ballerina, told Dance Informa that students often benefit from thinking about a successful performance.
“While you warm up, think about a time when you danced really well and felt very confident,” Cownie suggested to Dance Informa. “Visualize how you felt and use that feeling to pump yourself up.”
Practice Calming Rituals
In addition to thinking positive thoughts, dancers should find a calming ritual that helps them relax. How do you typically help dancers cool their nerves before recital? Performance is performance, though the dancers might feel like the stakes are higher at a competition.
Consistency can sometimes be very helpful – use what you know works back home at the studio, and have the dancers:
- Listen to music
- Practice breathing exercises
- Visualize the choreography
If you have something that works, use it!
Also, as the teacher, you’re the expert on your dancers. By now, you’ve seen them in practice, outside of class, and probably in some performance setting. Just like people learn in different ways, everyone will have their own method of keeping nerves down and staying focused. Keep an eye on your dancers, certainly, but let them do what they need to do to get in the zone and be ready to nail the performance on stage.
Watching the Competition
And by competition, we mean other dance performances. This is a tricky one!
On the one hand, the larger point of a competition is to receive critique on your own skills, choreography, and preparation, but it’s also to celebrate and learn from other dancers who might be doing things differently. So it makes sense to watch other dances and learn!
On the other hand, you don’t want your dancers to get anxious by watching other dances, and (like we mentioned during the positivity portion) you don’t want them to be comparing themselves and shifting towards a negative outlook before their own performance.
No matter how you plan the day, and plan your class’ movements, chances are you’ll see some other dances. That’s fine! If you’re talking to your dancers about staying positive, worrying about their own performance, and taking inspiration from other dancers, you’ll minimize any anxiety about “our dance vs. their dance.”
And, if you’ve already performed your last dance for the day, encourage dancers to stick around and watch other performances for their own benefit (depending on what your post-performance plan is, obviously).