The Dancer’s Journal: That Old Feeling

by Katyusha Schaffer
Author, FADS Student Extraordinaire, and Amateur Competitor

Racing heartbeat, trembling knees, sweaty palms… you’re not in love, but about to step out onto the competition dance floor! These 10 tips will help you push through your dance competition nerves and help you enjoy the journey. There’s that feeling again.  It starts as soon as you enter the ballroom.  On the on-call deck, your knees start trembling, your hands get sweaty and you feel your heart beating in your throat. Once on the dance floor, you feel sick to your stomach, “brain-fog” sets in and your routine doesn’t go very well. You feel like a failure.

I don’t think there’s a performer alive that hasn’t experienced performance anxiety.  Performance “jitters” set in when we experience an increase in adrenaline release.  Some people are able to ward off the effects fairly quickly but for others, performance anxiety can be so bad that it prevents them from doing what they love, and negatively impacts self-esteem and self confidence. Fear of failure, perfectionist attitudes, low self esteem, a feeling that you need to prove something, feeling you will be letting someone down if you don’t do well, the inability to redirect negative thinking, our beliefs about our ability to perform, and a lack of self-acceptance are a few of the recognized causes of “stage fright.”

So what are the secrets of overcoming this paralyzing apprehension?  It’s all about being proactive.

  1. Limit caffeine and sugar prior to your time on the floor – they cannot sustain you and will only give you more jitters. Instead, eat low-fat protein and complex carbs to maintain energy
  2. Shift your focus to having fun with your routine; it doesn’t have to be perfect – the audience just wants to see you enjoy yourself
  3. Don’t focus on the outcome; focus on accomplishing the task at hand
  4. Banish negative thoughts; stop them in their tracks and change to positive thinking
  5. Diaphragmatic breathing helps, but it’s a discipline that needs daily practice to do correctly
  6. Warm up; jump up and down, learn movement and stretching that mimics what you will be doing, or just shake out your muscles
  7. Connect with your audience; find a friendly face and smile at them
  8. Make sure you know how fabulous you look!
  9. Write out a list of positive things about your dancing; keep that list with you
  10. Practice under pressure; ask your instructor to set up an audience in your studio to practice in front of, go to practice parties, do showcase routines

Of course all of these things become easier if they are built on a base of mental and physical fitness.  Eat healthy, exercise regularly and work on positive thinking. You CAN get past performance anxiety! Talk to your Fred Astaire Dance Instructor about pre-performance nerves. They can help you apply these – and more – strategies to help you savor every moment on the competition dance floor! Whether you’re ready to sign up for your first FADS dance competition, or are taking that first step on your ballroom dance journey, get started today at Fred Astaire Dance Studios.

Congratulations, Katyusha, our valued FADS Dance Blog Contributor, on the publication of her first book! Life Lessons from the Ballroom is about the lessons that moved a 53-year-old woman from a mediocre life, to a fulfilling adventure.  At the age of 53, Katyusha realized some harsh truths: her mental and physical health were in danger, and she needed to do something about it. Fighting low self-esteem, self-doubt and emotional eating, she took a leap of faith and started Ballroom dancing. As the saying goes, “art imitates life”, and ballroom dancing is no exception. While she was learning to dance she was graced with a period of life-insights that “allowed me to acknowledge my place in the world and provided me with a purpose in life.” Now, Katyusha brings those insights to readers in Life Lessons from the Ballroom.  In sharing these lessons with others, she hopes her readers will be inspired to listen to their hearts and create the life they long for. Find Life Lessons From the Ballroom on Amazon.com.