How to counter stage fright?
Nowadays, stage performances and stage shows have become very common and popular. Every student who enrolls for a dance class wants to start performing. There was a time an artiste was told not to even step onto stage if they were not fully ready. In dancing language, if a dancer was not poora taiyaar (fully accomplished), their guru did not allow them to appear on stage.
A few Indian classical dancers till date practice and celebrate the first time stage appearance or performance. Months and years of practice is put a dancer before they show off their skills. I know of many guru and highly accomplished teacher who, for years, did not allow a student to perform because they felt the student needed more training and lot more finesse. But I guess those days are gone and we, as a modern society, are looking to give opportunities to people earlier in life. Now whether it is correct way or not is very debatable.
Nevertheless, we today see people from all walks of life, size, shape, sex, age come ahead and showcase whatever they know. It is not important how good or bad a dancer you are or what kind of dancing quality you posses. But it is more about being there on stage, under that spot, breaking a leg.
I have always asked most international celebrities whom I taught to dance, how do they fight ”backstage jitters” before a performance. Madonna, Shakira, Beyonce and even Kenny G have the same fears. My student, actress Kajol once told me due to the fear of stage fright she can never do live performances. It is natural for any dancer to feel nervous right before going on stage. Often this nervousness can hinder a dancer’s performance. As we become seasoned performers, we learn how to use this nervousness to our advantage.
This tension comes from the adrenaline that naturally will release into the body. It is hard to feel calm once this happens! This will happen when a person embarks on a venture that requires a great deal of courage. Dancing on stage can be downright scary at times. One way to better perform is to have been on stage enough times to just naturally feel comfortable! This unfortunately isn’t an option for less experienced dancers. But there are a few things a dancer can do to lessen this tension and to use it towards the performance ahead.Be Ready
— Before you get called to the wings by the stagehands; practice breathing and stretching. Make sure you are completely warmed up, stretched and calm. Taking deep breaths is very important so you have a great surplus of oxygen flowing through your lungs and muscles. By the time you get to the wings, you should be calm enough to handle last minute nerves.
— Never go on a stage without practicing the piece at least twice. Being physically warmed up will assure a better performance and that should ease a little tension right there.
— Make sure you have enough time the night before, to sleep at least nine hours that night. This will help your performance and your tension.
— Do stay hydrated and have some protein in your pre-performance meal. Don’t eat heavy but try to eat enough so that you feel energetic. Eat three to four hours before your performance so that it is digested for energy stores at the time you’ll need it. Do not eat sugar or drink caffeine. And absolutely no smoking or alcohol!
— Make sure your dance bag, costumes, accessories and makeup are all packed and checked the night before.
— Arrive at the venue at least an hour before you’re required to be there. This will give you time to practice on the stage area and will lesson your chances of any late arrival which will, in turn, cause increased tension.
— Try your shoes on the floor when it’s rolled out. Make any last minute adjustments according to the floor.
— Make sure you listen to your music and visualize the performance before you go onstage. Visualisation is a very powerful tool and can relax the mind and body.
— Don’t let a chatty friend take all your crucial last moments before a performance! Try to center yourself and stay in a very focused state of mind.
— Try to use whatever mood you’re feeling that day towards your performance. Any energy is good energy. This is the difference between a good dancer and a phenomenal performer.
— Backstage nervousness is a twist of anticipation and excitement. Remember these other factors and keep your mindset positive.
— Anticipate your best performance yet and enjoy the excitement of your finally getting to perform this piece after all the hard work you’ve done! Enjoy instead of dreading it! Be proactive!
— Dancers need to come together as a group in a positive light pre-performance. It always helps to pray together, massage each other’s shoulders or do a pep cheer! This pep cheer can be a team ritual that gets every one in the mode and into the spirit. It brings a positive energy to the group that translates on stage.
— Have confidence in yourself! You have worked hard and know the choreography. You were chosen for this part because you earned it! — Have pride in your part no matter how large or small it may be. This humble and thankful mindset will give off an inner happiness that will shine for your fellow dancers, your choreographer and your audience.
— Just remember one thing do not be over confident about your dancing skills, it is the humbleness attitude that makes a dancer more attractive. A dancer dances on the ground not in the clouds, so the attitude should also be down to earth and not something that carries a clip on the shoulder.
— A dancer without jitters is a bird without wings. Use this energy towards your movement and know that it is normal. Enjoy this excitement and relish every time you’re in the position to be coming out of those wings. We can’t be dancers forever! So enjoy these moments, and soar on that stage! You are there for a reason, let it shine!
Sandip Soparrkar is a World Book of Record holder, a well known Ballroom dancer and a Bollywood choreographer who has been honoured with three National Excellence awards and one National Achievement Award by the Government of India. He can be contacted on [email protected]