Managing Performance Jitters

Jane Grech – Founder

In the lead up to performances it is natural for students to feel anxious or nervous. Students, teachers and parents can all play a part in keeping these nerves at bag. Read on to explore some of our commonly used strategies to ensure that performance time is a positive and joyful experience for our students.

In the lead up to our Academy Performance later in September our teachers will be discussing the concept of Interoception with our students – this is having an awareness of sensations inside your body, and the message it is sending.

Our dancers require Interoception BEFORE they can master self-regulation, as it provides them the tools they need to recognise their physical body cues for BIG feelings such as being nervous or anxious, and the skills to manage them.

Obviously, these aren’t the words our teachers will be using in class. Instead, they will be discussing how our bodies talk to us via signals such as:

 

  • Dry mouth
  • Yucky tummy
  • Quiet voice
  • Shaky hands or legs
  • Heart beating fast
  • Feeling like you need to wee
  • Feeling sweaty
  • Feeling hot or cold

Teachers will then be guiding students through some calming tools to help our students feel safe and ready. These include strategies such as:

 

  • A reminder that feeling nervous before a performance is natural and part of your body’s way of helping you do your best (even if it doesn’t feel like much help!)
  • Positive Affirmations and Mantras – repeating phrases such as “I know my dance” “My best is enough” “If I make a mistake, I am still loved” “I am safe” “This will be fun!” “I got this!”
  • Speaking to the feeling – it might sound funny but when feeling anxious it can really help to say something like “Oh hello Mr Worry! You always come on performance day and make my tummy feel funny! But I don’t need you today, I am ready!”
  • Breathing techniques – taking deep breaths in through the nose and into the belly with slow exhalations out through the mouth to help calm the nervous system.
  • A reminder about being prepared. Come to all your rehearsals, watch your dances on Movitae, and practice in your head before sleep. Practice until you feel relaxed and ready. Nothing calms the nerves like the confidence that comes from knowing you have prepared the best you can.

Of course, parents can play a role in helping calm their young performers too.

 

  • Reminding your child you love them no what happens. Even though you know this, they may feel the expectation of perfection. Letting them know they are wonderful even if they make a mistake is reassuring.
  • Be empathetic. Really imagine how YOU would feel before stepping out onto a stage. Often when we try to explain that performance anxiety is no big deal we can say statements like “Don’t worry about it” or “You’ll be fine” but sometimes those kind of comments can send a message that your child is wrong to feel they way they do. Try “I feel nervous too before a presentation at work, so to help calm myself I picture your smiling face.” (That one is an actually technique I use, and oddly it works!)
  • Being calm and prepared yourself on rehearsal and performance day so there are no fake emergencies. Pack the bag the night before, showing your child that everything is there and where it is. Create the atmosphere of calm to foster a good sleep the night before and allow plenty of time to travel to the venue the day of.
  • Reinforcing some of the methods their teachers have shared with them in class as listed here.