Belly Dance Performance Anxiety: It's Not Only For Beginners
When Dilara suggested this article topic, we thought back to the jitters we all have as beginners. The cold hands, shaking, sweating, nausea, and the fear of things going terribly wrong are all perfectly normal for a first time dancer. Getting through that initial performance is a rite of passage.
Of course, the butterflies in your stomach don’t completely disappear even with experience. Successful belly dancers all have their own ways of coping with performance anxiety. Fortunately, I was able to interview a number of these talented artists for this article. The advice they offer can be used by all dancers - from beginners to pros.
Wisdom From Around the World
Dalal Bellydancer, a 9 year veteran of oriental dance from Caracas Venezuela, offers her tips for feeling your best: “It’s important to sleep well and rest before the performance - and stay hydrated.” Dalal says she also focuses on thinking positively about a performance during her warm up.
Gitane, founder of the Indigo Rose bellydance troupe in North Texas, demonstrates that the basics are still important no matter how long you’ve been dancing: “The best way to reduce stress for me, personally, is to be ready for my performance. This means practice and rehearsal.”
Circe, another Texan belly dance artist with 12 years of experience under her coin belt, reveals her pre-performance routine here: “I generally do basic moves as a warm up and then try to shimmy the jitters away. If that doesn’t work, I try jumping jacks. Right before I go on I say the Prayer of Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:10) and pray I remember my choreography.”
Fawzea (aka Fufi) is an American expatriate living in Hong Kong. She has been performing in Asia since 1982 and teaching since 1985. “My advice would be to know your music, know your routine, and go to your heart when you perform. I find that when I can get the girls that far, it all falls into place.” Fawzea says leading her troupe in a performance gives her students moral support and also helps her cope with her own stage fright.
Anxiety May Help or Harm Your Performance
According to research involving the Trait Theory of anxiety, people who tend to be naturally high strung may actually benefit from that extra frisson of nerves they feel before a performance. However, this effect only comes into play when a person has achieved an advanced level of skill and experience.
It’s also important not to add to your own stress. Researchers Steptoe and Fidler found that individuals who engage in catastrophizing (imagining the worst) are harming their performance potential. Cognitive behavioral therapy, in general, is viewed as one of the best antidotes to stage fright.
1. Practice, Prepare, and Perform...then do it all over again. It does get easier with time.
2. Always warm up and stretch out before you go on stage. Yoga calms you and shimmies can help you loosen up.
3. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth while mentally repeating a calming mantra or affirmation.
4. Remember how brave you really are for dancing in front of a live audience.
5. It’s necessary to have a backup plan for if things go wrong; but you shouldn’t dwell on worst case scenarios. Instead, imagine everything going spectacularly right!