How Dancers Can Overcome Performance Anxiety

By Lily Cooper
Faulty, College of Fine Arts and Production

Two ballerinas dancing on stage, legs raised

Are you a dancer who can know the choreography down perfectly, but when it comes time to step on stage, it all drains from your brain and you forget it all? Do frantic thoughts run through your head and cause you to freeze up during a performance? Do you get physically sick at the thought of performing in front of a lot of people?

Performance anxiety is common among dancers and according to the Task Force on Dancer Health by Dance USA, has been felt by dancers at least once in their career.

What Are the Symptoms?

Besides the usual butterflies in the stomach backstage, performance anxiety can cause the following in dancers:

  • Negative thinking
  • Fear of forgetting
  • Fear of disapproval
  • Irritability
  • Emotional
  • Feeling out of control
  • Being physically ill
  • Self-sabotage
  • Shortness of breath and dry mouth
  • Dizziness

How Do I Overcome Performance Anxiety?

WebMD and Dance USA offer’s many tips to overcoming performance anxiety.

1. Preparation

Some dancers have certain routines and traditions that they do before each performance. Having a set schedule can help calm a dancer’s mind and keep the anxiety at bay. The act of panning, doing and going through the same motions can help remind a dancer that the outcome will be the same: they will dance and give a great performance in the end.

2. Limit Caffeine and Sugar

Caffeine and sugar speed up heart rate and can dehydrate a dancer. It is best to limit caffeine and sugar intake before a performance. Try to focus on drinking more water. You can add fruit, cucumber and mint to water to make it fun and fresh. This will help keep you on your A-game and make sure you are at your peak health-wise before you dance.

Drinking chamomile tea can also help calm a dancer down. The tea tastes good, feels good and can help a dancer relax before they go on stage.

3. Focus on the Positive

Our thoughts have power over us and it’s important to be able to control our thoughts and keep the negative at bay. Have positive quotes on your mirror, phone lock screen and say five good things about yourself before you go dance.

Another fun thing to do is make a mood board to look at before each performance. Cut out favorite quotes, outfits, calming colors and other things that calm you down. Then glue them on a board and bring it with you to each performance or if it’s too big, take a photo and look at it whenever you feel uneasy.

4. Practice Controlled Breathing

If your heart feels like it is pounding out of your chest and that you can’t control it, try different breathing techniques. It will help control your breathing, lower your heart rate and clear your mind.

A common breathing practice is to breathe for six seconds, hold for five and then breathe out for six seconds. Repeat this until your heart rate goes down and you feel rooted back on the ground.

5. Eat Healthy

Food does more than just fuel us. It has the power to determine our mood and how we react to situations. The week before a performance, make sure you eat healthy meals that both fuel you and make you feel good overall. Eat fruits, vegetables, nuts and other proteins.

Try not to eat overly sugar-filled food and be conscious of what you put in your body.

6. Get Adequate Sleep

Sleeping affects mood and anxiety big-time! Make sure you get the proper amount of sleep the night before. It is recommended to get around seven to eight hours a sleep a day. Lack of sleep could result in an increase in tiredness, anxiety and mood.

When you are tired, you will also consume more caffeine to compensate for the lack of sleep and therefore dehydrate you and cause your heart rate to increase.

7. Essential Oils

Essential oils are all the rage nowadays and can help dancers in all sorts of ways. There are some oils that help reduce anxiety such as sandalwood, chamomile, lavender and more. A dancer can use essential oils in their dressing room to help calm and relax them.

You can also use essential oils to bring you to your happy place. Find a scent that takes you to a happy memory and can calm you down. When you feel the performance anxiety coming on, smell the oil and remember your happy memory.

If you want to learn more about Grand Canyon University’s dance program within the College of Fine Arts and Production, check out our website or click the Request More Information button on this page.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.