Breath In, Breathe Out: How to Shake Off Nerves Before a Performance

When it comes to performances, every dancer has his or her own unique way of preparing hair, makeup, and shoes for a show. However, there is one common trait that every single dancer experiences before stepping onstage in front of an

Backstage relaxing. (Photo by Wendy Rubin)
Backstage relaxing. (Photo by Wendy Rubin)

audience. Yes, I am talking about nervousness. For most, this is one aspect of performing that varies depending on what show is being performed and what specific roles are being danced. Although nerves are always on the back burner for most dancers, here are a few simple ways to prevent them or at least calm them down before the curtain goes up.
Method 1: Chill Out
As straight forward as it may seem, one of the easiest ways to calm yourself down is to meditate of practice deep breathing before a show. For me, it helps if I sit on a jacket or a blanket on the floor in my dressing room, turn on some soft music on my Ipod (I prefer bands like Death Cab for Cutie in this instance), and close my eyes for at least five minutes. I work on slow and controlled breathing that only moves in and out through my nose since that is the kind of breathing I rely on during a performance. Ultimately, the amount of time you have before you need to be on stage will dictate how long you can ‘relax’ like this for, but even the smallest amounts can help in the long run. This little practice helps take my mind off of the stress caused by challenging choreography and wanting to not mess up in front of a live audience. I highly recommend that you do this only after you have fixed your hair and makeup and before you put your costume on since sitting on the floor for any amount of time can sometimes wrinkle certain types of fabrics.

Method 2: Drink Up
Sometimes another great method that works for me is having either hot tea or medium roast coffee. I usually drink something like this right after warm up in order for my body to have time to process it properly before I begin to dance very intensely. The heat from drinks like this instantly calm me down and allow me to have a small, yet peaceful moment amid the general backstage chaos. However, make sure that any tinted beverages are placed far enough away from costumes so

From the wings. (Photo by Wendy Rubin)
From the wings. (Photo by Wendy Rubin)

that a potential spill would not leave its mark.

Method 3:
Try small jogs or jumps in place. These can help get your body flowing before taking the stage and they can also give a little boost of energy before a long dance such as “Snow” or “Waltz of the Flowers” in The Nutcracker.

Remember, think positive thoughts before  every entrance!


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