Beating Competition Nerves
For some people (OK, most people), performing in front of others can be the single most frightening experience of their life. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some tried and true tips from a 12 year professional on how to beat competition nerves. The first section are tips you can actually physically apply, the second half are tips on mental preparation and attitude. If you think the second half is unnecessary, you are quite mistaken. The way you think about something definitely influences a situation’s outcome.
Eye Level-Keep your eyes looking just above the heads of the audience and the same for the judges. Looking above the crowd makes them MUCH less noticeable and aids in keeping your dancing frame maintained.
Breathing – Please remember to breathe! This sounds silly but I cannot tell you how many students I have had to tell to breath in a competition. Air is desperately needed for the muscles to perform at a higher level (not to mention to sustain life and keep your instructor from having heart failure that their student is going to suffocate on them). Focus on slow, smooth and controlled breathing. This also takes one’s mind off of worrying about anything.
Pre-competition stretching-stretching the muscles thoroughly before going out on the competition floor is critical; when your legs are shaky from nerves they just start a chain reaction, they make you conscious of your nervousness and add to it. Stretch for a good 10 minutes before dancing and keep moving and loose between dances.
The Mental State for Ballroom Dancing Competition:
Anticipation – I wish I knew who said it but I don’t, “the anticipation of an event is always worse than the actual event itself”. Often in life we panic unnecessarily over an impending situation. Unless you’re a psychic, you REALLY DON’T KNOW how the situation will turn out! Be open to the possibilities and opportunities awaiting you instead of fearing the unknown.
Alter Ego-in a recent conversation with Dorothy, a ballroom student and friend, she was commenting on some comments given her after a VERY playful character kind of routine. Someone asked her how she could get up and act so crazy, so funny, so wonderfully in front of all those people. Dorothy responded “are you kidding, how many chances in life do you get to be a whole other personality or person!?!” She certainly hit the nail on the head. For about two minutes, you can be whoever you want and we all know how uncommon a chance that is so GO FOR IT! If you’re Latin dancing, imagine yourself the greatest Matador in Spain, roses thrown at your feet. For women, you’re the prettiest Senorita in all Spain, men vying for your affections and unable to resist your charms. Imagine whatever you wish and for two minutes let it come true!
Compete only against yourself, make your competition have one goal and one goal only, to dance bigger and better than you ever have before. If you dance for the enjoyment, you win no matter what place the judges give you and have a True memory to last a lifetime.
Overcoming Negative Thoughts and Doubts
Negative thoughts – think only positive thoughts before and during competition. The times I said to myself, “I don’t want to goof that up” or “I hope I remember this or that”, I goofed up what I thought I wouldn’t and forgot what I hoped to remember, EVERY TIME!!! Think instead, I will remember this or that, I will do this or that right. Negative thoughts bring negative actions.
Finally, Trust your Instructor-You’re dancing with a trained professional who happens to be in his or her element, just enjoy the ride. I tell and have told my students for years, when you’re at a competition, you’re in My Backyard, Ain’t NOTHING bad gonna happen to you in MY backyard! It’s the truth, most instructors are truly in their element on the competition floor. If you trust in them and just enjoy the outcome, you’re guaranteed to make far fewer mistakes, shine brighter and have a great time in the process.
Hope these help and Good Luck from Christopher Pilarchik and BallRoomBliss