The Mental Preparation for Performance
The time leading up to a performance is a critical opportunity to condition yourself for success. It’s surprising that more ballet companies and schools don’t focus more on the mental components of a good performance. However, they’ve already got technique, artistry, and musicality to worry about!
Dancer’s should use the same mental preparation for performance as athlete’s do for competition or training.
According to the Ohio Center for Sports Psychology – the following are required for you to reach your best possible performance.
1. Choose and maintain positive attitudes.
In dance companies and schools, there are usually some who default to more negative attitudes. This is natural for some people but it’s important to stay away from it. Staying positive even in the times when you’re not cast how you’d like or when you’re not getting the attention you desire (more on that in #2) is essential for performance.
Your mind is powerful. If you stay stuck in all that you’re unhappy with, it will drag you down and lead to poor performance. Keep your head up and surround yourself with positive people in order to move forward consistently.
2. High level of self – motivation.
Dancer’s easily fall into a head space where we need validation from teachers. This happens naturally as students – you’re young and you’re looking for approval. However, once you’re dancing professionally you easily see that it’s up to you to maintain your technique and push yourself to work.
It varies from company to company but at the professional level, artistic staff is much more hands off than when you’re a student. They expect you to bring your A – game and push through without their constant singing of praises. This is where self – motivation is essential.
3. Set high, realistic goals.
Goal setting is something you’ve heard about at The Whole Dancer since it’s start. It is SO important and it shocks me that it’s not a bigger part of dancer training! You’ve got set the next big goal to reach the next level. Goal setting is a big part of both The Whole Dancer Program and The Dancer’s Best Body Program because that’s the only way to facilitate change!
4. Deal effectively with people.
Whether you’re dancing in the corps de ballet or as a soloist or principal dancer, you’ve got to be able to deal with those around you. It’s more obvious as a corps dancer – you’ve got to be able to communicate with your fellow dancers to create a cohesive and uniform look as a group. That’s no easy feat!
When you’re dancing solo, you might think there’s no necessity to deal with people. To the contrary, you’ve got to have a clear communication style so that you’re able to work with whomever comes in to coach you. Openness and vulnerability is required as a soloist.
5. Use positive self – talk.
This is another focus of the programs from The Whole Dancer. When that little voice in your head is constantly dragging you down, how do you think your body is going to react?
When you’re able to focus on the positive, see what is working and lift yourself up through the struggle you’re going to find much greater success than if you feed into your inner critic.
6. Employ positive mental imagery.
Visualize. Visualize. Visualize. Imagine the positive outcome you’d like. See the perfect double pirouette’s you’re capable of before you even start dancing.
There was a particular section of the ballet Beauty and the Beast where I danced as an angel with a series of 3 pirouette’s that I just always saw myself falling out of. You know what happened? I fell out of it each and every time. I truly wish I could go back and visualize the positive outcome! Let me know how this works for you!
7. Manage nerves and anxiety effectively.
Whether you do some breathing exercises, journal out the jitters, or give yourself a pep talk – you’ve got to find a way to move through the anxiety.
8. Manage emotions effectively.
When you get to the studio, turn everything else off. This will be good practice for managing emotions when you need to perform onstage. Let your time dancing be the time to release any stress you’re feeling. If you can’t shut them off, channel then into your performance and let it elevate what you bring to the stage (or the studio)!
9. Maintain concentration.
Find your focus. Audiences are great, but you’ve got to be able to mostly tune them out and focus in on the dancing. If you’re dancing in the corps de ballet, use your fellow dancers to stay engaged in your character. Dancer’s have the added benefit of music to help facilitate concentration so use it! Allow the music and musicality of the choreography keep you honed in on what you plan to accomplish.
Want more on this topic? Check out The Whole Dancer Podcast episode on the needed mental preparation for performance.