Ask Amy: Tips for Squelching Performance Nerves

May 11, 2020

Sometimes when I perform, I get wrapped up in my nerves and make sloppy technical mistakes—things that I don’t have trouble with in rehearsal. Are there ways to combat this? —Laura


You’re not alone—even seasoned professionals struggle with nerves onstage. But while some dancers thrive under pressure, others can be consumed by anxiety, leading to silly mistakes or a stiff, lackluster performance.

The key is to find ways to focus before you go onstage. Many dancers use visualization, where they imagine themselves giving a successful performance. Others like to meditate or pray to help them feel more centered. I often listened to upbeat music to put me in a good mood (Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” was a favorite). Or, you might like chatting with a cheerful colleague who has a good sense of humor—laughter can be a wonderful distraction when you’re stuck in your own head.

Feeling rushed can cause added jitters, so give yourself plenty of time to warm up, do your makeup and hair, and get your costume and pointe shoes on. And take note of behaviors or habits that make your nerves worse. For instance, I learned not to obsess over practicing tricky steps backstage. It was more helpful to try something two or three times and then, regardless of whether or not I hit it, move on.

But most importantly, trust yourself. All of those successful rehearsals count for something. Your body and your mind are prepared