Training in Irish dance while navigating the roller coaster of “growing up” can be tough. There’s a lot of pressure to deal with and you might be struggling to cope.
If this is the case do not worry - I was in this exact position during my dance career and so today, we’re going to cover some strategies to help you overcome all of these pressures you will face.
Do you get stage fright before a big competition? Are you struggling with performance anxiety? Even if you’re fine class, nerves can play tricks on us when it’s time to hit the stage. Here are some tips to help you manage any nervousness or anxiety before a performance.
Trust Your Training
Most of the time when we worry about something, we’re thinking only of all the things that could go wrong. What if I fall? What if my injury comes back? What if I don’t nail my set?
Instead, it’s important to trust your training and focus on what can go right. Remember the majority of what you fear will never come true.
But if you do fail, know that you’re prepared to get back up and carry on. If you don't nail your set, remember that competition is a learning curve and you can take so many lessons away from every round that you do. Trust that your teachers and mentors have prepared you well enough to avoid injuries and nail even the most difficult of steps. The rest will take care of itself.
Connect with the Audience
While you might have heard that the best thing to do when dealing with stage fright is to imagine that the audience isn't there. This isn't always true. The even better approach is to actually connect with your audience. It seems counterintuitive, but here’s why.
The main reason why you are about to step on stage is because you are a born performer. Most often, we dance to connect with the audience and make them feel something. With this in mind, remember you are going on stage to show off for everyone who is there to see you. Don't shy away from crowd but adapt your mindset to embrace them and go make them smile!
Let Go of Perfection
Among Irish dancers, perfectionism runs wild. Our sport requires precision which can put a lot of pressure on us to perform without a single mistake. However, while we can always strive to do our best, we can’t always expect perfection. No one is perfect. Accepting this will help you move past perfectionism and is sure to relieve a lot of the mental pressure you might feel growing up.
Dealing with competition in the dance world is full of ups and downs. One day you’re at the top of your game, the next you may feel defeated and like your slipping. You won’t always win, but even as you progress, it’s important to care for your mindset.
Instead of focusing on the outcome, focus on the process. When your only goal is to win, you miss out on so many learning opportunities.
A growth mindset is when you focus on what you learned, how it felt to do your best, and what you might be able to do better next time with a bit more practice. This mindset is essential to success in dancing and in life. So, the next time you leave a competition, focus on what you learned and can take back to your dance class to improve on, and not the outcome itself. If you do this, the final outcome will always be greater than you could have imagined.
Remember, Your Most Important Competitor is YOU
We all have different genetics, started dancing at different times, and all have different weaknesses and strengths. Comparing yourself to someone else who is very different than you won’t get you anywhere. Instead of competing with others stick to competing only with your current self. If you aim improve after every competition by only 1%, after 100 competitions you will be at the top.
Don’t Skip Sleep
Getting enough sleep is essential to strong mental health. When we sleep, our brains are moving what we’ve learned from our short-term memory into long-term memory. In short, sleep is just as important as training when it comes to progress and mindset.
Most experts agree that eight hours of sleep per night is sufficient. However, teenagers may need even more! So, the next time you hear that little voice in your head telling you to push through the sleepiness - don’t listen. Use that willpower to push through the pain of training instead!
Growing up is all about finding your place in the world and you might have peers that are pressuring you to do things that make you feel uncomfortable. Here are some ways to say no:
Trust Your Gut
Often, if what’s being asked of us feels wrong, it most likely is. Of course, drinking, smoking, and illegal behaviour are obvious no-nos. But, other forms of peer pressure like actively excluding someone or studying less than you should are sometimes less obvious.
If you’re unsure whether you made the right choice when it comes to peer pressure, talk to a parent, teacher or us! We can talk you through how to deal with things that might be pulling you away from what you are truly born to do.
Practise Saying No
Sometimes we go along with things not because we think it’s right, but because we don’t know what to say instead. Just like dancing, saying no to peer pressure takes practise. It’ll become easier to say no when you have experience doing it in a safe environment.
When your brother asks if you want to play outside but you’re happier studying, that’s a perfect opportunity to practise saying no. You might have to be persistent, but knowing what you want and sticking to it doesn’t always have the negative consequences we might think.
Back Your Decision Up with Positivity
If you want to shut down someone who’s peer pressuring you, make sure to back up your decision with something positive.
For example, you might respond to someone pressuring you to drink with, “No, thanks. I’d rather feel strong and clear-minded when I’m dancing tomorrow. Dance is more important to me than a party anyway.”
With a response like this, you are not being mean or judging the other person, but not saying yes to them either. Instead you're backing up your answer with something positive and your goals. This strength and mindset response will end up inspiring them to be better when they see how in control you are of your dreams.
What to chat more on these subjects? Here’s how!
Our partner charity, The Mix is available for live chats from 4 pm - 11 pm UK time to discuss any of the things you have just read. You can also connect by phone, email, one to one, or receive free counselling services online or in person.
Just click here to get started.