Audition and Performance Anxiety
The first three months of the year can mean only one thing for ballet students: auditions for Summer Intensives and ballet companies. Every weekend of last month and the coming two months are packed with auditions. I wonder how many dancers, including you, have packed in as many auditions over the past weekends as is humanly, or even beyond humanly possible?
Why do we do this? Fear of losing out? Fear of not getting to the Summer Intensive or company that’s favourite? Fear of not going where other dancing friends are going? Fear of failure? Fear of rejection? Fear, fear, fear.
Fear is the operative word here and because many of the situations we find ourselves in are not actually life threatening it can be useful to remember this phrase:
Anxiety is linked with fear and is part of the ‘Fight and Flight’ system that helps us deal with dangerous situations; it’s linked with our most ancient survival instincts.
Anxiety increases your awareness to enable you to be prepared for the unknown, making you hyper-alert and focused. Adrenalin floods into your system to help you run or fight, your heart pounds, you feel agitated and your stomach’s filled with butterflies. This is, in general terms, how anxiety affects us although we all respond in different ways.
Remember, anxiety isn’t always detrimental: apprehension and excitement have their roots in the adrenaline rush.
If you’ve grown up with an anxious family background, you’re more likely to be susceptible to situational or even chronic anxiety. Situational anxiety is based only on a single event, even if that situation reoccurs occasionally. Chronic anxiety will have been constant for more than 6 months, it seriously interferes with a person’s life. Situational anxiety can become chronic if not dealt with.
Self-talk is often a factor in anxiety, “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not thin enough,” “(s)he’s better than me,” “I’m not tall enough, I’m ugly,”. The vital thing to remind yourself is that we’re all unique.
Go into an audition telling yourself that you’ll do your very best. Knowing that the artistic director/choreographer is looking for a specific type of dancer and it has nothing to do with your own talent if you’re not chosen, will help you feel more at ease. Artistic directors and choreographers are fickle people, so don’t worry if you don’t get in, it probably wasn’t right for you. Remember you are the most important person in your life, and look after yourself.
Do not compare yourself with anyone else. Now write that 100 times…………
Speaking of writing, write down your intentions of what you want in the next year. Write it in positive terms, so don’t write “I don’t want…." etc., only write what you want.
Also, on a practical note, only go for the auditions that you know you want and the ones you know that you can attain the standard that they are looking for. Your time and energy are limited - use them wisely!
Preparing for the audition:
Visualizations work well when rehearsing or practicing aspects of dance that you find difficult. Close your eyes, visualize yourself actually dancing whatever you want to improve on. What you visualize must be what you want it to look like: you doing it perfectly. Do this over and over again as if you are in rehearsal or class. Every time you imagine yourself doing it perfectly, turns perfect, balances perfect, jumps and batterie perfect. Do the visualizations on the bus, train and before going to sleep. No physical energy is expended but your brain is getting you used to dancing that piece perfectly. Then your mind and body work together when you actually get to dance it.
Good luck with your auditions, exams and performances!
Terry Hyde MA MBACP
Terry Hyde is a psychotherapist/counselor. Terry started dancing at age 6, joining the Royal Ballet age 18. He moved to London’s Festival Ballet (now ENB) as a soloist and performed in West End musicals, Film and TV. Terry attained an MA in Psychotherapy validated by Middlesex University in 2012 and in 2017 set up the website www.counsellingfordancers.com, specifically to address the mental health needs of dancers. Terry is in a unique position to understand the mental health needs of dancers and uses that, not only in his one to one therapy sessions, but also in his mental health self-care workshops. Terry works with dancers all over the world one-on-one, in-person or via Skype sessions.
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