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My daughter makes herself so nervous before she goes on stage. She is a beautiful dancer but freezes up right before she performs. Sometimes she will even vomit she is so wound up. What can we do to help her through this?

Nerves is a problem that is very common, yet so simple to address. The girl who freaks herself out before a performance or audition is always fantasizing about all of the things that could possibly go wrong. In her head, she is thinking “I am going to get rejected, I am going to fail, and I am going to stuff up” She is using her brain and her mind in the most negative way that she can. The joke is this… ‘Fear’ and ‘Excitement’ really look the same and feel the same. It’s just a question of the labels you are using. She is feeling excited, but is then using the same energy against her own performance by labeling it as fear/anxiety. It’s about the ability to take those butterflies and have them fly in formation

Far too often we try to get our children not think negatively. We tell them… “Don’t be negative… Don’t be negative… Don’t be negative…” But in doing that, what’s to stop them from doing this internally? Nothing! They are going to continue to do this quietly and then feel bad about it because they know that they should be thinking positively. One way to counter this is to talk to her way before the competition (Do not do this just before she goes on stage!) Ask her to visualize all of the bad things that could possibly go wrong and feel them in her body. The question becomes; Can I deliberately visualize all the things that could go wrong, and be comfortable with that for a second? What’s the worst that could happen? Okay, so you could fall on your face. You could be dropped from a lift. You could forget your steps... Are you okay with that?
• No?
• Can we laugh about it?
• Can we make a joke of it?
• Will it change how much love I have for you?
• Will it change your chances of being a dancer in the slightest?
• Can we take the energy away from it?

It is about being honest. Can we talk about all the things we don’t want to talk about? Or should we just ignore them? By lightening the situation, and realising that any ‘mistake’ will not change her governing value, whether this is your love for her, the respect of her friends or her ballet career, you will diffuse the situation, and she will have far less anxiety about performing, as the consequences are no longer as extreme. If there is a lot at stake in a certain competition, for example when competing for a scholarship, understanding that life will carry on despite the result does help enormously. Going into the competition with a lighthearted approach will often set her apart from the other competitors with an effortless quality to the performance making all the difference to the judges. Encourage her to focus on the dance, the communication of the movement, the feeling, the expression in the piece. If she is focused on feeling the dance from within, rather than being an external observer, she is far less likely to view herself making ‘mistakes’.

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