All too often we can be affected by those gastly things called nerves. They can hit at any time and make you feel even paralised with fear. This article deals with that situation and helps with some brilliant ideas that really work, no matter what level of nervousness you are experiencing.
DEALING WITH NERVES
It gets to us all at some stage of our careers, learn how you can deal with it ALWAYS!
Are you affected by nerves? Do you perform really well in class, rehearsals or practice, only to find yourself shaking, breathless, un-focused, or completely thrown by nervousness when it really matters? Do you dread walking into an audition or onto stage? Do nerves stop you from enjoying an audition or a performance, or from doing your best?
What a bummer!
But you know what, that doesn’t have to be the case!
When we work with our students, we explain a few tricks that really help them to deal with nerves, and actually turn them into an asset. So here goes!
1. Firstly - it goes without saying that you will be MUCH LESS nervous if you are really prepared! Whether you are going for an audition or appearing in a production, concert, movie or tv show…or even doing an exam…make sure you’re as ready as you can be! I know this sounds obvious, but there really is no such thing as being over-prepared, especially when you are young or just starting out!
I play piano often for singers, and nowadays I can pretty much look at most songs and play them from sight, but I remember when I first started accompanying people - I practised for HOURS AND HOURS! So with experience, your preparation time may decrease a bit…but right now - BE READY! Learn your pieces inside out, until you can perform them in your sleep (you’ll probably dream them anyway!), research the role you’re chasing in an audition, practise cold reads, and if you’re a dancer - work with as many different choreographers as possible so you get used to picking up different styles quickly. Video yourself, and watch back so you can make your own decisions over what works and what doesn’t: perform for family and friends…the list of things that help is endless. We do all of the above with our students…and more!
2. So the big day arrives, and you’ve done all you can - you’re as ready as you can be…but you are STILL nervous! You wake up with that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, you can’t eat, you keep thinking of all the things that can go wrong, you even start doubting if you’ll remember your lines! What then???? Well, there are some “mind stuff” things you can do to really help! Athletes, politicians, performers of all sorts use these inner game ideas to carry them past those pre-performance jitters and right onto their game. It may take a bit of discipline, but the results will be totally worth it!
The first thing is to get tough with yourself! When your mind starts trying to talk you into failure - TELL IT TO TAKE A HIKE! Seriously! YELL IT OUT LOUD IF NEED BE! KICK THOSE DOWNER THOUGHTS OUT - AND DO IT A HUNDRED TIMES IF YOU HAVE TO! Then…take a big deep breath, and say something like: “I can do this! I’m ready! I love this! I’m good! I’m having a great time”.
Close your eyes, and imagine your performance going EXACTLY as you want it to…see it, feel it, hear it…get the feeling of being in total command, completely confident, having a blast! If it’s hard to see it, then talk yourself through it… “I walk on to the stage, I feel excited yet calm. I’m full of energy. I love the audience. The audience loves me…” you get the idea?
2A. Sure, play the “What if?” game…but do it right! Many performers have a kind of tape recorder going around in their mind…running lines, songs and so on…but sometimes that little voice starts saying really un-helpful things like>>> “What if I forget my lines? What if they don’t like me? What if I suck? What if I fall off my turns”…you know how it goes. Seriously - do you REALLY want things to go that way? Well, we’re here to tell you that the best way to MAKE those bad things happen is to let your mind think about them all the time.
It’s like when little kids learn to ride a bike - and you have to tell them over and over to look where they want to go, NOT at the wall they want to avoid, ‘cos you KNOW that the minute they look at that wall, they’ll ride right into it! SO….take control of the game! Answer back!!! Start saying (out loud if you like!) “What if I remember every line? What if I’m BRILLIANT? What if I get a standing ovation? What if I stick those turns better than I ever have???” Believe us, you’ll feel better, and sure, it may feel like fantasy at first, but once you train your mind to work WITH you - you’ll start enjoying the “WHAT IF?” game much more!
3. It really helps to have a sort of ritual for your day too - eat, shower, take a walk, meditate, run-through, get ready…so on. The whole day can be a calm preparation for your performance, so use it to get into the BEST STATE of readiness you can!
4. So you get to the venue. You’re ready, you’ve got control of your mind, you’re mentally and physically prepared - dressed, warmed up and so on. You move to the stage, the studio, the exam room and suddenly the butterflies are back in your stomach, your breath is shallow, your knees are shaking, you break into a cold sweat….the nerves are back! NOW WHAT????
The first and most important thing to understand is this: NERVES/JITTERS/BUTTERFLIES - whatever you want to call them are only ADRENALINE! Adrenaline is just a chemical produced by your brain - and it DOESN’T KNOW whether it’s good or bad!!!! The fact is, MOST performers WELCOME adrenaline, because they know they can harness it to make their job EASIER!!!
I’m sure you’ve seen rock stars and top tennis players waiting in readiness, pumping up themselves up for all they’re worth! It is adrenaline that can give the athlete that extra edge they need for the gold medal. It’s adrenaline that gives dancers that bit more energy to power through a tough routine. Adrenaline can give you an extra tone in your belt range!
So how do you make it work for you? ALLOW IT! Breathe deep, welcome the extra energy and THEN focus 100% on the job in hand. Dive right in and immerse yourself in your performance, put all your attention onto it. In no time, any jitters will disappear and you will be having the time of your life…oh, and so will the audience. Which leads us to the next tip!
5. Many performers are overwhelmed with the feeling that the audience, or the examiner, or the audition panel, are judging them. So let’s give you another perspective. THEY ARE ALL ON YOUR SIDE! They WANT to LOVE YOU and what you’re doing! They WANT to feel that they can sit back, relax and just enjoy your performance with confidence. In short…they want to FEEL THE LOVE!!! Yes I know, it sounds very "Hippie-like" but it is absolutely true. They want to know you LOVE what you do, So let them!
The more you give your energy out to the audience, and as we said before, immerse yourself in the job, the more they will feel it and relax, and the better your gig will go! Trust us - this WORKS! It really does. The reality is; the more you get over yourself, get yourself out of the way, and allow the piece to come through you - the better they’ll like you, and the better you’ll feel. So give it a go - if you do it, you’ll be amazed!
6. Oh and of course - there is always that old trick of imagining the audience, judges, audition panel or examiners naked! Frankly, it isn’t a technique we’d use…but maybe it’s worth a try, as long as the image doesn’t make you want to laugh or worse still - vomit!!!
Of course, there are many tools you can use to help to cope with and eliminate excess nervousness, and all that negative self talk that just gets in the way. We use many tools that we have learned, or developed ourselves over the years, but we hope that these few tips will help to make your performing life happier and more fulfilling than ever before…BREAK A LEG!
by Kate Lawson Gould