I was recently asked if I had any breathing exercises to reduce the panic and anxiety attacks that happen before a performance. Oh boy do I.
Many of my friends know I suffer from anxiety when it comes to solo performances. My body freezes, I worry about every possible thing that could go wrong and then my heart races and I can’t fully breath for about an hour before I perform. Group performances are totally different, but solos…eeek!
Even though I can’t full shake the anxiety and anxiousness, I have found ways to control it and allow myself to look and feel more relaxed in a performance and avoid the “deer in the headlights” look when the music starts.
If you suffer from performance anxiety, you might want to add a different kind of exercise into your rehearsals. BREATHING. As dancers, we can’t help dancing in our heads when we are driving, working, grocery shopping or any other activity where you can’t actually get up a dance. Um…scratch grocery shopping from that list because I’ve been known embarrass my husband in the coffee aisle.
We have to work much harder to stay relaxed and grounded in a performance. If you’ve taken any of my workshops that include breathing, then you know the huge difference something that seems so simple and intuitive can impact your dance and well, life in general. Here are some additional exercises to help ease performance anxiety and panic.
1. Remember to breathe through your nose. This calms the parasympathetic nervous system and is a way for your mind and body to connect and tell each other everything is OK, you are calm and in charge. No need to transition into “fight or flight” mode.
2. Practice sitting and breathing slowly to the songs you will perform. You can do this in the car on the way to rehearsal, at home, at work…wherever. Just listen to the music and breath slowly. Using a count of 5 for your inhale and 6 for your exhale. Eventually, you can build up to a count of 6 and 7, 7 and 8, etc. Focus on the exhales as much, if not more, than the inhales. Fully exhaling will allow for a deeper, more effective inhale.
3. Practice this slow breathing exercise whenever you are in chorus. Eventually you want to do it for your entire performance, but it will take some work to build up to that. So for now, think of chorus as an opportunity to reconnect with your breath and send some of that calming, positive energy to the featured group.
4. The day of your performance, set your intention as soon as you wake up. Do a few slow breathing exercises first thing. Repeat this throughout your day! Get your blood, muscles and brain oxygenated! It’s as important as your stage makeup or costuming.
5. Many dancers listen to their music while they are getting ready. This is another perfect opportunity to reconnect a slow, strong breath with your music. Your diaphragm is muscle and you can “drill” these breathing exercises to get them into muscle memory. Same as your smile, zils and shimmy.
6. Always do your gratitude meditation. I’ve started linking breath with these movements to create a “flow” and it’s really added an extra something special to the meditation.
When your mind starts shifting to being out of breath or tired in your performance ask yourself where you are with your breath. Reconnect with your breath every chance you get. This might just be between songs, or during chorus, but eventually your breathing will be just like your zils, effortless, concise and always on in class and performance.
Super fun solo at a super fun event! Thank you JamBallah NW!
In American Tribal Style® Belly Dance, we use a concept called "flock of birds". This is a technique that keeps the group of dancers moving as one, cohesive unit. We each learn how to be leaders and followers. We learn how to give up the ego for the sake of the group and how to work together, as a tribe, to express ourselves and the music through dance. We begin to learn this concept in the first few weeks of dance class and without realizing it, we soon become better leaders and followers in our personal lives too. Learning how to be great at both is an essential part of dance and helps us grow in our non-dance life as well.
The article below was posted to my personal FB page several years ago and popped up in my memories app today. Thank you Rhiannon Grahame for this lovely find!!
January 21, 2010
Moving as One
Leadership and Responsiveness
If you have ever seen a flock of geese fly overhead, you know how difficult it is to tell who is leading whom. The geese move in swift syncopation as if they are all responding instantaneously to the same cues, tapped into an unseen force that directs and guides their movement as one. It is the same way with wild horses or a herd of buffalo. Yet in all these cases, there is a leader who has established his position through demonstrations of strength, ability, and dominance. The total cohesiveness of these groups is a symbol both of excellent leadership and an excellent ability to follow. It takes both of these qualities for any group or system to work well.
In human communities, it is not always easy to establish who should be leading and who following. There are many reasons for this, including but not limited to the fact that our ways of determining leadership are less instinctual and therefore less clear. It is very rare that everyone is in complete agreement as to who should lead. In the big picture, of course, competition is a positive factor, preventing stagnation and entrenchment. However, in smaller groups, when a leader is truly called to the position and her constituency is responsive to her leadership, an enormous amount of work can be accomplished. This tends to work only if the individuals in the group share a powerful, heartfelt common goal. This goal is the unseen force that directs and guides the group so that they can move as one.
A flock of geese winging in unison across the sky can serve to remind us of what we can accomplish when we surrender to the greater good. When any group of people moves as one, there is a leader at the helm who has sacrificed his or her individual ego to the larger vision of the group and followers who have done the same. When the ego is subdued, it is easier to sense the right way to go and correctly choose the leader who can best take us there. Like a flock of geese, we move swiftly and harmoniously toward our shared vision.