If you’re a performer or have ever thought of becoming a performer, then the thought of stage fright/axiety/or pre-show nerves have crossed your mind. Entertainers are remarkable people in the sense that every performer I know, be it new or seasoned, has experienced or still experiences pre-show jitters. And who wouldn’t! You’re about to get in front of an audience, bare your heart and soul, hope to goodness that everything goes as rehearsed, all the while still being compelling, thought provoking, and entertaining. That’s a lot of pressure!
So what do you do? Do you give into the pressure, run away screaming, and spend the rest of your life wondering if you could have done it? Or do you try to find your zen while your heart races? Personally I think knowing is a lot less intimidating, so let’s try and find some zen before you hit the stage.
Understand that Stage Fright Is NORMAL
Everyone gets nervous before a show, and if you meet someone who says they don’t, then I would assume that they are either lying or they are just a rare unicorn. Nerves are good. It shows that you are excited and that you care! If you accept the fact that you get nervous instead of spending time fighting it, then it’s much easier to handle.
Change Your Lingo
Physically speaking, our body reacts very similarly to being extremely excited and frightened. In both states you can experience an elevated heart rate, sweating, shortness of breath, and bizarre energy that comes and goes. The difference is the mindset. Try this, instead of reinforcing a frightened mindset, just keep reminding yourself about how excited you are! It might help take the edge off, and you will spend your time thinking about everything that could go right, instead of dreading what may go wrong.
This one I stole from Madeline Sinclaire who taught me this when I competed with her at the Viva Las Vegas Burlesque Competition. Right before you perform, go somewhere, whether it’s a bathroom, a car, a corner outside, and scream at the top of your lungs. It can be just a scream, or a proclamation like, “I’m going to slay this F***ing act!”
Side note- This also helps while driving in traffic. You might look a little crazy, but it helps.
Whatever it is you are doing, if you give it your all before the show and you KNOW that you practiced as much as you could, and rehearsed to the best of your ability, then remind yourself backstage that you have already done your best, and everything after you hit the stage is a reward and fun.
Have FUN with your audience
Instead of thinking about a performance as an opportunity for others to judge, think about it as a chance to have a conversation. Be there with your audience, have fun with your audience, connect with them. Have a little flexibility within your performance to do things based off your audience’s reactions for that night. After all each performance and audience is different.
Take a Moment for Self-Love
Getting the courage to perform on stage is something that very few people can do. The fact that you are even about to get onstage is remarkable! The fact that you put in the work and effort to learn your performance piece is an accomplished feat! Take a moment to close your eyes, listen to some music that prepares you for your act, and think of everything you have done leading up to that moment that you are in fact proud of. I bet it’s more than you realize once you start thinking about it.
Performing is one of my favorite things to do. If I weren’t onstage, I’m not sure what I would do, and even with traveling, competing, and performing with some of my favorite burlesque dancers world-wide, I still get nervous and have to remind myself of these notes. But I would have it any other way. Go out there and slay, but make sure that you remember to have fun.