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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

13 Belly Dance Tips for Handling Stage Fright



Table of Contents



How to Use These Tips

Read through this list of tips, looking for the ones that make you think, "I could do this!" For example, nearly everybody can use Tip #1 to prepare for the performance, but many may have difficulty with Tip #10.

Pick just one of these tips to follow the next time you perform. By narrowing the list to just one, it will feel less overwhelming, and be easier to follow through. If you find that following the tip makes things just a little easier, then keep it in your toolbox, and the next time you perform add another tip to your plan. If something doesn't work for you, discard it and try something else next time.

Over time, you'll probably narrow the list to four or five things that you feel comfortable doing consistently. Stay with those for a while. However, you, of course, are always growing, both as a dancer and as a human being. Therefore, over time, go back and experiment with techniques that didn't work for you in the past — maybe this time they will!

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Pixie Vision, Glendale, California.




13 Tips

Tip # 1: Preparation

Be prepared for your performance, be very prepared. Be thorough.

Examples of ways to prepare far in advance of the performance:

  • Rehearse. Rehearse so much that the movements are deeply embedded in your muscle memory.
  • If you will be using choreography, practice it repeatedly until it enters your muscle memory. In addition, check the suggestions for memorizing choreography elsewhere on this web site.
  • Plan your costume.
  • Choose your music. Make your playlists on your MP3 player or burn your CD's well in advance.
  • Choose your costume. Make any needed alterations or repairs.
  • Make a list of items to pack in your dance bag.
  • Start packing your gig bag early, to give yourself time to later remember something you forgot to pack.
  • If possible, visit the stage area in advance and take a careful look at it so you know what to expect. Plan your entrance and exit.
  • Check your props. Replace finger cymbal elastics, check your sword's grip to ensure it's secure, etc.


Tip #2: Allow Enough Time

Start all of your preparations well in advance. An early start gives you plenty of time to work through everything you need to do.

When you're new to performing, you may find you need more time to organize your costume, practice applying stage makeup, select music, and pack everything you need into your gig bag. It can be highly stressful to try doing all these things when you don't have enough time to complete everything.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Michael Baxter, Santa Clara, California.


Tip #3: Plan Ahead for Bloopers

In advance, spend some time reading tips for handling bloopers. See the Related Articles links at the bottom of this page for advice on this subject. Anticipate what could go wrong, and formulate a plan to deal with it. It's comforting to know what you'll do if a problem arises.


Tip #4: Perspective

What's the worst that can happen if you make a mistake in your belly dance performance? Nobody will die. Decent people will be kind and understanding. Bad people's opinions aren't important.

Tomorrow will still come. Maybe you'll even extract a good story from the situation that will be fun to tell in the future. In the greater scheme of things, life will still go on, and joy will still be possible.


Tip #5: Choose an Event That's Right For You

Choose performance situations that are appropriate to your current skill level. If you're new to performing, dance in student recitals and small events with a supportive audience of other dancers.

Wait until you have gained a significant amount of performance experience before you dance for co-workers at the office, city festivals, arts showcases, charity fund-raisers, or other public events. Such situations are more likely to pose unexpected issues that can add to your stress.



Tip #6: Body Chemistry

Reread Saqra's article about the effects your body chemistry has on your confidence going into your performance. Reflect on the information. The more you understand this, the more equipped you will be to recognize the symptoms and manage them.


Tip #7: Burn Off Excess Energy

Backstage, waiting for your turn to perform, burn off some of your nervous energy by doing shimmies and hip drops. Be considerate of others — don't wave your arms around, don't do traveling moves, don't do a run-through of your choreography. Just stand in place and do hip moves to burn off the energy.


Tip #8: The Power Pose

Immediately before you dance, use the power pose. You can find details of what it is and how to use it in my article Belly Dance Performer's Power Pose.


Tip #9: Breathe! or Meditate!

Take a slow, deep breath, enjoying how it feels as the air fills your lungs. Exhale fully. Repeat multiple times, expanding your chest and abdomen as fully as possible with each breath. With each breath, imagine you filling yourself with confidence and courage.

If you are comfortable with meditation, you could combine that with deep breathing.


Tip #10: Visualization

Visualize yourself dancing joyfully, with confidence, and looking GREAT. Smile as you enjoy thinking of yourself in this way.

When you feel the inevitable rush of adrenaline, instead of telling yourself, "I'm so scared!" tell yourself "I'm so excited/happy!"

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Pixie Vision, Glendale, California.


Tip #11: Adopt an Alter Ego

Create an alternate personality for yourself. Give it a name, your "stage name", and choose one that makes you think of a dancer who commands power, success, and audience attention. Imagine that this new persona as embodying everything you want yourself to be when you perform. As you put on your costume and apply your makeup, imagine this process as transforming you into this alter ego.


Tip #12: Pre-Performance Ritual

Create a pre-performance ritual for yourself, and do it before your turn to dance. This can be anything that you find calming. Here are some examples to start your thought process:

  • Sniff a bottle of lavender oil
  • Treat the process of applying your makeup as a ritual to transform yourself into your alter ego
  • Cross your arms across your chest and close your eyes while inhaling deeply
  • Say a quiet prayer for confidence
  • Do the power pose referenced above

The details aren't so important; the important thing is to choose something that will be calming for you, personally. But, keep it simple.


Tip #13: Avoid the Nervous Talkers

If another dancer nearby is spewing nervous chatter, get away from her. The more she prattles on about "being so nervous," or fretting about "what if something goes wrong", the more she will undermine your self-confidence.

If you can't escape being near her, try asking her politely to stop talking. For example, in a gentle, kind voice, you might try saying, "Hey, I know you're really nervous, and I get that. But could I ask you to stop talking out loud about it? I'm trying to center myself for my own performance, and it would help me a lot if I could have a little quiet before I go on." It might work. It might not. But you can try.

It may help to bring an MP3 player with sound-canceling headphones to listen to music to mute her babbling. Turn your back so that you don't see her fidgeting.




What NOT to Do

The short version: don't do things that will make it more difficult for others who share the dressing room or backstage area to prepare for their own performances.

In particular:

  • Don't do yoga in the dressing room or backstage area. It takes up space that the others sharing the area may need.
  • Don't rehearse your choreography in the dressing room or backstage area.
  • Don't chatter to other people about how nervous or terrified you are.
  • Don't burn candles or incense. They could cause someone else's costume, makeup tissues, or veils to catch fire.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.




Related Articles



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