Your New Strategy for Beating Stage Fright

San Francisco Ballet dancers backstage at Swan Lake. Photo by Erik Tomasson, via SFB.

From time to time, every dancer gets nervous before performing, no matter how well-prepared they are or how much they try to calm their nerves. And although stage fright can give you a useful adrenaline boost, if it becomes too extreme, it can get in the way of your performance.

While it can be helpful to encourage yourself with positive thoughts, a series of studies on self-talk published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology argues that how you address yourself in these moments plays a big role in the outcome. Researchers found that calling yourself by name, instead of using pronouns like "I," could significantly reduce anxiety and improve performance. (For instance, statements like "You can do it, Jen" may be more helpful than "I can do this.")

In one study, people who called themselves by name when thinking about a stressful task they had to do were not only more confident beforehand, but they also performed better when it was time to do what made them nervous. Those who used "I" tended to feel more anxious, and were more likely to think the task was impossible.

It may sound silly, but calling yourself by name may give you some distance from your own situation and all the emotions wrapped up in it. The simple switch could mean the difference between stumbling or sailing through your fouettés.

For more news on all things ballet, don't miss a single issue.

Latest Posts


Complexions Contemporary Ballet's Tatiana Melendez Proves There's No One Way to Have a Ballet Career

This is Pointe's Fall 2020 cover story. Click here to purchase this issue.

Talk to anyone about rising contemporary ballerina Tatiana Melendez, and one word is bound to come up repeatedly: "Fierce." And fair enough, that's a perfectly apt way to describe the 20-year-old's stage presence, her technical prowess and her determination to succeed. But don't make the mistake of assuming that fierceness is Melendez's only (or even her most noteworthy) quality. At the core of her dancing is a beautiful versatility. She's just as much at ease when etching pure classical lines as she is when boldly throwing herself off-balance.

"Selfish choreographer that I am, I want Tatiana to stay with Complexions for all time," says her boss Dwight Rhoden, Complexions Contemporary Ballet's co-artistic director and resident choreographer. "She has a theatricality about her: When the music comes on, she gets swept away." Not too shabby for someone who thought just a few years ago that maybe ballet wasn't for her.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT

2020 Stars of the Corps: American Ballet Theatre's Wanyue Qiao

When the curtain opens on Twyla Tharp's In the Upper Room, there are two women onstage, wearing striped pants and tops, and sneakers. By the end, after almost 40 minutes of high-intensity dancing, they've stripped down to red leotards, their fists lifted victoriously. Wanyue Qiao danced one of these athletic superwomen last year during American Ballet Theatre's spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House. It was her first major role, after three years in the corps, and she couldn't have been more fierce. "To be honest, I had never done this kind of dance before, and I wasn't sure if it was my style," she says. Tharp encouraged her, and helped her to find her warrior side. "She showed not just her strength, coordination and ability, but courage," says ballet master Susan Jones, who assisted Tharp in the staging.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Getty Images

Butternut Squash Takes Center Stage This Fall—Plus, 2 Easy Recipes

Whether it's cubed and roasted or puréed into a comforting soup, butternut squash takes center stage this fall. The flavorful seasonal favorite is an excellent nutritional choice for dancers. Here's what's packed into one serving:

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks