Joyful Dance Laura Stanyer

Joyful Dance Laura Stanyer

Monday 27 June 2011

Dance and Self-Esteem

Many dancers I've worked with tend to determine their self-esteem by their achievement in dance. Dancers are often judged on how they look and how well they perform and often allow these judgements to negatively affect their self-esteem.

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is your opinion of yourself, how much you value yourself how worthwhile you feel. Your self confidence is the belief in your ability to perform a task therefore not a judgment on yourself as a person. Dancers are susceptible to attach their self-esteem to their dance ability also dancers often set impossibly high standards for themselves for example one dancer I was working with expressed she still felt like a failure although she gave a great performance she didn't receive the positive feedback from the director she was expecting and this greatly affected her feelings about herself.

Having healthy self-esteem is important because feeling good about yourself can affect your actions. If you have high self-esteem you can make friends easily, are more in control of your behaviour, not take life too seriously and will enjoy life more.

Your self-esteem is based on who you are as a person not what you do in life whether your focus is your career or children or other pursuit. If you were to take away your role as mother, father, care giver or your work or activities how would you describe yourself? What personal characteristics best describe you? Most of us struggle to value ourselves and our unique qualities and often look at what we do rather than who we are to find appreciation. For example, if I value myself as only a dancer when I was unable to dance due to Coccydynia my self-esteem may have been negatively affected however if I value that I'm a compassionate person and that I'm considerate, friendly and generous I can value myself although I'm not able to dance.

More often than not as dancers we have very high standards and expect a lot from ourselves in our achievements and we give ourselves very little room for making mistakes which can greatly affect out self-esteem. It is important to adopt a realistic perspective of achievement and learn to value yourself and all your positive qualities, value yourself for who you are not just on what you may have accomplished.

Nurturing your self-esteem

A positive, optimistic attitude can help you nurture your self-esteem allow yourself to be human and make mistakes, lovingly take responsibility for your actions not blaming others around you when your expectations are not met.

Self-esteem can be nurtured by knowing what makes you happy and setting achievable goals can help you feel capable, strong, and in control of your life. Often daily goals are the most important as taking small steps towards your goals and rewarding yourself not only for success but enjoying the process can greatly enhance your self-esteem. For example, after giving birth to my son I assumed after six weeks I would dive straight back into my dance practice and loose all my baby weight I had gained. The reality was I was unable to exercise as I was in constant pain to sit due to suffering Coccydynia as a result of childbirth. After seeing an orthopaedic surgeon I was given the information I needed to work out daily exercise goals. Ideally I just wanted to start dancing but I had to set realistic goals and start gently by walking to build up my cardiovascular fitness. At first I walked for five minutes each day and gradually increased the time until I was walking for half an hour each day. I was receiving acupuncture fro pain relief and I did daily visualisations to help with injury rehabilitation. I acknowledged the good things I was doing looking after my son and accepted I was unable to dance but optimistic I will dance in the future and gradually I lost my baby weight. As you gradually build up towards a goal that is attainable you can begin to value your unique qualities.

It is important to enhance your self-esteem to learn to like and love yourself to have the ability to survive and flourish in the world we live in and a positive attitude and a healthy lifestyle are a great combination for building high self-esteem. Low self esteem and self criticism can have an impact on your ability to function in life and can impact your general well being.

Top Tips to raise your self-esteem:

Love your body

Body image is how you feel about your own physical appearance. For many people, especially dancers, body image can be closely linked to self-esteem as many of us are concerned with our body image as none of us fit the illusion of the perfect body.

Some people think they need to change how they look to feel good about themselves. It is important to change the way you see your body and learn to accept, love and appreciate how amazing your physical self is. The more I studied anatomy and physiology the more I realized how remarkable the human body is and allowed me to change my perspective and love my body.

Write down all the things you like about yourself in a list include:
  • Physical attributes
  • Qualities of your personality
  • Your emotional qualities
  • Your creative qualities or imagination
  • Recognise your beauty, inner power, your strengths, your talents, your unique qualities.
Nurture these qualities and keep adding to this list.

Write down what things or qualities you do not like about yourself
Work out from your dislike list and split into two sections:
  • things to let go of and accept. For example I'm 4ft11” and accept I'm excluded from dance work in the west end due to height restrictions. I accept this and create my own work.
  • things you can work on or change do so gradually.

Be Self Loving

  • Love and respect yourself for who you are
  • Be self-aware so you have a positive self-image
  • Respect your own healthy value system
  • Have a clear idea of your life purpose
  • Have realistic expectation of your goals and outcomes

Trust Youself

Learn to trust yourself, challenge and question the current state of affairs. Trust your own value system to enable you to take risks and trust your intuition. For example I did a full physical assessment of one of my dance students and we discovered she's slightly knocked kneed (Genu valgum, a variation of the knee strucutre) it is a condition where the knees angle in and touch one another when the legs are straightened. I advised her to make adaptations to her contemporary technique and not stand in parallel but with feet slightly apart to prevent injury to the medial side of the knee. Her contemporary dance teacher insisted she stand correctly as she would spoil the aesthetics the art form and may fail her assessment. Contemporary dance is an art form that is evolving but she had to challenge the situation and decide what was more important to her; maintaining her long term health of her knees or maintaining the traditions of technique to receive the grade she desired. What would you do in her situation? Should her self-esteem be affected if she doesn't pass her assessment even though she is an excellent dancer but chooses to respect her unique body? Sometimes we need to take risks that support our wellbeing but may be in conflict with the current state of affairs.

Self-trust is a combination of three emotional and spiritual qualities:

  • self-awareness an accurate assessment of who you are and what you care about or values
  • self-acceptance embracing who you are in all your complexity
  • self-reliance your ability to utilise what you know about yourself to reach your goals without constant worry about the approval or disapproval of others.
Self trust is an important quality of heart and mind as you trust yourself you can better find a way through challenging times and as you accept yourself for who you truly are you will be able to learn and adapt to the experiences of life.

Create a treasure chest of success

Keep a box or journal and write and keep objects and thank you cards or symbols of your successes no matter how small.
Each time you achieve something positive write it down and keep a log. Keep it up to date so each time you feel low go to your treasure chest of success and as you read and look through you can boost your self esteem and confidence. Write down what you are thankful for you can wash away your self doubt by looking at evidence of your achievements and what you appreciate this helps you run a reality check and put overwhelm into perspective.

Fully commit to your responsibilities

When you are working you are fully committed to your work or dance practice. It is important to be in the moment and fully committed to accomplishing your work or dance practice. If one of your responsibilities is to look after your child or children it is important to be fully in that role and give you love and attention fully to your child or children and have quality time and experiences with them. It is important to have time just to be yourself and let go of any judgments from the other aspects of your life. For example do not let what you achieved in your dance practice affect time to yourself but give yourself permission to relax and just be.

Be resilient

Develop the ability to pick yourself up when things go wrong. When you face disappointment learn not to take it personally. Learn visualisation and relaxation skills that develop positive thinking during adversity. When you believe in yourself you are more self aware and able to recognise mistakes take lessons from them and are able to bounce back from disappointment.

Detach from criticism don't take it personally

It can be difficult but attempt to understand when you receive criticism from another person they are criticising an action or behaviour not you as a person. Try to separate the criticism from you as a human being and not take it personally.

Stop being overwhelmed by your inner critic

You will be harming your self-esteem if you constantly listen to your inner critic. It is important to understand your inner critic is attempting to protect you from failure or success. However it can overwhelm you and stop you from progressing sometimes it is healthy to make mistakes as this is how we can learn and improve.

To stop being overwhelmed by your inner critic try:
  • Change the sound, volume, speed and tone of your inner critic's voice so it sounds more supportive. If it is very loud change it to a whisper.
  • Explore the outcomes of failure, are they as bad as you imagine or what lessons may you be missing from avoiding failure. Is the fear of failure stopping your personal growth?
  • Detach your behaviour or actions from your characteristics or who you are as a person. Failure in one task in life does not imply you are an incompetent person.
  • Also striving for success can be seen as a distasteful trait and evoke disapproval from others. Ask yourself what success means to you and what would it be like to be successful. You may want to ask what is more important other peoples opinions or what success may do for you.

Do not compare yourself to others

When you compare yourself to others whether you compare your physical appearance, abilities, natural talents or past achievements you may harm you self-esteem. We are all unique and no one can be you so be the best at being you.

Develop outside interests

It is important in raising yourself esteem to participate in things you enjoy other than your work or family. Most people devote themselves to one aspect of life and neglect themselves in the process. In nurturing yourself you can give more to others and work with greater vitality and enthusiasm.

Build a support network

It is important to surround yourself with people who support you and make you feel good about yourself. Seek out nurturing people who are like minded and have similar value system. Avoid people who don't support you. This does not mean they are bad people but be aware of people who drain you and avoid them. For example, a nurturing, sensitive person can blossom around other caring compassionate people but feel isolated in a competitive environment. Find true friends who love you for who you are as a person first. They do not judge you based on your career, status or outward appearance but appreciate you for you as a person.

Nurture the people around you

Treat the people around you with love and respect so you can enhance others self-esteem which in turn the people around you can support and encourage you creating a positive and supportive environment. Positivity is infectious and can create a joyful environment.

Healthy self-esteem

Take responsibility for your own well being and take small steps each day to nurture your own self-esteem, respect yourself and your own values and seek what you like about yourself. Reframe any negative thoughts about yourself and forgive yourself easily. Give yourself time, space and a goal to aim for, allow yourself to make mistakes, find like minded friends respect yourself for who you are.

If you have a positive body image, you probably like and accept yourself the way you are. This healthy attitude allows you to explore other aspects of life such as, self trust, developing good friendships, growing more independent as a person, and challenging yourself physically and mentally. Enhancing your sense of humour not taking life too seriously and not just seeing yourself as a dancer but developing the various parts of yourself can help boost your self-esteem.

Being Your Best Visualization by Laura Stanyer

Disclaimer: The information contained on this web page is intended as general guidance and information only. Laura Stanyer and its authors accept no liability for any loss, injury or damage however incurred as a consequence, whether directly or indirectly, of the use this information. All advice on this web page should only be used under the supervision of a qualified dance / fitness / healthcare professional.

Strength Training for Dancers

It is important for dancers to develop their muscular strength as it will enhance their endurance ability to perform. Dancers need overall strength to be able to control their own body weight and it helps to prevent injuries. Strength training should be adjusted to meet the specific requirements of the particular technique. In street dance, lower body strength is required; break dance requires both upper and lower body strength. Contemporary technique will require lower body strength and strengthening the core stability helps prevent lower back and hip injuries where as contact improvisation requires over all strength to allow for the exchange of weight between partners.

Developing Muscular Strength

Strength is the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to exert the maximum force against a resistance. The development of muscular strength depends upon several factors, which can be adapted through training. When subjected to a particular kind of stress, such as weight, the muscle fibres respond by becoming more efficient.

Principle of overload

For a muscle to become stronger, it must be put in a state of overload. This is done by selecting a weight, which is heavy enough to work to the muscles maximum capacity, and then progressively increasing the weight as the muscle becomes stronger.


Exercises can progress by increasing the body weight and number of repetitions of the exercise. This progression should feel natural as your exercises feel easier over time. If you feel beginner level is easy progress on to the next level.

Example of adding body weight as a resistance: Press-up

Beginner Level - Wall Press

Stand with feet shoulder width apart, and hands placed against a wall, with arms stretched out. Breathe in.
Breathe out as you slowly bend the arms at the elbows, keeping neutral spinal alignment, and head looking to the wall. Lower body towards the wall.

Improver Level - Box Press
Place your hands underneath your shoulders with fingers facing forward. Your knees and feet should be resting on an exercise mat. You should aim to make a box shape with your arms, trunk and thighs. Breathe in.
Breathe out as you bend your elbows, lowering your chest down, no lower than 2 inches from the floor. Lower your arms and within your own range of motion. Maintain neutral spinal alignment throughout exercise, avoid arching of the back.


Intermediate Level - Knee Press
Breathe in as you place your hands underneath your shoulders with fingers facing forward. Rest your knees on an exercise mat.

Breathe out at you bend your elbows, lowering your chest down to the mat, keeping a straight line through your spine.

Advanced Level - Full Press

Place your hands underneath your shoulders with fingers facing forward. Your knees and feet should be resting on an exercise mat. You should aim to make a box shape with your arms, trunk and thighs. Breathe in.

Breathe out as you bend your elbows, lowering your chest down, no lower than 2 inches from the floor. Lower your arms and within your own range of motion. Maintain neutral spinal alignment throughout exercise, avoid arching of the back.

The rhythm should be smooth throughout all of these exercises. The progression from one level to the next would happen slowly over about a 12 week training period. This idea of progression using body weight and lever extension can be used for most strength training exercises; this is beneficial for dancers as no specialised equipment is required. Always see a qualified fitness advisor to create strength programme for your individual requirements.

Note: Loss of muscle strength can be seen after 5 - 6 days without training. However, one training session per week will maintain strength already acquired.

Rest and Recovery in Strength Training

In strength training you need extra long rest periods between each set and between each strength training session to allow for recovery and to prevent the body being over trained.

Guidelines for rest and recovery:

  • Recovery from vigorous strength training takes 24 to 48 hours
  • After extremely vigorous training allow 72 hours to recover
  • 3 strength sessions per week builds strength

Different types of muscular work:

Dynamic (Isotonic)

Dynamic strength is required to start and maintain a movement. Isotonic movement means the origin and insertion of a muscle are forcefully affected by changes in muscle length. Isotonic exercise is dynamic moving exercise, performed while breathing normally, which builds strength throughout the full range of movement.

Benefits of Isotonic Training:

  • Increased muscle growth and better capilliarization
  • Strength created even throughout the full range of movement
  • Improved nerve-muscle co-ordination as a result of more complex actions
  • Increased strength is readily applied to actual exercise performance

Static Strength (Isometric)

This is the strength applied by muscles to a fixed object or building strength without movement. For example, pressing your ands together, creates an isometric contraction in both arms, as do held positions in dance for example if you balance on a rise one leg out n extension and hold requires isometric contraction.

Benefits of Isometric Training:

  • Isometric training requires less time, less energy and less space
  • Little or no equipment is needed
  • Improves muscular strength quickly

Caution: Isometric strength training has a number of limitations:

  • It increases strength only in the position performed not through full ROM (Range Of Motion)
  • It can produce muscle strain if prolonged
  • It produces a high increase in blood pressure relative to heart rate
Consequently, isometric exercises should only be performed by fit and healthy people.

Types of Strength Training for Dance

A strength training programme should always develop progressively. It incorporates a low number of repetitions of an exercise with a comparatively high resistance.
Consider the following factors:

The type of strength required

Dancers should start by developing general body strength and core stability and then work on the specific strength demand by the particular dance technique.

The type of strength training

There are a variety of methods of strength training available, it is important to find the right type and time to incorporate into your training. It is necessary to seek qualified fitness or dance instructor for appropriate guidance in helping dancers make safe use of these resources.

Exercises using body weight as resistance

Using body weight alone is a safer and convenient way to start strength training. Examples include press-ups, abdominal curl, and squats (plies) these are often incorporated into a dance class. Always make sure the safe and correct method is applied to.

Method (e.g. Press up)

To develop strength you need to:

  • Lower your body weight in a slow and controlled manner for 4 counts (inhale)
  • Pause for one count (breathe)
  • Raise your body weight for 1 or 2 counts (exhale)
  • Never lock your joints (elbows) as this will stop the recruitment of the muscle fibres and can lead to joint injuries
  • Breathing is very important do not hold your breath but exhale on the hardest effort and inhale

Exercise using a resistance band

The resistance band is an exercise tool that dancers have used for many years and health and fitness practitioners use regularly to prevent and rehabilitate overuse injuries by strengthening often smaller, neglected muscle groups. A programme of resistance band exercises can compliment your regular dance training may be able to improve your overall strength.

Muscles can be worked isometrically and dynamically. This allows you to work through the full range of movement while adding a resistance this improves dynamic strength. Resistance bands are available in a range of colours that relate to their resistance. All Resistance band exercises should be performed slowly and under control. Begin with the band at the start of tension which increases as you perform the exercise. To make the exercise more difficult, shorten the section of band you are using to increase the tension over the range of motion.

The benefits a resistance band:

  • It can target and condition certain muscle groups that may be weak due to overuse of the opposing muscle groups
  • This type of conditioning can reduce dance injuries
  • It is very small and light is easy to travel with

Dance specific exercises focus on:

  • Back and trunk conditioning
  • Pelvic stabilization
  • Leg rotation muscles
  • Lower leg strengthening
Ideally your strength training is tailored to your dance style and is incorporated into your dance training with alternative exercises tailored to your specific requirements as this can enhance your true potential in dance performance. Always seek professional advice before starting a strength training programme.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this web page is intended as general guidance and information only. Laura Stanyer and its authors accept no liability for any loss, injury or damage however incurred as a consequence, whether directly or indirectly, of the use this information. All advice on this web page should only be used under the supervision of a qualified dance / fitness / healthcare professional.

Friday 24 June 2011

Stage Fright, Performance Anxiety and the Dancer


Dancers can experience stress while learning new skills or choreography and most dancers naturally feel nervous before a performance. This stress or anxiety can affect their level of confidence and performance.  I have worked many years as a dance artist, performing, choreographing and lecturing and have experienced and witnessed a wide range of effects of performance anxiety from dancers full of apprehension, doubt, worry about letting themselves or the company down to experiencing a heightened level of excitement to perform at their very best.

I have worked in many different environments from theatres, for film, on location, site specific, street theatre in performance and in dance studios preparing dancers for audition or practical assessment. Each experience gave me the opportunity to develop effective methods to prepare myself, dancers and performers to perform to their best ability.

The main focus in managing performance anxiety is the emotional state just before performance. However, I feel our perceptions about the pressure of performing may be addressed at the start of the rehearsal or preparation process and worked on throughout learning new skills, throughout rehearsals and through all performances.

Cultivating a positive emotional state and enhancing mental focus throughout the preparation process enhances the physical learning experience of the work and in my experience brings the members of a company working together in harmony. When individuals have the opportunity to share their worries, other company members are experiencing similar concerns may come together in a supportive way enhancing the company morale through stressful rehearsal periods and enhancing performance overall.

Psychological Pressures

With significant pressures on dancers to constantly improve their performance, their mental and emotional states become significant. Professional dancers have to cope with demanding rehearsal schedules, performance stress and have to balance their commitments to work, family and their personal lives. Performance anxiety also known as stage fright is an issue faced by many performers even at an elite level.

Self Confidence

Self confidence is the belief you have in yourself to achieve a particular task and can influence your ability to succeed in performance. The more confidence you have in your ability to perform you’re more likely to perform well. Therefore the more anxious you are it is more likely you will underperform.


Motivation is the driving force that compels us to do something. In dance, dancers will be motivated for different reasons.

Motivation can be:

  • Intrinsic - The motivation is the pure pleasure derived from participating in dance. You value dancing; you love to participate for the enjoyment, friends and creativity
  • Extrinsic - The motivation is the desire to achieve something external: achieving a qualification, medal, financial reward or recognition
A negative feeling, nervousness or feeling of fear felt just before you perform in front of an audience, audition panel or camera. The physical symptoms of arousal occur before the performance however the mental and emotional anxiety surrounding performing can occur long before performance though out rehearsal and have an impact on you ability to learn the material.

What can cause it?
It is your individual perception of the demand that determines if you enjoy the experience or experience anxiety. We are setting ourselves up to be judged by an audience or assessors and our idea of success or failure is a high level risk that relates to us as a threat to our well being.

How does this affect you?
Our physical, mental and emotional responses to this perceived threat is a primal instinct as if it was a real threat to your life. You subconscious mind cannot distinguish between a real physical threat and a perceived threat.

What is arousal?
Arousal is a physiological state of alertness and anticipation, which prepares the body for action. It activates both mind and body and is a neutral state. To perform to the best of our ability, we need to be in the appropriate state of activation, not too little, not too much.  It allows us to function effectively, whether to digest a meal or dance.

Although arousal itself is neutral, if it is associated with negative thoughts and perceptions we experience anxiety. This is a negative emotional state associated with feelings such as worry and apprehension. Anxiety may be created by a situation, which we see as threatening; perhaps we doubt our ability to cope.   For example, in the time leading up to a performance you may feel anticipation or apprehension and fear may begin to emerge. This is the fight, flight or freeze response and at this point adrenaline is released into the bloodstream.

Performance Anxiety

The demand, also known as the stressor, is the initiating factor and it is your individual perception of the demand which determines whether or not anxiety will result:-
  • Demand The stressor - example: major performance with large audience or an important assessment.
  • Perception of the demand Negative perception - example: Under-rehearsed, not physically skilled enough.
  • Response to Stressor Arousal & Anxiety - example: unable to remember choreography, legs feel weak.
  • Outcome Poor performance
Some examples of negative stressors:

Reframe your thinking

Each thought you think creates your experiences:

  • Threaten our self-esteem: When criticized - by tutor, friend or audience. The criticism may be taken personally and then become self-conscious at public criticism. Being evaluated by others can threaten our self-esteem.
  • Cause Personal Harm: When asked to perform a skill which you feel unable to perform because you fear sustaining an injury or feel too technically difficult to perform.
  • Create uncertainty (fear of the unknown): When you do not understand what is expected from you from your tutor/choreographer, or in an audition not knowing what will be asked of you and judging your ability unfairly. Another example is coping with unpredictable situations like performing in a different venue each night.
  • Creative frustration: Unable to achieve your goals, not setting realistic time scale or programmed training/rehearsals to achieve your goals.
  • Creative pressure: Unexpected events such as music not playing, or playing too fast or problems with other circumstances out of your control (lights, costume, set other dancers etc).
The anxiety increases by your perception of how important the situation and the outcome is to you.

Responses associated with performance anxiety:

Before a performance:

Cognitive symptoms (your thoughts and feelings):
  • Worry and self doubt
  • Disturbed sleep and restlessness
  • Overwhelming negative thoughts
  • Feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope
Somatic symptoms (physical experiences):
  • Sweating palms and butterflies in the stomach
  • Shaking and muscle tension
  • Frequent urination
  • Pacing and other nervous habits
During a performance:

 Cognitive symptoms (your thoughts and feelings):
  • Disorientation and inability to focus on the task at hand
  • Irrational feeling of loss of control - mind goes blank
  • A feeling of paralysis feel frozen unable to dance
 Somatic symptoms (physical experiences):
  • Sweating palms and increased heart rate
  • Shaking and muscle tension
  • Feeling nausea and dryness of the mouth

How to manage performance anxiety

If you have experienced the negative thoughts that flow into your mind during class, rehearsals and before performance that lead to self defeating behaviour there are a variety of strategies you can use to manage performance anxiety.

It is important to remember that at the start of a performance your arousal levels increase and this is a neutral state of activation.

It is your interpretation of the arousal that is important:
  • If you perceive it as positive you can experience excitement and energy.
  • If you perceive it as negative you may experience fear and anxiety.
Your thoughts create your experiences. Anxiety comes from the negative things we say to ourselves that create distractions. It is important to understand your inner critic and to understand the power of your mind that creates positive or negative cycles. Therefore, it is so important to manage your thinking and the emotional state your thoughts create.

The important elements to unlearning negative responses:
  • Write a detailed history of past situations where you experienced an anxiety response. Include performance and non-performance anxiety situations if they seem relevant.
  • Work out what your stressors have been in past performances such as being under rehearsed. Indentify and dissociate from them.
  • Put the original experience of performance anxiety into perspective.
  • Create a plan of action to stop the panic if a stressor occurs.
  • Run a reality check, on a scale of 1 - 10, 1 being no anxiety 10 being very anxious. Work out your level of anxiety working through rehearsal and up to performance and see if you can develop the various strategies to diminish the anxiety.

Strategies to manage Performance Anxiety

Maintain you general health and well being
Understand the body, mind and emotion connection, and that your general health will affect your perceptions of your experiences.

  • Make sure you are physically fit enough, improving over all cardio-vascular fitness and muscular endurance.
  • Make sure you have adequate sleep, the right amount of sleep and a good quality sleep will impact on your well being.
  • Eat a healthy balanced varied diet to maintain healthy mind and body.
  • Appropriate rest and relaxation to release excess tension and the effects of adrenaline after performance.
  • Prepare your mind and body appropriately for your dance schedule.

  • Be aware of the warning signs e.g. negative self talk
  • Stop any negative self talk. Befriend your inner critic and teach it to make positive statements focus on what you want to achieve.
  • Reframe you inner critic Change the voice of your negative internal dialogue e.g. if it is loud change it to a whisper, if it is stern give it a soft quality to the voice, turn you critic into a supportive coach.
  • Question inappropriate beliefs about yourself or your abilities and replace them with positive alternatives. E.g. What is your negative belief? - "If I make a mistake the dance is ruined"  Is this true? - Can the audience enjoy the performance anyway, or will all the audience even notice the mistake?  Change the negative belief into a positive one - one or few mistakes will not ruin the whole performance
  • Ask yourself is your anxiety caused by:
    Internal dialogue - your thoughts, feeling, your reaction
    Or External - other dancer, music, set, director other situation?
    Does this feeling need to remain or can this be a temporary feeling and not affect the rest of the performance?
  • Run a worst case scenario check, work out what is the worst that could happen. On a scale of 1 - 10, 1 being not at all likely, 10 being definite. Work out the likelihood of your worst scenario happening then work out what you may do to prevent or handle the worst.
  • If you're overwhelmed, find a Role Model and imagine how someone you admire may handle the performance.
  • Focus on what you can change or have control over and accept the things you cannot control.
  • Eliminate any outside distractions to focus on the task at hand you can do the golden box visualisation.
A confident dancer may find the physical affects of adrenaline such as butterflies and sweaty palms and perceive them as signals of being ‘psyched up’ and ready to perform and therefore will not experience the negative effects of adrenaline. It is important in order to control the negative effects of performance anxiety to reframe the physical experiences of arousal and build self confidence.

Goal Setting
Setting goals within training and performance is a useful tool to measure your progress. It provides an opportunity to improve your skills or new choreography. Goal setting is an important strategy to manage performance anxiety as you can set goals to cope with the stress of performing. Please see Visualisation for Dancers article for further information.

Be in control of your body

  • Be aware of the warning signs e.g. physical discomfort or excessive tension, e.g. biting nail, teeth grinding or tension headache.
  • If you feel physical tension, begin to bring your awareness to your breathing and slow your breathing down to a clam natural state. See relaxation article for more information
  • To release excessive tension in your body engage in PMR exercise. (Relaxation article)

Visualisation for Performance Anxiety

Visualise yourself performing the dance skills and sequences you will be performing at your best.


Peak Performance Visualization by lstanyer

NEVER listen to this audio recording when driving or when you need to concentrate on a particular task.  Only listen when you can relax and not be disturbed from any distractions.

This audio recording will guide you into a state of relaxation, it is best to be comfortable and either sit or lay down in a comfortable place free from distractions.

We advise you listen to this audio recording through headphones for best results.  To begin with, it is best to listen on a daily basis to develop your visualisation skills.

Let Go of Worry Visualisation - to eliminate distractions

Part one
This visualisation is useful for eliminating negative thoughts and feelings that cause distractions that may interfere with your performance.  It enables you to focus on performing at your very best.  This part of the visualisation may be listened to working towards an up and coming performance.  Also, only listen to it several hours before an up and coming performance as you need time to re-energise and warm-up and prepare for the performance.

Let Go of Worry Part One

Part Two
Part two is to be listened to after the performance and at a time you can relax to allow you to start to assess any other stress that may be affecting you.

Let Go of Worry Part Two

Worst Case Check

In performance, situations can arise that may cause you to feel anxiety. Prepare yourself by going though a series of worst-case situations so should they arise they have a solution.

Potential situations:

  • You are late to the theatre
  • Costumes are damaged, lost or forgotten
  • The performance is delayed
  • Changes to the choreography, set, environment or music
  • It very hot and humid
  • Another dancer forgets the partner sequence
Work out what your concerns are and consider possible solutions and coping strategies to prevent them affecting your confidence levels.

The aim of all these strategies are to reduce the fear to a controllable level and reduce negativity until the arousal level is neutral so feeling nerves or excitement is comfortable to you. With continuous practice of these techniques you can make good progress of reducing and eliminate performance anxiety.

Ideally, it is helpful to create a working environment where individuals are nurtured and the group are supported to work together to create an atmosphere where all focus on the success of the whole performance. The great performance is its own reward.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this web page is intended as general guidance and information only. Laura Stanyer and its authors accept no liability for any loss, injury or damage however incurred as a consequence, whether directly or indirectly, of the use this information. All advice on this web page should only be used under the supervision of a qualified dance / fitness / healthcare professional.

Core Stability in Dance


Core stability is the ability of the postural muscles to control and maintain neutral alignment with or without movement and is the physical foundation of the musclo-skeletal system to control 'neutrals' when moving.

Why is Core Stability Important?

Along side the postural muscles maintaining an upright posture they also work to control and stabilise your centre (trunk) to reduce the work load from the working muscles creating more efficient function. This allows you to dance with a sense of freedom.

Trunk Stability

Various muscles work in co-ordination to stabilise the trunk and they need both endurance and strength to give spinal support, protect the lower back from injury and promote greater freedom of movement especially in the hips.

Core Stability has been described as a box:

  • Top - Diaphragm
  • Front - Rectus Abdominus, Transversus Abdominus
  • Sides - Internal and External Obliques
  • Back - Thoracolumbar Fascia, Paraspinals Multifidus Gluteals
  • Bottom - Pelvic floor hip musculature
Core stability serves as the centre of our structural support as all movements are initiated from here. Working these muscles correctly will enhance stability and protect the lumbar spine. Often dancers overuse certain muscles and these muscles become dominant and take over the function of another muscle causing muscle imbalances.

Muscle imbalances can be caused by:

  • Injury
  • Functional misuse (for example, bad posture)
  • Faulty training
Muscle imbalance leads to an uneven pull around the joints causing stress, overuse strains and potential risk of injury. Strength and flexibility training helps improve a balanced posture helping to correct muscle imbalances and postural problems.
Maintaining a balance of strength and flexibility of the opposing muscle groups and the co-ordination of postural muscles improves postural alignment and enhances performance. See the additional articles on strength and flexibility.

Benefits of Core Stability Training:

  • Greater efficiency of movement
  • Increased power output from the centre, trunk and limbs
  • Improved body control and balance
  • Reduced risk of injury Improved balance and stability

Issues Concerning Core Stability Training

There are concerns that only training the core muscles in a passive way, for example laying on the floor and isolating the transversus abdominus, are not appropriate for specific activities such as dance. The core training needs to be suitable to your training requirements. So if your dance activity involves floor work where you transition from the floor to upright position in rapid motion, for example contact improvisation, you may benefit from floor core exercises. However, if your dance practice remains upright majority of the time you may want to consider core exercises that maintain and improve upright position where the core works in coordination with the upper and lower limbs. Ideally the core can be trained working with and in response to the dynamics of the moving body. Many dance exercises can be considered exercises that train the core as these muscles will naturally be maintaining alignment, while jumping for example.

It may be helpful to engage in floor core exercises as a part of the dance class but not to let this take priority over specific dance training.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this web page is intended as general guidance and information only. Laura Stanyer and its authors accept no liability for any loss, injury or damage however incurred as a consequence, whether directly or indirectly, of the use this information. All advice on this web page should only be used under the supervision of a qualified dance / fitness / healthcare professional.

10 Tips for Healthy Eating for Dance

Dancers need a healthy and varied diet to maintain health, well being and achieve optimum performance in training, rehearsal and performance. Dance is a physically demanding activity the body requires energy produced from food. Healthy eating can be an emotive subject for dancers as dancers can be preoccupied with the effect of weight, shape or body fat on performance rather than the adequacy of their diet, therefore may be at greater risk of nutritional deficiency.

Dancers’ nutritional requirements include:

1 Eat Plenty of Complex Carbohydrates

This is the most important food type for you as a dancer as it provides and maintains your energy levels for the high physical demands required for dance. Glycogen is the main source of fuel used by the muscles to enable you to undertake both aerobic and anaerobic exercise.

Consequences if you train with low glycogen stores:

  • constantly tired
  • prone to illness
  • more prone to injury
  • your performance will be lower
Eating complex carbohydrates will replenish depleted energy stores as they are the main source of fuel for any moderate to intensive exercise.

Note: Carbohydrates should make up the main part of your diet, it is suggested that you eat at least five servings of carbohydrates a day.

Complex carbohydrates or starches are found in:

  • Breads and grains
  • Pasta and rice
  • Beans and legumes
  • Vegetables and fruit
It is suggested that eating complex carbohydrates soon after physical activity as refuelling the glycogen stores is fastest in the hour after intensive exercise. An example would be to eat a yoghurt or fruit like a banana.

2 Eat a Small Amount of Protein

Proteins are essential to growth and repair of muscle and other body tissues however, there is no benefit in eating excessive amounts as proteins are not a primary source of energy and take several hours to digest. Low to moderate amounts of protein is sufficient.

Note: It is recommended to include some protein with carbohydrates after intensive exercise.

The main sources of protein include:

  • Fish and meat
  • Eggs, milk and dairy products
  • Cereals, nuts and pulses
  • Beans and soya products


3 Eat Small Amounts of Fat

We all need fat in our diets as fat provides protection to vital organs, assists in forming cell walls and carries fat-soluble vitamins A, D and K. Also, fat is one source of energy but is not readily available as the body releases it slowly. Higher levels of oxygen are needed to release the energy from fats.

Fats come from two sources:

  • Unsaturated Fat - known as healthy fats, can be found in: oils such as, sunflower, corn and soya.
  • Saturated Fat - known as unhealthy fats, can be found in: butter, lard, cheese, suet and fatty meats.
Reduce your saturated fat intake and replace with unsaturated fat. How you cook your food can reduce your saturated fat intake. For example, removing poultry skin before cooking and grilling food instead of frying can reduce saturated fat intake.

4 Eat at Least Five Servings of Fruit and Vegetables a Day

Eating a wide variety of fruit and vegetables will provide you with all the vitamins and minerals you need. Water and fat soluble vitamins play equally important roles in chemical processes in the body while minerals (inorganic elements that occur in the body) are critical to normal functioning. The fruit and vegetables can be fresh, frozen, canned, dried or as a juice.

5 Eat Fibre

Fibre is indigestible but essential to the health of our digestive system. Dietary fibre is found mainly in cereal foods, beans, lentils, fruit and vegetables including: beans, brown rice, wholemeal pasta, wholemeal bread, whole grain products, oats and pulses.

6 Keep Hydrated

Water is essential to normal body function as the human body is made up of approximately 70% water. Aim to drink at least six generously sized glasses of water a day. Water is also the best drink to re-hydrate you. Drink fluids before you start a physical exercise. See the additional article for more on how to stay hydrated.

7 Avoid Too Much Sugar

Eating sugary snacks before or during exercise is not recommended as it can rapidly deplete glycogen stores which induces muscle fatigue, tiredness and promotes dehydration.

8 Eat a Wide Variety of Foods

Most people tend to limit the range of food they eat. Eating a wide variety of foods will ensure you have all the nutrients your body requires. Like fuel for a car, the energy we need has to be blended.

A general guideline for the blend that we require is:

  • 50 - 60% Carbohydrates (10% or less from simple sugars)
  • 25 - 30% Fats (10% or less of saturated fat)
  • 10 - 15% Protein

9 Staying Fuelled Frequently for Dance

The right food and fluid intake will improve endurance. Eat little and often is a great idea, especially for dancers who have an extremely hectic schedule. This does depend on personal preference but if you eat the right foods and snacks at regular intervals throughout the day, you should be able to keep your energy levels constant. Do not forget to take time to enjoy the pleasure of sitting and eating a meal.

10 Guidelines for Eating for Dance Training or Performance

Dancers can create a general healthy eating plan for their nutritional requirements and also create a performance eating plan to allow time to refuel allowing for hectic or erratic performance schedules especially when on tour.

Before activity:

  • Eat approximately three hours before your class, rehearsal or performance
  • Individual preferences may vary as we all digest food at different rates
  • Eating too close to physical workout may cause stomach problems such as nausea or stomach cramps
  • When preparing for a performance, it is not a good idea to introduce new foods and beverages into your diet

After activity:

  • Refuelling immediately after exercise is essential, eat complex carbohydrate rich foods to replenish and maximise your glycogen stores
  • Attempt to eat within an hour after a hard workout, to facilitate recovery e.g. a banana or smoothie
  • This is especially important if you're doing more than one class, rehearsal or performance a day
Disclaimer: The information contained on this web page is intended as general guidance and information only. Laura Stanyer and its authors accept no liability for any loss, injury or damage however incurred as a consequence, whether directly or indirectly, of the use this information. All advice on this web page should only be used under the supervision of a qualified dance / fitness / healthcare professional.