When you are on stage, do you fear making a mistake? Feel pressured to live up to someone's expectations? Worry about letting people down? Are you anxious to get through the performance with as little flaws possible? Does your mind wander to horrible thoughts about falling or blanking out during the run?
Or, do you feel more like yourself than ever? Like you are free to be you - the real you? Like you can't make a mistake, even if you tried? Like you are living up to who you need to be...who you really are underneath all the crippling expectations and barriers you burden yourself with?
This second scenario is what true performing is all about. This is what sets you apart as a real artist instead of a poser. This is where real fulfillment comes from out of your dance career. And, this mindset is one of the characteristics required for your peak performance state.
So, the question is if you are used to operating under the first mindset when you are under the stage lights and the pressure is on, how do you make the switch? How do you ensure you let your full power & charisma shine through?
- First, you have to build your confidence in your physical body. That requires cultivating strength and full-body awareness so you can trust yourself when you are on the stage to be able to get the job done...no matter what happens. Not on your leg for that arabesque? No problem; you have the ability to save it by manipulating the muscles in your lower leg and core. Not as rehearsed as you’d like to be? Not to worry; you can go with the flow and make things work. Concerned about having the stamina to make it through the coda? Not an issue; your body can handle the challenge. Sure, these things might be difficult, but with a Bulletproof body you can be confident in your ability to survive and thrive in any challenge thrown your way.
- Then, you have to build your confidence on an emotional level. That takes knowing who you are and what you want out of life – not based on other people’s expectations but on YOUR OWN. Confidence in your self comes not from being perfect…but from being on your path – from engaging in a never-ending process of self-optimization. This makes you appreciate who you are deep down inside to the point of being willing to show that self - naked, unguarded and as imperfect as you might be - without expecting anything in return. You don’t need praise or validation. And you are willing to stand up to criticism and be unharmed by it. It’s this confidence that allows you to say:
Here I am, flaws and all. This is me…all of me. And this is what I choose to share with the world. Take it or leave it. Love it or hate it. It makes no difference to me. I am happy just to share this with you.
For much of my early career, performing used to always feel like the first scenario above – anxiety-ridden and a terrible test of whether I was worthy or not. I threw away so many precious opportunities to enjoy my art because I was so fearful of making a mistake and not being good enough.
Now, I make a point to experience the stage lights under the second mindset. That doesn't mean I don't have off days where I slip out of the zone and allow my demons to run the show. But, it’s much easier to gain control and talk myself off the ledge when I remind myself that I chose this art as a way to share myself with the world...not to get something from it. When I think of it that way, all the criticisms and expectations disappear, my insecurities melt away, & there's nothing but love to give. Ironically, that is exactly what ensures a charismatic performance on your part!
Photo credit: Steve Vaccariello