Can you remember the first time you ever saw belly dancing? Oh, I can and with my six year old eyes and mind I knew that this dance would definitely change my life forever. It took me awhile but by my early twenties I was starting on my path towards becoming a belly dancer.
As a newcomer, belly dancing took over my days, nights and dreams. Than the day came when it was time to show my community what I had learned. That day was the first encounter I had with a very unusual and interesting foe.
There are many of you reading this that will never forget your first performance. And I know there are many of you who can never forget your first encounter with “Stage Fright”.
Stage Fright is very clever. It sneaks up on you just before you get on stage or you may wake up on the morning of your performance feeling like you shouldn’t get out of bed.
It is amazing how Stage Fright affects the body. My bladder turns into the size of a pea but only for that night. My heart is either trying to jump out of my throat or drop to my knees. Than my palms get sweaty and I feel like I need to take a nap all at the same time. And let’s not forget the occasional break out. I can remember I was dancing for an anniversary party at a restaurant I use to perform at. I woke up the morning of the performance with this huge bump in the middle of my forehead. It wasn’t there the day before and I took extra measures to make sure my skin was clear. You guessed it; Stage Fright had something to do with it. So what did I do?
All I can say is thank God for bindis!
Stage Fright overloads the brain with images that really aren’t there. The stage can either become larger or smaller depending on what false images Stage Fright creates in your brain. And the number one false image is the unfriendly audience. I have left the stage thinking the audience didn’t like me only to find out afterwards that I was well received.
I’ve experienced performances where I was ahead of my music. Did Stage Fright convince my music to slow down on me? Your guess is as good as mine. I know that Stage Fright has convinced my props to act up during past performances.
And Stage Fright has convinced my memory to leave and not to come back until I finished my performance.
Stage fright will whisper in your ear that the entire theater is watching you and that the audience knows you just messed up your choreography. And there have been a few times when I went deaf and didn’t hear the audience applause at all. Actually I should say my hearing and memory went out the window together. And the one way to know if a dancer is experiencing Stage Fright is to see the look on her face that resembles a “deer caught in the headlights”. If you see this look, do your best to support her and let her know she’s doing a great.
So here are a few tips my friends and I came up with to help dancers overcome such a calculating adversary:
1. Laugh with friends and think of whatever makes you happy.
There is no failure in performing because if you don’t go out on stage, you will never know what it feels like to be in front of an audience. People will always appreciate your efforts!
2. Have family and friends in the front row to cheer you on. My Dad makes funny faces and he always makes me laugh.
3. Know your music like the back of your hand. Even if you forget your choreography the music will be very familiar to you.
4. Go over your choreography the morning of your performance and try to keep it fresh in your mind. I will usually listen to my music on the drive to wherever I am performing. It helps jazz me up and sometimes I’ll come up with some interesting moves in my head. (Be careful of the belly dancer pedal to the metal groove!)
5. Remember to practice your performance with your costume on. I have danced with a skirt that could fit a whole circus in it. 6. Remember to look in the mirror just before you go on stage and smile at the beautiful dancer looking back at you. (Plus it doesn’t hurt to check to see if lipstick is on your teeth!)
7. The stage really is our friend. Know the length and width of any space you are performing at.
8. When we perform together we are part of an amazing team so know you have support and back up on the side lines. You are not alone!!
9. A good meditation or prayer will always put a heart or soul at ease. Group prayer can really give you the boost you need and send Stage Fright running!
10. Last but not least is Stage Frights final illusion which is the expectation of standing ovations and a movie deal your first time performing. Granted not all of you may have fallen for this but there was a part of me that saw stars, literally and figuratively.
If Stage Fright does creep in every once in awhile just remember to laugh. Some of the best memories I have with performing are my goofiest moments. And when I’m in my rocking chair remembering my dance career I want to be smiling from ear to ear (even if I have no teeth).