hen the pressure is on, it’s hard to stay focused. Competition has a way of rattling even the strongest dancers. But the good news is that you become a tougher competitor in the same way you become a stronger dancer: focus. To get your head in the game, you’ve got to be in the moment. If you go into competition only looking at the outcome (winning), you’ll lose focus quickly. Why? Because you can’t control all of the factors. There are too many. The only thing you can control is what you’re doing at that moment. From focusing on yourself to warming up for the mental challenges, here are four ways to help keep your eyes on the prize:
1. Stay Personal
Throughout the competition, focus on yourself. Now is not the time to worry about what your competitors are doing or not doing. Competitions should be fun. Enjoy being with your teammates when you have some downtime—we can’t get enough of some backstage fun with our Rockettes sisters—but be ready and able to set aside any silliness when the time comes. If you’ve got loved ones in the audience, let them know that it’s best for you if they agree to hang out with you after you are done for the day.
The moments before you go on stage are important. Warm up for the mental challenges as well as the physical requirements of your number with a pre-performance routine that relaxes you. Remember, your body language can send a message to others but it also can send a message to your brain. Before you make your entrance, stand tall, lift your chin and your chest a little—even pose like Wonder Woman and stare towards the sky for 2 minutes to raise your confidence. Seriously. Science shows it works!
3. Pay Attention
Everyone experiences changes in their bodies right before a performance. Butterflies, shaky legs, heavier breathing, and increased heart rate are common ones but it’s different for everyone. Be aware of the behavioral, physical, and mental shifts that usually happen in you. If you recognize these symptoms as just the involuntary stuff that happens when you compete, you’ve taken the first step toward controlling them.
The next step is letting go of how these changes make you feel so that you can focus on taking charge of the moment. Imagine releasing any anxiety symptoms with a specific mental image like pouring them down a drain or blowing them like dust into the wind.
When you’ve spent all day in a positive and focused frame of mind, the only thing left to do is to trust all the preparation and rehearsal you’ve already put in, and just dance.