Over the years of producing dance concerts for children I regularly see the manifestation of nerves in children as the big day approaches. These nervous feelings, often displayed as signs of self doubt in children are a normal reaction to the realisation of an impending public performance.
The Youtube Artist Spotlight Stories recently captured an interesting comment from successful singer Shawn Mendes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYkvxtriIrI on pre-performance anxiety and if he still felt nerves. Shawn says “Always! Nerves means you care right”. This is true because the most challenging part of the performing arts is the having the bravery to put your art and yourself (because they are intertwined) out there publicly. Difficulties arise when pre-performance anxiety becomes debilitating or stops you from performing all together. So preparing children for live performance is crucial in overcoming these very natural emotions.
A good dance school will ensure that the preparation for a performance is a solid one with plenty of time for rehearsal, fine tuning and talking to dancers about what to expect - especially for first time performers. However, there are some things that parents can do to support this process from their end.
Here are some tips for parents:
To Perform Or Not To Perform?
Know the different between nerves and simply not wanting to perform at all. Not every child wants to perform or indeed needs to. Consistent reluctance, not just as the performance approaches but from the onset and regularly voiced, will be an indicator that performing isn’t a positive experience for your child. There is a difference in supporting your child through uncomfortable emotional states and forcing them to do something they dislike time and time again.
Take The Pressure Down
Enjoyment needs to be experienced as much as nervous anticipation in the lead up to a performance. If a child is constantly reminded of all the relatives and friends that will be watching, how much the tickets cost and senses your stress this can be counterproductive. Check in with what messages you are giving out, your positive words will carry an impression as much as your negative ones. But most of all remember it’s a time of celebration not judgement.
Get Organised In Advance
Minimise any stress by knowing the facts about the event such as arrival times, where you can park, what your child needs on the day. Ensure that they have all the necessary equipment with their name marked on it and know where it is in their bag. Facilitating a relaxing evening the night before a show is ideal also. A good night’s rest will set them up well for the day ahead. Fuelling them up on a healthy breakfast and ensure a good selection of food is available to them on performance day is key to keeping up energy too.
Support Them To Develop
The learning curve from one single performance is so valuable whether a first time performer or a professional. Dancers can always improve in a particular area of their training so the opportunity to perform to a live audience can help dancers to move up to that next level more rapidly. There is also a wonderful residual effect that performers experience. A special bond is often created with fellow dancers and teachers by this exciting shared experience of performing.
Most importantly, confidence is gained and a sense of achievement is experienced when children are given the chance to overcome their nerves with support - we should never rob kids of this developmental opportunity.
Wishing everyone a wonderful up and coming concert season!
References: Ausdance Fact Sheet#2: https://ausdance.org.au/articles/details/parents-code-of-behaviour
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