Ballerinas Battle Fear

David Masters

Dance specific anxiety and life

I was invited to work with a group of about 20 children from all over the world at the prestigious Anaheim Ballet from ages 10 to 18 years on the  subject of stage fright, and performance anxiety. Dancers often experience stress while learning new skills or choreography and most dancers naturally feel nervous before a performance. The main focus in managing the crippling fear associated  with performance anxiety is the emotional state just before performance. 

Dealing with such young students required an easily understandable concept so I crafted an approach based on defining two opposite spaces of fear vs. freedom. In the Freedom arena we are free to choose our state of mind. In the fear arena we have surrendered our choice to fear of a negative outcome and thus loose control.

This concept was so powerful that every student was empowered to enjoy their rehearsal and stage performance like never before. 

Each type of anxiety is like a combination lock – I have taught tens of thousands of people over the past 30 years how to unlock and be free from their worries and fears – In this case, ballet dancers learned how to understanding pre-performance jitters, performance anxiety and other anxiety related disorders, and empower them to identify and control anxiety thus enhancing performances by knowing what to do when anxiety arises.  WHAT these students learned should be a part of every program for dancers, actors, public speaking,  pro-sports, military training, school etc. 

Highlights from seminar from students in their own words…

“I learned that you should allow yourself to be free. Do what you love to do and let go… start thinking towards Friday (i.e. the performance). Also, think of worry as a distraction. Giving your attention and knowing that FOCUS is the enemy of FEAR.”

“During sports psychology I learned that worry is the fear of a negative outcome and once you stop worrying you have freedom.”

“In Psychology (sic) I learned that fear is the same as worry. I’ve never really thought about it like that.”

“Worrying is believing that there

will be a negative outcome.”

“In sports psychology I learned how to not worry. I also learned that fear of the outcome is what leads to worry.”

“I learned that when you hurt yourself you can always get back into that sport. Also, after you pass your fear you have freedom”  (10 year old student)

“Worrying is the fear of a bad outcome.”

“you have a choice to fear things or not. Also, think more positive thoughts.”

“Some of the things I learned from this class are that once you turn off fear and feeling worried about the outcome, or you can have freedom. I also learned that focusing is the opposite of fear.” 

“Today in Sports Psychology I learned that Focus is the energy of Fear. Therefore if you focus on here and now and eliminate all worries of negative outcomes you will be free. Then you will be more confident and be able to perform better.”

“I learned a lot of different things during this lecture, but I would say the one thing that stuck with me the most was that instead of either rebelling or conforming, it is best for yourself to find your own motivation in everything you do.”

“2 things I learned are: 1. Worry equals believing in a negative outcome. Worry comes from fear. To get rid of fear you have to lean towards focus and freedom. 2. Once you overcome your fear you’re free. The only person stopping you from overcoming your fear is yourself. You control you.”

“What I’ve learned in the sports psychology (sic) class is that we shouldn’t let any of our mistakes or injuries control us. We are in charge of ourselves, and we can choose to let those things bring us down or make us stronger. It is all up to us.”

“Our sports psychology instructor told interesting stories, and gave an inspiring speech. Today I learned not to worry about what other people think, but to dance for myself, not because someone asked me to. I also learned that you should tune out distractions and focus. He told us to stop being afraid, if we don’t have fear, we won’t have worry. Now I know that I always have control over myself, and I should start to think positive, NOT negative. The Sports Psychology lesson today really taught me many new facts, and more interesting dance and everyday life knowledge! I really hope that our teacher can come back next year!”

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