Q: What's the best way to help my students get over stage fright before competitions?
A: I think the best way to deal with stage fright is to take steps to minimize it. First, I make sure that my dancers are as prepared for competition as my staff and I can possibly make them. We rehearse often, encouraging them to always perform full-out, and even cover the mirrors so they get used to dancing without seeing their reflections. In class, my teachers tape out the stage dimensions on the floor so we know how much space we have. We always have other kids from the studio watching when we run a number, to encourage a performance atmosphere.
My studio rents a theater before we start competing, so the dancers can go through all of their routines onstage in front of their parents, staff and peers. We videotape this rehearsal, so students can later see for themselves any corrections we've given and any spacing issues. This goes a long way to calming nerves and building confidence.
On competition day, we encourage the students to warm up together, to help them bond and work as a team. We let them listen to their music and ask them to close their eyes and visualize themselves doing their routine perfectly. Finally, right before they go onstage, my teachers and I tell them how proud we are, how much they have improved and to go out there and have fun.
We try to make competing a good learning experience. We emphasize that judges' critiques help us grow and improve. My staff and I are always positive at competitions; we save all corrections for later on at the studio.