Over the past decade, I have learned a lot through my successes as a performer and director but most of my growth has been realized through the hard moments. The mistakes.
The words you say and the way you react to a performance is a BIG DEAL. If you are the dancer’s parent or loved one, you may hold the power to make or break their relationship with dance simply by what you say or do.
Here are some insights on how you can consciously prepare yourself and your dancers for a performance.
Set realistic expectations! We value growth. Not perfection. Our little ones will not be perfectly coordinated. This is because we don’t motivate them to practice through fear. We believe that the most powerful motivation comes from within and we patiently nurture that motivation and wait for them to own it on their own time. In fact, the month before the recital, we frequently say the following words to all of our students: “We work hard until the day of the show. And once we are on stage, we don’t worry about mistakes. We only care about having fun!”
Mistakes are ok! Remind them that mistakes are a part of life and not to worry about any mess ups. Just have fun! That will feel so liberating for them and give them the freedom to express themselves more authentically.
Talk about nerves! Remind them that nerves are great because they show that you care. Give them the space to talk about feeling nervous and how magnificent it is to care about something so much that you feel nervous. You can also remind them that Billie Eilish and Kobe Bryant also felt nervous before they did something they loved.
Dance for me! Ask them who they are dancing for - themselves or the audience? Regardless of their answer, encourage them to dance for themselves and forget about the people watching. This is when they will truly dance to inspire.
I am confident! Encourage them to think about some affirmations to prep their mental narrative backstage. If your dancer is in one of our classes, they should already have some prepared.
Notice the invisible things! I always tell my parents that my goal for the 3-5 year olds is to stand on stage with a smile. That’s a win for me. The rest is all extra. Have you ever been on stage? Do you know how unnerving it can feel to stand in front of hundreds of people in a strange and new space, with a bunch of lights on you and darkness everywhere? And then all of a sudden from a cloud of nothingness, you hear claps and cheering. Imagine experiencing all of this for the very first time… with the eyes of a little human who has only stepped into this world a few years ago. It can be quite frightening. Or vice versa, imagine dancing on stage as an adult who is very well aware of all the judgmental ways the world may choose to see them and yet still having the courage and passion to dance in front of you. This is why I have retrained my eyes to notice the joy in every single human when they are on stage. This simple experience can bring tears to my eyes.
Be loud & applaud! Dancers get more and more nervous and less and less excited if they are dancing to a quiet audience. So make sure to have your vocal codes warmed up to do some loud cheering. And of course get your hands ready to do lots of clapping (not just at the end of the dance but throughout).
Don’t compare! Your loved ones will be dancing on stage and eagerly awaiting your reaction after their peformance. Refrain from any comparisons with any other dancer or perfomance group. Focus on them. Notice their growth… from day one in dance class to now. If you have any constructive feedback, save it for later. Let today be filled with magic and sparkles for them.
Notice their resilience! I have yet to perform a dance that I felt completely satisfied with. I always reflected and wished I had not made that one mistake or done some steps better. So, trust me, your dancers will have some mess ups. It’s a natural part of life. But I challenge you to notice their resilience. How they recover. How they keep dancing. How they keep smiling. And how they finish. Now that’s an extraordinary achievement… don’t you think!
Focus on the good! I’ve noticed that it’s our most seasoned dancers who are also the hardest on themselves. Don‘t forget their vulnerability. They will already know every single detail of their mess ups. You don’t need to point it out. Trust me!!! They need your support and encouragement after their dance. Remind them of all the good and congratulate their resilience. Last week was our last class before recital and I asked the teens to remember that for every one mistake they make, there will be at least ten things they did right. They get to learn from their mistakes and they also get to focus on all the things they did right.
I challenge you to see your dancers as if you are exepriencing their dance for the very first time. Be aware of your egoic need for perfection so you may allow space for noticing their extraordinary progress and joy.
And don’t forget to enjoy the moment… it won’t come back.