I have been performing most of my life. It started in my adolescence with cheerleading, color-guard, ballroom dancing, then in high school as a song leader and a rifle with the band in field shows. Once I became an adult, I immersed myself into Ballroom dancing 100%; training, teaching, competing and performing. I did this non-stop for 12 years, growing and challenging myself every step of the way. Whenever there was an opportunity, which was all the time in my line of business, I performed.
Since then, my “performing” has turned into 15 years of training others to perform. Whether in small groups or in large workshops, on and off the dance floor, the lessons I have learned are priceless. The topics that I find myself coaching on are not always about “the dance steps,” but more about the “mind-set” and our expectations regarding this.
One of the most common roadblocks I come across while training is the expectation of a “perfect performance.” I’ve heard things like, “Once I get it right, then I’ll perform” or “I wasn’t happy with my performance, I made a mistake.” I am here to tell you that a perfect performance does not exist. Even the pros that you admire so much encounter mistakes when they put themselves out there. The difference being that if they have a mis-step they are able to correct and recover so quickly that you don’t even notice. They will not allow it to derail them from their entire presentation. So how do we accomplish this like the pros do?
First, you have to willing to have the courage to put yourself out there and to do the uncomfortable. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds if you are used to being in control!
Second, you have to take the time to learn as much as you can, while including repetition, so the steps and information get in your body and mind. We refer to this a muscle memory.
Third, as you are learning, you have to decide when you are in the phase of breaking things down (stopping and starting) and when you move on to continuing the routine from the beginning to the end without stopping! No matter what. If there’s a mess up, don’t stop, learn to recover in the moment. Not only do we need to practice doing the steps right, we have to practice recovering in the moment without letting it derail us and making us start over.
Fourth, you have to (as Gordon Ramsey would put it) do a stress test periodically along the way. A stress test is putting yourself in the situation – an actual performance, competition, speech, etc. You can continue to learn, practice and simulate all you want but the only way to truly know if you’re ready, is to do it when you body is stressed. Now I know that doesn’t sound like fun but it just means being able to succeed when you feel a little nervous, pressure or excited.
Your goal may not be to perform for large venues but that stress or anxiety you feel could be a simple as getting up to dance at a club, wedding or a cruise. If you can get up and perform at an event and prove to yourself you can succeed while you’re a little nervous, image how great it will feel when you are confident to get up and dance anywhere! *Remember, the top professionals make it look so easy because they have perfected the art of doing it wrong and then perfected the art of doing it RIGHT.
Lastly, having realistic expectations of the outcome determines if we are satisfied with our results or not. A book I read on goals that really resonated with me explained that goals should be based only on what you have control over. For example, if your goal is to win first place, that may not be in your control and you may be disappointed. You will be better off setting action based goals that you have control over, such as, the amount of time you’re willing to commit, a deadline, resources you will reach out to, etc. If you take all these tips and apply them to your first or next competition (and in life) you will set yourself up for success!
Live, Love, Dance and Enjoy
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