Is Studio Fright a Thing?

Is Studio Fright a Thing?

We've all been there; you've practised at home until you're foot perfect but when the moment comes to do it in class, it goes wrong. It's SO frustrating!

The ballet studio, a space of grace, discipline, and artistic expression, can also be a source of anxiety for many aspiring dancers, whether we are beginners or seasoned dancers. Studio fright can creep up unexpectedly and hinder our progress. In this blog, we will explore the concept of studio fright, its causes, and some tips on how to overcome it.

Studio fright is a relation of the more commonly known stage fight. Both are variations of 'Performance Anxiety', a common psychological phenomenon that affects individuals in various performance-oriented settings. Most of us have experienced non-ballet related performance anxiety; one of the most common being when we have to  speak in public. In the ballet studio this anxiety can manifest itself physically with symptoms such as butterflies in your tummy, trembling, sweating, and an elevated heart rate, and mentally through racing thoughts and self-doubt. In the studio these symptoms can contribute our brain fog that make us forget the those moves we have practised.

Causes of Studio Fright in the Ballet Studio

  1. Fear of Judgment: As dancers we can sometimes fear the critical eyes of our teachers, peers, or even ourselves. Ballet does tend to attract those of us with something of a perfectionist mentality which can make us overly self-conscious about our  technique and appearance. Even while we know that every dancer in the class is focused on their own performance, we still think everyone is looking at us! Top tip - they're not!

  2. High Expectations: One of the joys of ballet is the eternal pursuit of perfection but this can also become overwhelming. As we strive for impeccable form and technique, the pressure to meet these high standards can lead to anxiety.

  3. Comparisons: As with the fear of judgement, we can be tempted to compare ourselves to others in the class, leading to feelings of inadequacy. This comparison can be detrimental to our self-esteem and contribute to studio fright. In an adult ballet class dancers all come from such varied backgrounds there are bound to be dancers at all ages and abilities, some with more experience and others with less. The trick is to focus on yourself and then watch and learn what you can others. 

  4. Fear of Failure: Ballet involves a continuous journey of improvement, and the fear of making mistakes or not progressing fast enough can be a significant source of studio fright.

Overcoming Studio Fright in Ballet Class

The strategies for combatting studio fright are the same as for all stressful situations;

  1. Breathe and Centre Yourself: Start by taking deep, calming breaths before class. Focusing on your breath can help reduce anxiety and centre your mind.

  2. Positive Self-Talk: Replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations. Remind yourself that it's okay to make mistakes and that every dancer faces challenges.

  3. Visualisation: Imagine yourself dancing flawlessly and confidently. Visualisation can help build self-confidence and reduce anxiety.

  4. Practice Mindfulness: Stay in the present moment during class. Concentrate on each movement and step, rather than worrying about the future or past.

  5. Supportive Environment: Surround yourself with a supportive dance community that understands your fears and encourages your growth.

  6. Set Realistic Goals: Understand that progress in ballet takes time. Set achievable goals and celebrate small victories along the way.

  7. Seek Help: If studio fright severely impacts your ability to enjoy ballet, the first place to seek help is with your ballet teacher.

  8. This is the most important one, remember that we dance for JOY! Getting to know your classmates over a post class coffee can be a great way to talk about class and support one another.

    So far we have focused on the negative aspects of performance anxiety but it's important to remember that when managed and channelled in the right direction, a level of tension can be a positive performance enhancer:

    1. Motivation: A moderate level of anxiety can motivate us to prepare thoroughly and practice diligently. The fear of failure can drive us to work harder and strive for excellence, ultimately leading to improved performance.
    2. Increased Energy: The adrenaline rush associated with performance anxiety can provide an energy boost. This surge in energy can be harnessed to enhance our physical performance.

    3. Resilience: Overcoming performance anxiety can build resilience and mental toughness. When we successfully manage anxiety and perform well despite it, we gain confidence in our ability to handle challenging situations in the future.

    4. Personal Growth: Experiencing and managing performance anxiety can be a valuable learning experience. It can teach us about our strengths, weaknesses, and how to cope with pressure, contributing to personal growth and self-awareness.

    5. Emotional Expression: In a stage performance situation some performers find that anxiety adds depth to their emotional expression. Nervous energy can infuse passion and intensity into a performance, allowing dancers to convey a broader range of emotions to your audience.

    These potential positive effects of performance anxiety rely on effective management strategies. Uncontrolled or excessive anxiety can still hinder performance and lead to negative outcomes, whether it's on the stage or in the studio. Developing strategies and coping mechanisms, and seeking support when needed can help to use use the positive effects of anxiety. Talking to your ballet teacher is always a good first step to managing nervous tension.  


    Another important aspect of managing studio fright is becoming familiar with the ballet terminology, steps and commonly used sequences. When we first start ballet it is literally a foreign language, unless you already 'parlez francaise', and it takes time to connect the terminology to the physical moves and positions. As well as learning French, we also need to (re)learn how to learn, and how to remember what we've learnt! We need to focus on one thing at a time in the studio and this too is a skill we have probably don't practise much in our everyday lives. We will be exploring these themes in more depth in our next blog.

    Performance anxiety, whether it's a little nervous studio fright, or full blown stage fright, is a common challenge that most dancers face in the world of ballet. However, with the right mindset, tools, and support, we can overcome it and continue to grow as dancers, embrace the journey and focus on our love for dance. 

    Happy Dancing xoxo


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