Nutcracker Nervousness


If you are like many dancers I know, you are in the midst of preparing for Nutcracker performances. Some of you may even begin performing this weekend. Today I want to talk about a common question that I get from my dancer clients – How do I calm my nerves before going on stage? It’s hard, trust me I know – you are performing a new role this year or perhaps you have recently been cast in a principal role. Regardless, Nutcracker gives every dancer an opportunity to shine so why not make the most of it!

Here are some of the long-term things you can do prior to the show to ensure that you are feeling confident going into theatre week.

Set Goals- Write out your goals ahead of time, starting with your first rehearsal. If you set realistic performance goals and work on them throughout the weeks of rehearsals leading up to the show, you will feel more confident. This is also great to do during the run of the shows.

Mental Preparation- Mentally prepare yourself through imagery. This is something that I have gone into extensively in The Ballet Audition Preparation Guide. If you can visualize yourself performing a role perfectly, you can take that same feeling into the real performing situation.

Here are some of the short-term things that you can do to help with pre-performance butterflies.

Avoid Caffeine & Sugar- I remember sugaring up before shows when I was in school and it always turned out disastrous. Either you feel like you’re going to jump out of your skin while you’re onstage or your sugar high crashes right before the show and you are left feeling tired and lethargic. As tempting as it might seem to indulge in Starbucks, this is not the time to be experimenting with new caffeinated beverages.

Eat and Hydrate- No one performs at his or her best on an empty stomach. This is a tough one because sometimes when we are nervous, we have no appetite. To ensure that you won’t energy bonk before the show, eat at least 1 hour prior to call. Sip on an electrolyte enhanced beverage throughout the day. If you don’t have a normal appetite, graze and take small bites here and there throughout the day to stay fueled.

Listen to Music- Listening to your favorite tunes on your iPod before the show can have a huge calming effect on your nerves. Most Professional Dancers practice this technique pre-performance.

Warm-up- Warming-up before the show will give your body the peace of mind it needs to successfully execute choreographic demands. Go through your normal warm-up rituals and really take some time to focus on yourself.

Focus in the Wings- Think positive before you are about to make your stage entrance. At this point there is no reason to focus on the things that have gone wrong in past shows – you cannot control what when wrong previously. You can only control now.

Breathe- Don’t forget to breathe and relax before going onstage. If you’re holding your breath, all of the movements that you have been working so hard on in rehearsal will feel lot harder and more taxing on the body.

Sparkle- Yes, sparkle! Patricia McBride once told me this and I never forgot it. Get out on that stage and sparkle – after all, it is truly magic what we do.


Nikol Klein is a former professional ballet dancer turned Ballet Strength coach, author, mentor, and certified personal trainer.

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