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Conquering Stage Fright: Tips for Kids and Aspiring Performers

Do you feel butterflies in your stomach just thinking about getting on stage? Maybe your heart races, your hands get sweaty, or you forget your lines the moment you step into the spotlight. If this sounds familiar, you're not alone. Stage fright, or performance anxiety, is a common experience for performers of all ages. This is one of the things tI get asked often. Don't worry!

Here are some fun and practical strategies to help you overcome stage fright and shine like the star you are.

1. Practice, Practice, Practice!

One of the best ways to feel confident on stage is to be well-prepared. Rehearse your performance until you know it inside and out. The more familiar you are with your material, the less likely you are to feel nervous. I love telling my performers when we are about to go on stage to remember they have put in the hard work. The lines are in your head, the dance moves are in your body, you know your character so know trust that and have FUN!

Tip: Turn practice into a game! Challenge yourself to perform in front of different "audiences" like stuffed animals, family members, or even in front of a mirror. Praticing in different ways can avoid getting too rigid in your performance as well. Sometimes I have performers practice VERY dramatic or the opposite to the actual character. This not only is fun but proves to the performer you know the role and if things do not go the exact same way you praticed that is okay too :)

2. Breathe Deeply

Deep breathing can calm your nerves and help you focus. Before going on stage, take a few deep breaths in through your nose, hold for a few seconds, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. One of the exercises I end every class with is our shake down where we countdown and shake our right hand, left hand, right foot and left. We start from 5 to 1, then 4 to 1 and so on. You start slow and quiet and build to get faster louder. It is a great way to connect your breathe, connect your body and establish a routine that is comforting for performers. Just before we go on stage we do a shakedown as a group. Connecting your breath will help with your diction and proejction.

Game: Pretend you are blowing up a giant balloon. Inhale deeply and then exhale slowly, like you're filling the balloon with air.

3. Connect Your Body

Physical activity can reduce anxiety and improve your mood. Before your performance, do some light exercises like jumping jacks, stretching, or dancing around to your favourite song.

One of my favourite ways to connect my body before a performance is pretending I am skiing and jumping side to side. Connecting your body will also help connect your breath and give your performance the energy you need.

Fun Exercise: Have a mini dance party before you go on stage. Invite friends or family to join in and get those happy endorphins flowing.

4. Visualization: See Success

Before you go on stage, close your eyes and imagine yourself performing perfectly. Picture the audience clapping and cheering for you. Visualization helps to create a positive mindset and can reduce anxiety. Think of all of the hard work you have put in and take a bow because you should be very proud of yourself.

Activity: Draw a picture of yourself on stage, surrounded by an adoring audience. Look at it whenever you need a confidence boost!

5. Connect with Your Audience

Remember that the audience is on your side. They want to see you succeed! Make eye contact, smile, and connect with them. This can make the experience more enjoyable for both you and the audience. I always like to remind my performers that the people in the audience are our friends and families - they love you and whatever you do they will LOVE it!

Practice: Perform in front of friends and ask them to give you a thumbs-up every time you make eye contact. This will help you get comfortable with engaging your audience.

6. Positive Self-Talk

Replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Instead of thinking, "What if I mess up?" tell yourself, "I am prepared and I can do this!" Helping performers see they have so much power with their own mindset and how that change any situation is such a powerful tool.

Challenge: Write down three positive things about your performance abilities and read them out loud every day.

7. Prepare for the Unexpected

Sometimes things don't go as planned, and that's okay. If you make a mistake, keep going and don't let it derail your performance. The audience is often more forgiving than you think. My BIGGEST rule in any of my shows is STAY IN CHARACTER. If lines are missed, dances are wrong, props are forgotton as long as the performers stayin character that is a win. I always tell performers the audience doesn't know the show. I have a script in my hands and I don't know the whole show, if they stay in character and don't let on there was a mistake - the audience will never know.

Activity: Practice recovering from mistakes by intentionally making small errors during rehearsal and then continuing as if nothing happened. In rehearsal I often play an exercise I call sink or swim, where if I know performers are struggling with their lines instead of me giving them the proper line I encourage them to continue, support each other and get through the scene. We go over notes later when there are mistakes and how to avoid them, but it is an incredible lesson for any young performer to know they have the power to continue through anything.

8. Relaxation Techniques

Incorporate relaxation techniques into your routine. This could be yoga, meditation, or listening to calming music before your performance. I had a fellow actor years ago who would sit and meditate before his performance - in character. I wasn't allowed to talk to him as me before a show because he was in his zone. I often encourage performers of any age to create their own pre-show ritual. They get to decide what they need. It may be looking at the script one last time, it may be running around the space, it may mean stretching, or extra vocal exercises, but they create the support they need.

Relaxation Routine: Create a playlist of your favorite calming songs and listen to it before you go on stage to help relax your mind and body.

9. Support System

Surround yourself with supportive friends and family. Having a cheer squad can boost your confidence and make you feel more at ease. When you do a show it quickly becomes a family so use your fellow actors to work through any nervous feelings. I love right before our first show having the whole cast come in a circle and one at a time a performer goes in the middle and closes their eyes. The rest of the performers come close and tell the performer in the middle all of the things they like about their performace. For example, "I love when you say this line" or "You make me laugh when your character does this" or "I love how you developed this character". This an exercise that can feel strange at first but it is so beneficial for the performers.

Action: Create a "Support Squad" who can give you encouragement and support before and after your performance. Share your goals with them so they can cheer you on!

Overcoming stage fright is a journey, and it's okay to feel nervous. With practice and the right strategies, you can turn that nervous energy into an amazing performance. Remember, every great performer started somewhere, and you're on your way to becoming a star! So take a deep breath, believe in yourself, and go out there and shine! 🌟

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