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IMGCA Article - The Mental Game Of Dance


How Dancers Can Overcome Stage Fright
And Perform To The Top Of Their Abilities


Bill Cole, MS, MA

I have been mental game coach to national level and world-class dancers, and have been able to help them get past stage fright and other performance issues to achieve excellence in auditions and competitions. Here are three mental approaches to performance enhancement you might find helpful in your own dance career.

Use Process Goals To Help You Focus: In an audition, it is true that you either win or not, but there is actually more than that going on. If you go into the event thinking you only will win or lose, that is too much pressure. You want to set internal goals, called process or performance goals, that buffer the pressure from performing to win. Examples: Strive to always have a good time as you perform. If not, why do you do it? Learn at least one new thing about yourself via this performance. Use the performance as an opportunity to learn how to handle pressure better and to perform better when the stakes are high. Now, even if you lose, you win. Losing the audition or competition does not mean you wasted your time if you learned something, improved, gave a good effort, or used performance goals to do better next time.

Reinterpret Your Stage Fright: Some stress symptoms are not specific indicators that anxiety is present in a performance. Instead, they may show up as activation (also known as arousal or an adrenalin dump). If you unfortunately focus on and worry about these symptoms, and begin catastrophizing about a negative outcome to your performance, then we call it stage fright. Consider renaming the nerves you feel as excitement, passion, activation to perform, energy, adrenalin, and tell yourself that they are indeed helping you get ready.

Recall Your Past To Ignite Your Present: You are a very successful dancer already, with many excellent rehearsals, auditions, competitions and performances under your belt. You can use your memories from these superb performances to prime your present performance. Before any performance, close your eyes, relax and drift back to one of your best performances. Recall it in as much detail as possible. Get into that scene. Can you feel and hear what it was like? That is the zone. You want to enjoy it and realize how GOOD you are, and that you can do this again. The zone is a place of confidence. Use that burst of confidence before every performance.

So now you know three important ways to focus your mind with a mental readiness system so you can keep performer’s anxiety at bay. Everyone gets nervous before they perform, but it does not have to be debilitating. I want you to enjoy yourself, perform better, and use each successful performance to launch yourself to the next level in your career.  Good luck!

Copyright © Bill Cole, MS., MA. 2017 All rights reserved.

This article covers only one small part of the mental game. A complete mental training program includes motivation and goal-setting, pre-event mental preparation, post-event review and analysis, mental strengthening, self-regulation training, breath control training, motor skill training, mental rehearsal, concentration training, pressure-proofing, communication training, confidence-building, breaking through mental barriers, slump prevention, mental toughness training, flow training, relaxation training, momentum training, psych-out proofing and media training.

For a comprehensive overview of your mental abilities you need an assessment instrument that identifies your complete mental strengths and weaknesses. For a free, easy-to-take 65-item sport psychology assessment tool you can score right on the spot, visit This assessment gives you a quick snapshot of your strengths and weaknesses in your mental game. You can use this as a guide in creating your own mental training program, or as the basis for a program you undertake with Bill Cole, MS, MA to improve your mental game. This assessment would be an excellent first step to help you get the big picture about your mental game.

Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on peak performance, mental toughness and coaching, is founder and President of the International Mental Game Coaching Association, Bill is also founder and CEO of William B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps organizations and professionals achieve more success in business, life and sports. He is a multiple Hall of Fame honoree, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published book author and articles author, and has coached at the highest levels of major-league pro sports, big-time college athletics and corporate America. For a free, extensive article archive, or for questions and comments visit him at

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