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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Nutcracker Audition Anxiety


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My 13 year old DD is starting to feel Nutcracker audition anxiety.  This is a relatively new phenomenon as she was once a very confident dancer.  Last year's Nutcracker brought about a less than desirable casting which both surprised and rattled her.  Some good came from this bump in the road.  She has worked very hard this year to improve and become stronger and she has seen positive results.  Unfortunately, she has not been able to shake her anxiety about Nutcracker auditions.  I am trying to keep things lighthearted on my end but I wish there was something I could do or say to put her self doubting mind to rest.  I know these nerves have a negative impact on her performance.  Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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The self awareness (and hyper self awareness) at this age absolutely could be compounding her feelings. My son is this age too.

While they are completely normal I'd probably want to try to harness that energy into something positive too. Now is as good a time as any for her to begin recognizing her thought processes and "self talk" and learning how to funnel it into something helpful rather than just worry. As they say, worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but it will not get you anywhere.

I would suggest simply asking her to try to recognize when the anxiety is kicking in. Depending on where she is she can try one of two things, in either case encourage her to take a deep breath when she feels it kicking in.

If she is at home I suggest that she literally get the thoughts out of her head and try journaling. Just a sentence or two stating what she's thinking and countering it with something positive. Ex: I'm really worried about how I will be cast this year... I need to remember that I have worked very hard and done all that I could to have a good audition. Eventually she will start thinking that way without having to literally write it down. If she's at her studio she really won't be able to journal, so I'd recommend that she come up with a "catch phrase". For mine the problem was intimidation and what worked was "Do not get psyched out". Whatever works for her and is easy to remember.

If she can just learn to put the brakes on the anxiety and start to learn how to redirect she will have gotten something really valuable out of this that will serve her in a lot of areas beyond just dance as she grows.

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To add to Noel's post, the helpful phrase or mantra we used is "fake it til you make it."  It matches the advice from one of her teachers to walk into the audition as if you already have a part. Not in an obnoxious manner, but with the confidence to actually dance the roles in the audition instead of just doing the steps. 

It was a bit of a turning point for her. It was the first time she really had fun at an audition and she ended up with the rule she had hoped for but never really thought she would have. 

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One other piece of advice I'd add is that casting is out of their control, and sometimes decisions are made that seem odd or confusing. Our dancers can only control what they can control! I've seen dancers seemingly overlooked and other dancers cast in parts that surprised people. They can't change what's in their AD's vision, so all they can do is work hard in class and then perform as well as possible during the audition, as Melissa suggested.

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My brother (an actor) once gave my dd the best advice about auditioning.  As a young actor he had been auditioning a lot without much success, and he realized at some point that the whole reason that he was auditioning was because he loved acting more than anything--and that even for a few minutes, the audition was his opportunity to do this thing that he loved so much.  This helped him go in and really enjoy the auditions, no matter how things turned out.

This perspective has been helpful to my dd.  She looks at auditions more as an opportunity to try on some roles (including some she would likely never get cast in), work with the choreographer, and just DANCE.


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Thank you all for sharing your thoughtful suggestions.  I can see the value in every one and am looking forward sharing them with my daughter.  

I am so grateful to be a part of this supportive community!

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