Visualization is a great tool to be used whether you are a dancer or if you never danced in your life. Odds are, with its popularity, you have already experienced a visualization exercise. There are many different ways you can use visualization and many different benefits you can reap from it. For example, if you have had a stressful day, need to relax, and get some inner calm, you can visualize yourself at the beach. I'm not talking about just imagining you are there but fully immersing yourself in the experience. Can you feel the sand between your toes? Do you hear waves slowly crashing onto the shore? What other noises do you hear? Can you feel a warm breeze on your skin? Or maybe the hot sun is beating down on you. By fully immersing yourself in this experience, you can already feel what its like to actually be there! How? Well according to new research your brain actually doesn’t know the difference from what your actually experiencing and what you imagine!
“Using fMRI scans, researchers like V. S. Ramachandran, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego, have found that the same cells in the brain light up whether we perform an action ourselves or watch someone else do it—which might explain why some of us find action movies so exciting. But these “mirror neurons” aren’t activated just by the things we see. The effect also occurs when we simply imagine ourselves performing the action.”
So knowing this, how can it be used as a tool to give you a heads up on your competition? Well we have 3 useful tips for you!
- Reduce pre-stage gitters / anxiety
One of the most challenging emotions a dancer faces right before a competition or show is pre-stage gitters. Anyone who has ever been on stage before has experienced this same type of anxiety. This feeling can make you feel like you need to run to the restroom right as you are walking on stage or even that you forgot your entire routine from stage fright. The trick to overcoming this is realizing everyone feels the same way and knowing that you can over come it. A great way to do so is to use visualization! Imagine what it is going to feel like walking onto that stage. Imagine what you are wearing and how it feels as you walk out onto that stage. Feel the stage lights' heat on your body, look out into the audience and truly see the audience, imagine looking at the judges table and look at each person with direct eye contact. Take a deep breath and know that all your training has lead you to this and know in your heart that you are ready. Imagine what it is going to feel like having all those eyes on you and just sit with that feeling and acclimate yourself to it. When you feel your prestige gitters just sit with them and allow the feeling to wash over you and swallow you hole. Is it really that bad? Are you physically hurt in any way? Know that this is only an emotion, a primal tool set in place to help you identify threats. Know that you are not threatened by being on this stage and tell yourself that its okay to feel what you are feeling. When you feel you are ready, begin imagining you doing your routine. Feel what its like to really do your choreography on that stage and imagine you confidently executing every move perfectly. Do your entire routine and finish with a strong pose knowing you have done the best performance possible. Imagine yourself bowing and exiting the stage. By imagining this, you have gotten your brain accustomed to the feelings that when you are physically there for your competition, your body will already be familiar with your pre-stage gitters that they won’t feel so intense! Repeat the visualization as many times as you need until you feel comfortable and prepared for your performance!
2. Learn and strengthen technique
We all know how intimidating it can be to learn new technique and how much time and effort goes into perfecting it. With visualization, you can begin to understand technique with a very new perspective. By visualizing what it is like to fully perform a dance move, you can manipulate time to your advantage. Remember the last time you saw that move executed in a way that is close to your goal, now imagine them executing the move but imagine the execution in slow motion. Analyze the move and imagine how that dancer feels throughout their entire body. Feel their leg in full extension or feel like what it must feel like to be soaring through the air. Imagine the move fully and completely from start to finish. Get used to what you will feel like in the moment when you can fully perform the move at the same caliber or even better with your own twist. By doing this it prepares your body for how it is going to feel in the moment, as well as motivate you to continue your hard work to get you to the point where you can feel the same way you imagine.
3. Build confidence
A huge asset you can add to any performance is confidence. When you are confident with yourself and your routine, there is an extreme difference to when you are unsure or second guessing yourself. You can use visualization to increase this confidence to ensure you will feel the way you are meant to during your performance. To do this you want to visualize what it is like to win first place in your competition or the standing ovation you are going to receive from your performance. One of the biggest downfalls to a persons level of confidence is their uncertainty. To minimize this, imagine yourself executing your routine perfectly, as if you already know you have won what it is you desire. For example, if you are participating in a competition, imagine yourself walking on to that stage to perform as if you have already won. Imagine they already handed you the trophy and you have already succeeded. Execute your routine perfectly knowing that you already have it in the bag and losing is not an option. Remember that feeling and carry it with you to your competition. Know that you are the champion and perform with that boldness. If you do, nothing can stop you!
Blog by: Coach Michael Wallmann