Whether or not your year-end recital is behind you yet, Nationals season is right around the corner. Before you know it, you’ll be dancing your heart out in a crowded convention ballroom or onstage in front of a star-studded panel of judges.
If you’ve already started having Nationals Nightmares, you’re not alone. Here’s how to handle the five things you’re most afraid of.
1. It’s finally your turn to perform the choreography at the end of a convention class, and you totally screw up. Like completely blank, can’t pick it back up, are basically a deer in headlights. See ya later, scholarship.
How to deal: Just keep moving. Even if you’re not doing the choreography. Even if there are still two minutes left in the routine and you just can’t get it together. Don’t let your face give away what’s happening. Try not to look panicked and just do anything. Eventually your body will probably fall back in line. (Major bonus points if you can keep a smile on your face the whole time.) Everyone messes up. Even the pros. Pinky promise.
2. You forgot something crucial. As in, part of a costume, a shoe, or a hairpiece.
How to deal: If your performance is a day or two out, have someone back home overnight it to you, stat. But if you didn’t realize something’s missing until shortly before you’re set to hit the stage, you’ll have to improvise. For a solo, a missing costume piece is obviously no big deal and you can make do. If you’ve got a few hours, run to a local store to get what you need, whether it’s a nearby dance retailer who can hook you up with a fresh pair of shoes or even a Target where you can score some of those white ruffly socks the rest of your group will be wearing for your tap routine. Worst-case scenario: ask a teammate to borrow a pair of shoes, or someone from another studio to lend a helping hand. People are pretty much always willing to help a dancer in need! If it’s a signature hair piece you forgot, talk to your teacher: she may decide to have the whole team go without. (And uh, always triple-check your packing list before traveling to a competition!)
How to deal: Well, yikes. This isn’t great. But your best bet is to fess up and apologize. Lying never works out well, so if someone overhears you saying less-than-flattering things, just apologize. (And don’t let it happen again. Be nice, be supportive, be polite!)
4. You’re super sick.
How to deal: Sometimes, our bodies just don’t do us any favors! If you get sick at Nationals, be smart. Prioritize. Maybe you need to take fewer convention classes so you’re rested enough for your evening competition performance. Or maybe you need to opt out of your three solos so you can be strong for the group dance. Take medicine, eat well, rest, and find a balance between being strong and being smart.
5. You completely blew your performance.
How to deal: Move on. You have to. There’s nothing much to be learned from dwelling on something that happened in the past. Whether you fell out of every turn or completely messed up the group jazz choreography, you have to get over it. There will always be another convention, another performance. And sometimes, it really is about the journey, not the destination. If you mad massive gains all season long but didn’t place where you wanted at one Nationals, that’s not the end of the world. Sure, it’s not what you wanted, but be sure to still be proud of all your year-long accomplishments, and not just how things shook out on this one day.