Image of several ballet dancers balancing on their toes

No matter your age, pre-audition jitters are something that you have to face. So whether you are an eight-year-old ballet dancer trying out for their first role in The Nutcracker, or an experienced, accomplished young adult dancer vying for a principal role within your current troupe, you need a game plan for how to deal with the pre-audition jitters.

Thankfully, the staff and dance instructors at Mercury Academy of Dance in Centennial have a lot of experience with this kind of thing. As such, we put together a list of a few tips to help you work on overcoming your pre-audition jitters (and a few tips for remaining steady during the audition) in today’s blog. Some of these tips will work well for people of all ages, while some of them may be a bit lost on your little ones if they feel incredibly anxious about performing in front of everyone, so please feel free to cherry-pick what you think will work best for you.

To get more experience dancing in a class or audition-type environment, sign up for classes with us at Mercury Academy of Dance today.

Be Prepared

The single most important thing that you can do when working to overcome your pre-audition anxiety is to be prepared. Depending on what kind of audition you are trying out in, this can be easier said than done.

In the case that you are trying out for a specific role within a known performance piece, you can generally feel confident that you will seem some tidbit of choreography from the actual piece itself. So, by taking a look at old videos from last year, previous performances by other dancers, and interpretations as performed by famous dancers, you can prepare yourself for what you might face.

If you are trying out for a spot within a company or troupe, the best way to prepare is to get some feedback from your instructors as to what areas you need to work on, as well as what areas they think you should feel confident about and proud of.

All of this will help you to feel ready and fight the pre-audition jitters more successfully.

Build a Calming Routine

Having a pre-audition routine is crucial. If you only take one item away from this list, we really hope it’s this one. This can be especially important for young dancers, so we’re looking at you here, mom and dad.

Dancers we have known have worked to clear their schedule on try-out days and practice the same calming routine each and every time. This repetition sends a signal to your brain that you are ready to try out, and that everything will be okay no matter what.

Here is an example of a calming routine:

  1. Wake up and eat a light but healthy breakfast that you enjoy.
  2. Walk the dog along the creek by the house and soak up a little gentle sun.
  3. Spend some time keeping busy with menial, stress-relieving tasks like a light cleaning of your room while listening to some relaxing music.
  4. Preparing and double-checking your dance bag, making sure that you have plenty of time to locate missing items, wash dirty ones, and place everything back exactly how you like it.
  5. Spend some quiet time alone going through the blocking and steps to your favorite piece.
  6. Get a ride to the audition, so you don’t have to deal with the stresses of driving.
  7. Practicing a healthy mantra in the minutes leading up the start of the audition. Something along the lines of: “I’ve worked hard to be here, and I’m grateful for the chance to show what I can do.”

A routine like this can help keep you calm throughout the day, and also help you avoid the unforeseen stressful situations that can put you into a negative mental state.

Embrace Your Jitters As Best You Can

This one is probably the toughest one of all, especially for younger dancers. It’s important to understand that you feel this way because you are excited and this opportunity matters to you. That is so easy to confuse with fear, self-doubt, and a sense of inadequacy. 

If this wasn’t important, you wouldn’t care. But the only thing that really means is that you should feel excited for the opportunity. If you were truly afraid or doubted your ability to win the roll, you would have stayed home. The fact that you are at the audition is evidence that you have already beaten your own worst worries, even if you don’t recognize it.

Maintain Perspective

Once the audition starts, you may simply “do your thing.” Some people lose all anxiety once they start dancing — others find that they cannot stop thinking about every minute detail of their movement, and they forget the choreography.

Just remember this, the choreographer, director, and producer are here for you, not the other way around. You will dance and find joy in your dancing even without a stage to perform on. However, they need to find people to dance in their company, or to perform their choreographed roles, or their dreams will come to nothing. Once again, they are here for you, not the other way around. Take confidence in that and do your best to give them what they came for.

Critique Yourself, But Don’t Be Critical

Between auditioning groups performing the adagio or working on the partnering moves, take a moment to reset yourself and consider what you need to focus on to perform at your peak. What do you know you are capable of doing better at? Being present in the moment is an important kind of self-awareness that almost all of the greatest dancers possess.

However, you cannot allow a healthy, productive self-critique to turn into scathing self-criticism. To avoid this, be objective and constructive with yourself. Consider the solution, not just the thing you want to fix. And most importantly, give yourself honest praise for the things that you executed well.

Always Ask For Notes From The Choreographers Once The Audition Is Over

Once the audition is over, do your best to take a quick moment to thank the director, choreographer, and producer for their time, and ask them for some feedback. This feedback is important for evaluating your own self-honesty in the self-critique mentioned above, however, it’s important that you ask this question the right way.

A dancer who asks, “How did I do?” will be seen as pandering, uncertain, and looking for assurances that we can all but guarantee they are not ready, or willing, to make. The right way to approach this is with a targeted question that shows you value their time. We like hearing things like this:

“I just wanted to say thank you for your time. It was really a pleasure to audition for you today. I’m always looking to get better, and I was hoping that I might get a brief note from one of you about one thing I did well, and one thing that I can focus on improving.”

A question like this demonstrates that you care about improvement, respect their opinions as dancers —and not just as the gatekeepers of your dream role — and that you can take feedback. These are all things that might make an impression, while also allowing you to get the information you are looking for.

No matter how they respond, always thank them again, graciously, and don’t ask anymore follow up questions.

Build Your Confidence and Skills With Dance Classes at Mercury Academy of Dance in Centennial

Mercury Academy of Dance in Centennial offers dance classes, performance opportunities, and competitive group experiences, all of which can help you learn how to better cope with your pre-audition jitters. Sign up for dance classes with us today, or get in touch with us online to learn more about our dance academy.