Performance Anxiety

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Stage fright, the heebie jeebies, a bad case of the willies. Call it what you will, but one thing is for sure, performance anxiety is the cruel mistress of many performing artists.

According to a recent survey conducted by Help Musicians UK, 75% of musicians said they had suffered from performance anxiety. Similarly, research from One Dance UK demonstrated that 92% of dancers had experienced psychological difficulty in the last 12 months, with over 30% experiencing performance anxiety. But what exactly is performance anxiety, why does it happen, and the big one we all want the answer to; how on earth do we get a grip of it?

Lets get down to the science-y bit. Psychologists seem to agree that anxiety manifests in two key ways; somatically and cognitively. Somatic symptoms are those we experience physically, such as sweating, racing hearts and needing the bathroom, causing us to feel agitated and uncomfortable. They’re all signs that our body is out of sync with its neutral state, signs of physiological arousal. These experiences are common in all pressurised situations, from test-taking, public speaking and sport, to the performing arts, dance and music. For some, symptoms occur long before performance, from early days in rehearsal. For others, symptoms hit us like a tonne of bricks, right out of the blue, when we’re standing in the wings.

Now here’s the interesting stuff. All of these symptoms have something else in common, something which differs vastly from anxiety. They’re all symptoms of excitement. Just like that feeling of waking up on your birthday, or falling in love, they are symptoms that are telling us that we are energised, ready for action, and prepared to experience something deeply rewarding, of great value.

But what about those cognitive symptoms, those we experience mentally such as worry, apprehension and nerves that ultimately can lead us to a mental block? There’s pretty solid evidence that performance anxiety occurs when an individual perceives an imbalance between the demands made, and their capacity to meet the demands. The key word here is perceived. What if we changed our perceptions of our symptoms, and our perceptions of performance? What if we changed up our mind-set and tried interpreting those symptoms as a sign of preparedness, and positive anticipation. Research we’ve carried out both here at Trinity Laban, and research by international colleagues, demonstrated that perceiving an upcoming performance as a challenge (a chance to thrive and demonstrate competency) rather than a threat (a chance to fail) lead to decreased anxiety experiences in both the days leading up to and very moments prior to performance.

Next time you have an assessment, performance or audition coming up, notice your immediate somatic response. Your interpretation is key. Is this related to a threat? Or actually, is this an optimal challenge? Is your mental investment really worry, or is thinking about an upcoming audition merely a sign that this is something of real value to you, an exciting experience? Learning to change mental habits is by no means an easy process, but a process it certainly is – which means time, patience and trial and error are key. Reframing your thoughts about your next performance may be the first steps towards managing your performance anxiety, and developing healthy techniques for looking after your psychological wellbeing is just as important as nurturing your dance or music technique.

 

Lucie Clements, PhD candidate Dance Science & Lecturer in Performance Psychology.

Concluding Trinity Laban at Resolution 2017

natalie-leadImage: Natalie Sloth Richter, Bedtime Stories by Lidia Crisafulli 

Resolution 2017 will conclude at the end of next week – and this week the rolling blog also comes to an end. There have been a huge number of Trinity Laban alumni and students contributing to the festival this year – well done to everyone involved!

You can continue to read reviews on The Place blog.

On Tuesday, 2015 graduates Zoe Bishop and Vikki Mead performed in Elisha Hamilton Dance’s piece RETALE. They shared the night with Natalie Sloth Richter, whose piece was danced by Olivia Edginton, Ingvild Marstein Olsen, Laura Ganotis and Victoria Rucinska – all 2015 graduates.

Natalie’s piece Bedtime Stories is built on recorded interviews from three generations of women. The choreography takes the audience on a journey of memories, drifting in and out of nostalgia and moving through bedtime rituals. On Wednesday Scatterlings took to the stage, a collective made up of Transitions alumni Leanne Oddy, Saara Hurme, Vanessa Michielon, Izzy Brittain and David Kam. Their piece All Over and Everywhere looks at issues surrounding nations, migration and belonging.

Next week you can see me dancing (and attempting to play the piano) with Watts Dance on 21 Feb alongside alumni Caitlin Murray, Zoe Moody and Robin Porter. The following day duo Zjana Muraro & Gianna Burright – both MFA Choreography students – perform their work Untitled 3 + x, and on Friday Maria Lothe & Co awaken our inner environmentalist with Can You Hear the Sound of The Flowers? Maria’s piece is danced by alumni Svenja Buhl, Victoria Rucinska and Fergus McIntosh.

This is Maria’s second year presenting work in Resolution, so I caught up with her to find out more about her experience:

“My experience of Resolution is that it is a safe and supportive platform to develop artistic ideas. As I am now sharing work for the second time I feel encouraged to take risks with my dance making and work on an interdisciplinary collaboration. It’s given me the opportunity to test and explore new ideas, acting as a base to continue the research and establish contact with venues & funding bodies. The first year I took part in Resolution provided me with skills related to administration and production. This has been particularly useful this year as I am working with a large group, collaborating with visual artists, musicians and performers.”

“As an evolution company (a company returning to Resolution), we get a certain amount of rehearsal space in kind – which has been very helpful. We were also lucky enough to receive the ‘K5 Res!idency’ by Joss Carter which provides us with free rehearsal space up until the performance. The Place also offers more financial security to evolution companies should they not sell enough tickets – but my sales seem to be going well!”

I asked Maria about how her time at Trinity Laban has influenced her as a dance artist:

“Studying at Trinity Laban supported my practice both as a maker, mover and thinker. It supported the development of my artistic ideas and interests both in practice and in communication. The thing stands out the most was my Independent Project in the final year, where I could indulge in choosing one specific area of research for a year. Having an amazing tutor – Marina Collard – to discuss my ideas with made me think further and helped me to realise my ideas. I am still working on the same research now: between movement and ceramics.”

Maria offered some final words of wisdom:

“The first few years after education can seem daunting with many different options and pathways to take. I find short and long-term goals very helpful in shaping the direction of the future you want to create. Things can take time – have patience and believe in your own individuality and uniqueness. If you get lost on the road (we all do at some point), there will always be people, known or unknown, who are up for helping you.”

It seems to be that Resolution has given many of us a platform to put the skills and creativity we gained as Trinity Laban students into practice, and the confidence to continue doing so. I will look forward to seeing students and alumni take the festival by storm again next year – as I’m sure they will do!

For more information on Resolution and to book tickets visit The Place website.

To find out more about Trinity Laban’s dance programmes visit our Study Pages.maria-lead

Image: Maria Lothe & Co. 

Alice White

Graduate Intern – Press & PR

Cecilia Watts at Resolution

Week 5

Catch up on last week’s reviews on The Place blog

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Image: Watts Dance

I caught up with Cecilia Watts, whose piece I will be dancing in next week with her company Watts Dance. The piece – WLA No.657005 – is inspired by the Women’s Land Army, which was made up of young women who worked as agricultural labourers during the Second World War. They took over the roles from the men who had been called up to fight, and their vital work as ‘Land Girls’ was at the forefront of the war effort, keeping the farms going and Britain fed. Cecilia commented:

‘I’ve always had an interest in the 1940’s era. My mum is a 1940’s re-enactor so I’ve grown up with a lot of knowledge and influence from that specific time period. At re-enactments I have dressed as a Land Girl before and I wanted to learn more about these women, so for my birthday my mum got me a book called ‘The Women’s Land Army’ by Vita Sackville-West. The WLA were often described as the unsung heroes of the Second World War and this was where the idea for a piece surrounding these women began to develop for me.

The piece has ended up as a narrative-based work, with a story that we built upon as we rehearsed and music composed specifically for the piece created alongside it. Our story revolves around a group of five women, and will show how the camaraderie of the group overcomes the sadness of war.’

The music for the piece has been composed by fellow Trinity Laban alumnus Robin Porter, who will be playing the music live on piano throughout the piece. Cecilia met Robin during her first year at TL and they continued to work together for her Independent Project in her final year.

Each section of music has been composed with a unique process – sometimes the movement material inspired the music or vice versa.

‘One of the best moments I experienced was when we were rehearsing a solo with Robin playing live for the first time. The solo was performed once, and when he had finished playing he turned to me and said that it was really lovely for him to see his piece of music come to life this way. This was wonderful to hear as I had felt exactly the same way. Watching the dancers and the music come together was like watching an idea of my own come to life.’

 

As I have found through my own experience and through discussing with fellow choreographers, Resolution teaches you so many valuable skills beyond creating a work. I asked Cecilia what she had learnt from the process:

‘There’s much more to the role of choreographer than getting into a studio and creating. I’d never truly appreciated before how much needed to be done to get a piece off the ground. As much as I enjoyed being back in the studio and creating again, there has been a lot going on outside of the studio. Admin, advertisement, costumes, lighting, music, scheduling rehearsals with dancers, musician, lighting designer – whilst working my job at the same time – and I’m sure the list goes on. It’s like the wheels in your mind never stop turning. Despite this I think what Resolution has really taught me is that the content of the work must be the most important thing, and all these other things, though important, are secondary to what you are creating.

I’ve learnt how much work is needed to be put in, the effort it takes to juggle everything, but also how to enjoy the process and not let it overwhelm you. The workshops that Resolution offered this year were a real factor in this – speaking with other artists involved in the process, we have all felt incredibly supported.’

I went on to ask Cecilia how her time here at Trinity Laban developed her practice as a dance artist:

‘My time at Trinity Laban was a huge turning point – I felt like a completely different person when I graduated compared to when I began.

I’d say the biggest developments I saw were shown in my confidence and understanding of dance. When I first started, I really had no idea what I wanted to do or if I was even good enough to work in the dance industry. That was the problem, I was always questioning if I was good enough, or if was going to fail, or if everyone around me were simply better. But at Trinity Laban, as well as teaching me everything you expect to learn from a dance institute, I think the most important thing I learnt is that when developing as a dance artist, even though having competitive energy around you isn’t a bad thing, you should never be focused on whether you ‘succeed’ or ‘fail’. You should focus on the journey. Instead of viewing fellow dance artists as competitors in a race where no one knew where the finish line was, I really started to view them as collaborators and people to confide in and support, which is something you really need when evolving as an artist.

As well as all this, Trinity Laban opened up my eyes to ways of performing and creating that were completely new to me. These new ideas opened up new doors of development, and suddenly the dance world, though bigger, seemed much less daunting, and much more exciting.’

What’s next for Watts Dance?

‘I could definitely see WLA No.657005 being extended and bringing back a lot of ideas we discarded during the rehearsal process. I’m already looking into possible locations for a tour of the work around September time, so I’d like to add one or two other pieces to our rep, as well as some possible new additions to the company. I know for sure that now I’ve been back in the studio creating again with this wonderful group of dancers, I won’t want to be stopping anytime soon.’

For more information and to book tickets visit The Place website.

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Image: Watts Dance

Alice White

Graduate Intern – Press & PR

Cooldown

The term cool down is frequently referenced within our dance practice, it’s seldom incorporated into our dance sessions by practitioners and is often expected to be a component of our personal structure.

So what is it all about? This article aims to provide you with a background on the subject and to offer suggestions as how to implement informed strategies into your daily dance practice.

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Here’s the science bit:

Cool down is also referred to as ‘active recovery’, this involves reducing the heart rate slowly after exercise. The intention is to avoid a sharp decline in heart rate which in turn will facilitate circulation, the removal of waste products, avoiding muscle soreness and cramping.

Some extra information:

During exercise that is predominately focused on your legs, your heart will send blood to those muscles to ensure that you are able to fulfill those movements. This means that there will be a lack of blood circulating from your heart to your legs and back to your heart.

If you were to sit down straight after your dance session your heart rate will plummet and the blood will not effectively circulate back to the heart. The burning sensation that you may often feel after leg intensive exercise is caused by blood lactate, some level of this is beneficial, but if it remains present in your leg muscles after class, it may result in muscle soreness, cramping and poor recovery.

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You could instead try the following:

  • 10 minutes of slowed down dance specific movements from the choreography you were performing, followed by 5 minutes of your favourite stretches
  • If you have just done a workout of weights/ running, cool-down with 5-10 minutes of light jogging on the treadmill/ cross-trainer/ exercise bike
  • Do this at 60-70% of your maximum heart rate (use fitbits, apple watches or the heart rate monitor on gym equipment to help you calculate this)

Here’s an example:

If you are 18 years old

  • Subtract 18 from 220

220-18= 202

  • 202 beats per minute (bpm) is your maximum heart rate for intense exercise/ dance

 

To work out the your heart rate for optimal cool-down benefits (60-70%)

  • 60% of 202 bpm= 0.60 x 202= 121 bpm
  • 70% of 202 bpm= 0.70 x 202= 141 bpm

 

So as an 18 year old if you reduce your heart rate to between 121 and 141 beats per minute, you will have the best chance of reducing blood lactate and heart rate.

Your benefits:

  • Following this process will help you to recover properly from your dance classes
  • It will optimise your next performance level
  • Make your body feel more energised and less achy
  • Make you feel less tired and feint after classes

 

Common issues:

“I don’t have time between classes”

If you are heading across to another class your heart rate will reduce anyway. The important thing to remember is to stay lightly active for 15 minutes, this is preferable to sitting or collapsing on the floor.

“But I stretch after my class, isn’t that cooling down?”

Stretching is part of the cooling down process but not the entirety of it. Try to follow this rule:

  1. Light activity at 60-70% of your maximum heart rate
  2. Dynamic stretching
  3. Static stretching

In conclusion, developing a better understanding of the cool down process will help you to understand your body. You will be able to control your recovery better during those busy times at university and take care of those dancing legs.

 

Seema De Jorge-Chopra MSc

Dance Science Graduate Intern

 

RESOLUTION WEEK 4

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Image: Orley Quick and the Hairy Heronines

Week 4

Take a look at last week’s reviews on The Place blog.

What does the entire process look like from application to performance?

I have found this process to be a journey that aids you to develop both your artistic and your business skills, right from the point of writing the application to receiving feedback after the performance. It has been a process of learning to take on many different roles; performing and choreographing to marketing and lighting design. As part of Resolution, your work is reviewed by established and emerging critics for Resolution Review online and you receive a HD quality recording of your performance. Both of these can be used to promote your work beyond the festival. Although it has been a busy and long process, it feels like just the beginning of a bigger one!

Zoe Bishop shared her thoughts around this question:

“The distance between the two processes (application and performance) is quite far, so in order to stay on track whilst doing everything else that life involves, it’s been important to set short deadlines. Doing things as simple as booking rehearsal space in advance is something that helps you to stay on track. The key for us has been organisation: having people watch work in progress, booking photoshoots and being consistent on social media. We went to as many of The Place’s workshops we could as a way to keep touching base with our ideas and plans, and the rest seemed to happen automatically.”

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Image: Jan Lee

On Tuesday, Orley Quick and the Hairy Heroines took to the stage with As We Like It. Orley Quick completed a Diploma in Dance Studies in 2010, and has since worked with various choreographers and companies. She also teaches, whilst continuing to focus on her own performance opportunities and choreography. The Hairy Heroines are a group of men (and one less hairy lady) exploring how they personally identify with their gender as well as presenting a willingness to openly look at their other self. The group enjoy exploring and blurring the lines between dance, theatre and play through a telescopic view of both past and present.

On Wednesday we (Bite Dance) shared an evening with fellow alumnus Thomas Michael Voss. Voss’s piece Quaestio attempted to unravel the pressures and issues often faced in a world of stereotypical masculinity. Thursday saw alumnus Jan Lee’s piece How to Play A Room, which questioned – what is normal? Concocting a surreal world where rules are turned and things are not what they seem, this work exposed our arbitrary views of identity through absurdity and comic misinterpretation.

2015 graduate Laura Ganotis debuts her choreographic work Revolution Opera, which takes revolution as the beginning of an era or a history to come. The work dives into the sensations of defeat, unitedness and escape, exploring the idea of unfinished fights, and the drive and thirst for change that is in our human nature.

Next week I will go behind the scenes with Watts Dance, speaking with choreographer Cecelia Watts and the music and dance alumni who feature in her piece.

For more information about Resolution and to book tickets visit The Place website.

Alice White

Graduate Intern – Press & PR

INTERVIEW: BECKY BRASS

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Image: Becky Brass, JK Photography

You’ve been on tour with the successful Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour both in the UK and internationally – how has that been and how did it come about?

I got a call from a fixer in my final year at Trinity Laban (whilst I was sat in a practice room worrying about excerpts!). The fixer asked me if I was interested in going to an audition to be the drummer in the band for a new show written by Lee Hall, who’s famous for Billy Elliot. My number had been passed on from a West End drummer who’d recently done a class and taken my details. I didn’t have anything in the pipeline for when I graduated so thought – why not? I received a hilariously enthusiastic email from Martin Lowe, the Music Supervisor (who I only found out after my audition was the composer of Once and recipient of a Grammy), asking me to bring ‘fun noisy things’ and have a play. I crammed all of the weird percussion I had into a bag and carried it like an unbalanced turtle to Kings Cross. I had a surprisingly fun audition but mistakenly thought that nothing would come of it, as Martin had assured me that they had a long list of people to see after me.

It’s a year and a half later and we’ve taken the show from the Edinburgh Fringe to across the UK, America, Ireland and Australia. We’ve received three awards and been nominated for Best Musical at the Evening Standard Awards 2016. It’s been entirely unforgettable; the show has a small but fierce cast of six women, with myself and two other women forming the band, not to mention being directed, lit, managed and choreographed by powerful women. We’ve grown into a formidable wolf pack along the way!

What’s it like to play in a theatre production? Have you done so before/would you like to continue with this line of work?

I had some experience playing in pits for shows, having worked at the Southwark Playhouse and the Royal Opera House before graduating, but playing in Our Ladies was a totally new experience. The musicians are on stage and in costume, required to interact with the actresses throughout, so complete focus and good behaviour was required at all times. I was fortunate to go straight into working on a show that was just being created. I joined rehearsals in Glasgow as the cast were learning choreography; scenes were cut and changed, songs added or rearranged and lines thrown out the window on an hourly basis, so we all felt very much at the core of the show, which is fairly unusual. I’d wanted to work on shows since my parents took me to see Stomp when I was ten and had an annoying amount of energy, and I would still love to continue working on them.

How did you find your time at Trinity Laban? What valuable things did you learn?

I got a lot from my time at Trinity Laban: time-management, diligence and being bold enough to try new styles and instruments. Although I struggled to figure out what direction I wanted to take for the first few years, it was with the input of my incredible teachers and the visiting players who encouraged me to pursue a less ‘classical’ path, as that suited me better. I threw myself into learning instruments from and around the world and kit and sat in on as many shows as I could, pestering as many teachers as possible!

What have you been up to since graduating?

I went straight into Our Ladies after finishing my fourth year, and then started working on a kids’ show at the Unicorn Theatre. I had a short break from shows at the start of 2016 before going on the international 6 month tour of Our Ladies, playing with function band Chiqas, and then working at the Unicorn for a second year.

Do you have any future projects/plans lined up?

I’m working on a few smaller jobs at the start of this year, ongoing work arranging and playing with Chiqas and a show at ArtsEd. We recently received the news that Our Ladies is transferring to the West End having been taken on by top west end producer Sonia Friedman (who produced Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Dreamgirls and The Book of Mormon). We’ll be playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre from May until September 2017!

To find out more about Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour and to book tickets, please visit the website.

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Image: Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour

Alice White

Graduate Intern – Press & PR