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.

Post-Exercise Muscular Soreness

Feeling like you’ve gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson for a day or two after you’ve done a serious workout?

We all know the feeling- stairs? Not a chance.

But why do our muscles hurt so much when we’ve been working so hard?

Post-Exercise Soreness explained.

The DOMS

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness: refers to the potential reaction our bodies have when we take up a new exercise plan, adapt an existing exercise plan or alter the intensity or duration of regular physical exertion. This may happen regardless of our fitness levels and although often unwelcomed, it can be the sign of a Physiologically Positive Reaction.

DOMS usually develops between 12-24 hours after the activity itself. We’ve all heard the phrase ‘that’ll hurt tomorrow’ but the truth is the greatest discomfort is often experienced between 24-72 hours post-exercise. Although DOMS can be associated with a positive reaction, is often a sign that you need to take a rest, this is useful feedback from your body.  If you are experiencing symptoms associated with DOMS, to include muscles soreness ‘tender to touch’ and reduced joint mobility, this may lead to instability if not well rested. Instability and weakness combined with muscle soreness and fatigue can lead to injury.

What’s happening?

There is some controversy surrounding the cause of DOMS, however most believe that DOMS is the repair process that develops as a response to the microscopic damage of our muscle fibres likely stemming from novel stresses that were experienced during the exercise.

A common misconception is that DOMS is due to lactic acid build up however it is generally believed that lactic acid is not involved in the DOMS process.

Activities which are thought to result in DOMS are ones which cause muscles to lengthen whilst a force is being applied, also known as an eccentric muscle action. There are three main actions; Concentric, Isometric and Eccentric- The notion of a concentric chest press evokes a much more stressful loading onto the muscles than let’s say a handstand where an Isometric action is seen. However eccentric movements such as the lowering phase in a bicep curl are considered structurally, to cause a higher stress level on muscle fibres than the aforementioned. Try and work your way gradually into a new exercise program to help reduce the severity of DOMS!

 There is a fine line between positive, and injury provoking muscular ‘pain’.

Every body is different and you must remember to listen to yours.

As performing artists we should not be working towards ‘pain’. We should only push our bodies to a certain level, and DOMS is a welcomed indication that we have pushed our bodies a little beyond their normal comfort zone. If you do experience pain during an exercise this could be an underlying factor of over intensified exercise or incorrect form, you should consult a medical practitioner if pain persists and exceeds regular DOMS symptoms.

It is important to remember eccentric movements are to be treated as one ingredient within a well-tailored exercise plan, combining concentric and isometric movement will make for a well-rounded workout. Mastering technique, control and stability within movements will lower the risk of injury and in turn DOMS.

Does Massage Help?

Massage is an extensive physiological tool that eases muscle and joint stiffness. The hands on approach of massage works towards reducing tension within the body, combined with passive movements that not only stretch the connective tissues around our joints, but lengthens muscles and tendons too.  Sports Massage may help prevent the onset of injury, work as a tool to rehabilitate and in turn may improve performance. With classes, rehearsals, shows and tours on the horizon pushing bodies to outside of their regular comfort zone, Dancers, Musicians and Musical Theatre performers may consider seeking treatment in order to gain immediate relief for muscle soreness. It can also be applied post-event to remove waste products/toxins, speed up recovery time and de-stress after a performance.

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Don’t forget TL Health offers Sports Massage where TL Students receive a brilliant discount!

http://www.trinitylaban.ac.uk/trinity-laban-health/health-treatments/sports-massage

Jess Coleman: Graduate Intern, Health.

Musical Theatre alumni Zoe Rogers and Jack McCann

Our graduates perform in musical theatre productions in the West End, in international and UK touring productions, on film and TV, as well as within the wider entertainment industry. Many successful musical theatre artists, musical directors and pit musicians received their first experiences of Musical Theatre at Trinity Laban. We caught up with 2016 graduates Zoe Rogers and Jack McCann.

Jack is currently performing as Billy Crocker in Anything Goes at Upstairs at the Gatehouse, for which he has been nominated for an Off West End Award for Best Male. Prior to this he achieved the lead role in Charles Miller and Glen Chandler’s new musical The Sins of Jack Saul, for which he received a BroadwayWorldUK nomination for Best Actor in a New Production of a Musical. He has previously performed as Val LaMar in a revival of the classical musical comedy Babes in Arms and as Dead Duck in The Homosexual Necrophilliac Duck Opera at the Natural History Museum.

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Image: Jack McCann

Zoe has been cast as a member of the ensemble in 42nd Street at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Zoe has wanted to be in musical theatre ever since she can remember, getting involved in local performance opportunities from a young age. Zoe was overwhelmed to gain her role in 42nd Street, telling us: ‘I couldn’t believe it at first, but when it finally sunk in I just cried. I couldn’t stop the tears from coming!’

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Image: Zoe Rogers (William Rye Photography)

The Musical Theatre course includes carefully crafted performance opportunities which allow students to experience a diverse range of musical theatre performance settings. The experiences are modelled on real-life performance contexts, enabling students to apply and adapt their developing skills to meet the needs of a range of repertoire.

Both Zoe and Jack found their performance opportunities at Trinity Laban to be cherished memories. The final performance is a poignant moment for our Musical Theatre students as they come together one last time before making the transition into the working world. Jack felt he was ‘ready to take on the world’ and Zoe commented on how fortunate she was to have been given the opportunity to take on a leading role. Jack added:

‘I think Trinity Laban prepared me remarkably well for the industry. I had a very holistic training, not only gaining skills in singing, acting, and dancing, but I also learnt how to carry myself as a business person. It was great to perfect the practical elements whilst also gaining additional skills.’

Our musical theatre teachers are leading industry professionals, who coach and support students to prepare them for success in a highly competitive field. Zoe spoke of her gratitude towards her teachers, ‘not only are they incredibly established, they are willing to go above and beyond for all their students. Their dedication never wavers.’ Jack found that it was the pastoral support that really had an impact on him and helped him to grow on a personal level. He appreciated the focus on wellbeing as well as professional development, telling us:

‘The teaching staff were outstanding and I’ve continued my relationship with them. They were always willing to challenge me when I couldn’t challenge myself – when I couldn’t see my long term goal they helped me to grasp it again. They always had my best interest at heart. I made some very special relationships.’

Zoe and Jack are beginning to build prosperous careers in the musical theatre industry, and are both examples of Trinity Laban’s growing reputation for its Musical Theatre performance training. We distinguish ourselves by equipping creative practitioners with a wide range of skills applicable to a diverse range of musical theatre. We produce highly employable graduates who are thoroughly prepared for this competitive and increasingly popular branch of the British music industry.

Nutrition for Musical Theatre Students

The majority of the musical theatre students at Trinity Laban are involved in 25-30 hours of practical sessions per week. On top of this, students will be participating in extra rehearsals, supplementary training, theory sessions and written work and spending additional time learning lines and working on several voice techniques. All of this will put their bodies under an amount of stress, meaning their nutritional intake is vital to ensuring they are healthy enough to keep up with a busy schedule! It is important for musical theatre students whom wish to have a long and successful career to treat their bodies as if they were instruments and understanding how to achieve a sustainable, healthy and balanced lifestyle is vital to ensuring the body can perform optimally.

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Our diets are made up of micronutrients and macronutrients. We need to have all of these nutrients in our diets to help maintain a stable and balanced diet:

Micronutrients

Micronutrients are needed by the body in small amounts and are vital to help the body to function correctly. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals and can be found naturally in fruits and vegetables. The best way to get all the vitamins and minerals you need is to try to make your meal as colourful as possible with your fruits and veg – eat the rainbow!

Macronutrients

Macronutrients make up the majority of the food that what we eat. Macronutrients are fats, carbohydrates and protein.

  • Fats: Healthy fats are needed to fuel the body and assist hormonal balances. You can find healthy fats in nuts, dairy products and certain meats.
  • Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are needed for energy and fuel the body. You can find them in starches which are found in foods containing grains, pasta, rice and potatoes.
  • Protein: Protein is needed to help repair and build muscle. You can find it in meat, fish, eggs and quorn. When it comes to meat: the less legs, means more protein i.e. chicken or turkey has more protein than beef.

It is vital to ensure your daily intake of micro and macronutrients is suitable to the activity level of that day. If you are using more calories than you consume your body will experience an energy deficit which can lead to poor performance, illness and injury. The amount of calories an individual should have per day is dependent on height, weight, activity schedule and their gender. It will also change depending on their goals… if the aim is to gain weight or muscle an individual will require a diet that allows a higher intake of calories; in comparison, if the goal is to lower body fat percentage or lose weight less calories will be consumed. In any of these cases the caloric intake will still be based on the individual’s genetics and amount of activity performed.

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As performers who sing, dance and act, illness and injury can hinder a musical theatre student’s development and could potentially lose them a professional contract. It is vital to get enough sleep; muscles repair and process any information whilst we are asleep. It is recommended to get around eight hours sleep per night. When the immune systems begins to shut down, increasing the chances of illness and the body starts to feel run down, sufficient rest, adequate hydration and an increased intake of fruits and vegetables can help boost the immune system due to the consumption of extra vitamins and minerals.

The tables below shows a variety of scenarios and the recommended nutrition information to achieve optimal performance.

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Performer 1 has a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 21, and is considered to be of a healthy stature. Using a calorie calculator (the formula for this can be found at the bottom of this post), it can be suggested that this performer should consume around 2000 calories to maintain this weight and should aim for 2500 calories to gain 0.5kg per week. This performer wished to increase muscle and not fat and so her intake of protein would need to be greater than the intake of fat. As she is quite active, she would also need to have a significant amount of carbohydrate. The general percentage of carbohydrate, protein, and fat for a performer who is aiming to build muscle is 40%, 40%, and 20% respectively.

Remember this differs for each individual so the ratio of each macronutrient may change to suit different bodies.

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Performer 2 has a BMI of 24; he is considered to have a healthy weight but is close to being classes as overweight. The calorie calculator suggests that this performer should consume around 2900 calories to remain at the same weight. This performer is very active and so would need a high intake of carbohydrates for energy and protein for muscle repair with healthy fats to fuel the body. It is recommended for this performer’s macronutrients to break down as 40% carbohydrates, 35% Protein, 25% fats.

Remember this differs for each individual so the ratio of each macronutrient may change to suit different bodies.

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Performer 3 has a BMI of 29 and is considered to be overweight. Using the calorie calculator suggests this performer should be consuming around 1980 calories per day to lose 0.5kg per week. This performer is physically active but is in the low-moderate range and aims to lower their percentage of body fat. The breakdown of their macronutrients would be 30% protein, 50% carbohydrates and 20% fats.

Remember this differs for each individual so the ratio of each macronutrient may change to suit different bodies.

The calorie calculator calculates the Basal Metabolic Rate – the formula for this is:

BMR = 10 * weight(kg) + 6.25 * height(cm) – 5 * age(y) + 5         (man)
BMR = 10 * weight(kg) + 6.25 * height(cm) – 5 * age(y) – 161     (woman)

The breakdown of each of these circumstances are based on the individual’s height, weight, age, gender, activity level and goal. However, we do not know the true intensity of physical activity which may affect the individual’s caloric intake. Each person’s metabolism and body type may also have some affect, therefore it is vital to ensure there is a full understanding of the needs and desires of each individual before implementing a chance in diet. For more information please speak to a registered physician or nutritionist.

References and additional information

http://www.calculator.net/calorie-calculator.html?ctype=metric&cage=22&csex=f&cheightfeet=5&cheightinch=10&cpound=160&cheightmeter=168&ckg=82&cactivity=1.55&printit=0&x=87&y=16

http://www.nhs.uk/Tools/Pages/Healthyweightcalculator.aspx

Tarnopolsky, M. A. (2008). Building muscle: nutrition to maximize bulk and strength adaptations to resistance exercise training. European journal of sport science, 8(2), 67-76.

Dixon, M. (2001). Eating… and dancing-Nutritional advice for dancers from Jasmine Challis. BALLETT INTERNATIONAL-TANZ AKTUELL, (5), 72-73.

Montoye, H. J. (2015). Energy costs of exercise and sport. Nutrition in sport, 53.

Kenney, W. L., Wilmore, J., & Costill, D. (2015). Physiology of Sport and Exercise 6th Edition. Human kinetics.

Jessica Hobson: Graduate Intern, Dance Science

Trinity Laban’s new Musical Theatre Summer School is now open for bookings

The Witches of Eastwick

Musical Theatre Summer School 2014– now open for bookings

Musical Theatre is going from strength to strength at Trinity Laban and this year we’re going to be throwing open our doors for part of the summer to a new group of students.

Our new Musical Theatre Summer School for 2014 (4-8 August) has an amazing tutor line up from across the world of West End, all led by the fabulous folks from our Musical Theatre Department. The timetable is designed to stretch, inspire and nurture you as a performer and has the essence of the conservatoire experience all bottled up in a summer school.  It’s a challenging course so really for those considering Musical Theatre at degree level, as a career or as an accomplished amateur. If this is you and you’re thinking about a long term future in the business then what better way to spend part of the long summer holidays than making new friends in the lush facilities of our Laban Building while learning from the best.

Bookings are now open, places are limited and it’s sure to sell fast so our advice is if you don’t want to be Les Miserables, and Miss (Saigon) out on this Wicked experience, then get your Starlight Express skates on and before you know it you’ll be spending your summer to the Sound of Music.

(oh boy!)

‘Eastwick Knows!’

MT_Witches_A5_flyer_2With the pressure of showcase and dissertations submitted…it’s time to focus on the final show of our training at Trinity Laban. Perhaps it’s just me; but I know that the next five weeks will be filled to the brim with a variety of emotions. We’ve been through highs and lows as a group…and we’re slowly realising that we won’t be together soon for much longer after three years. That sentimental moment aside – We are loving life in Eastwick so far!

I’m Marika and am playing the role of Eastwick’s first Iron Lady matriarch Felicia Gabriel. I am going to be blogging life direct from the rehearsal room when I can. Additionally, Lydia (Alexandra Spoffard – in short one of the three Witches who was played by Cher in the film version – yes she has big hair) is our resident rehearsal photographer to show you what we get up to every week day! ‘Hashtag Lydia Davidson : #RehearsalSnapper’

Since our graduate show was announced by Vicki (or Stretton as I affectionately call her), we have been so excited; particularly because a few of us were campaigning for The Witches of Eastwick to be our final show. It has been a while since a Musical Theatre graduating year has performed this show. There has been a buzz surrounding our production, before rehearsals began via social networking and friends at other institutions.

Our creative team seem to know exactly what they want and are working us all very hard. This is going to be a big production (arguably the most ambitious production that Trinity Laban has mounted – what with the flying…magic…various objects being thrown up by me, a church falling down…) We are all determined to make it the best it can possibly be.

Every rehearsal process begins with the read through. This involves us reading aloud through everything (yes, even the songs) in our various accents, marking cuts and discussing any changes that the creatives have made between the auditions and now. It was really exciting to hear everyone in their assigned roles and the dialogue coming to life off the pages before it has even been staged. (Exciting times!)

This first week has been full on; although it has been fun; we have all been drained because it’s such a high energy show. We have accomplished quite a lot already with learning most of the big ensemble numbers musically as well as choreographing them too. These include Eastwick Knows, Darryl Van Horne, Dance With the Devil and Dirty Landry. Damien (choreographer) has done a fantastic job especially with some ‘chair’ography’ and ‘tea towel’ography.’ (Of course…I won’t ruin what we have in store; but you will have to come and see us in action to find out)

One issue that some of us have been dealing with – Why aren’t dance shoes made more comfortable? The ladies of Eastwick are not asking much Capezio; sort out your stage heels out please! (We are suffering blisters, pinched toes, swollen feet…) It’s not beauty but we’re most definitely suffering pain for our art! Or in the words of Sondheim, ‘Art isn’t easy.’

We are very fortunate to have a fantastic voice coach Tom who is a MA Voice Studies student at the Central School of Speech and Drama. He is also American so we can trust that he can help us with words that we struggle with!  We are using standard American accents but in order to stay true to the text, we are incorporating New England vowels etc, so we can entrust Tom to guide us. He also has that ability to explain things in remarkable detail but simplify it.

Research is an integral part of anything we do as actors. We have been asked to find photos of what our various characters’ houses would look like and how we envision the town of Eastwick to be, from the clues given in the script. It’s like piecing together a puzzle. So far, it seems very Desperate Housewives, with a hint of coast line thrown in.

Naomi also work shopped us using improvisation for ideas on how we would set the opening scene – personally I find this approach awesome as often the best ideas derive from an organic process such as improv. Damian moulded our ideas into movement and before we knew it, we had choreographed the opening to The Witches of Eastwick! We also have been ‘actioning’ the script as developed by British director Max Stafford Clark. This simply means applying a verb to a text to achieve an objective!

As well as being a full scale production; the show itself is a very challenging one to learn in four weeks as we were told by Naomi (director) and Robert (musical director) on our first day. The graft doesn’t stop inside the rehearsal room; it continues outside too – we have script work, harmony learning, character research, going over choreography, accent practising and doing anything else we are asked to do by our team.

It’s full on and as we further immerse ourselves in everything Eastwick it will become even more intense. You find yourself humming various lines from the music almost every hour of the day or quoting lines that just stick in your mind. When you’re in a rehearsal room 9am-6pm every single week day and then going away to prepare for the following day…you slowly begin to realise that The Witches of Eastwick is taking over your life.

Stay posted for the next installment of everything Witches…

If you’re on Twitter, please hashtag #TheWitchesofEastwick @trinitylaban @tlmtweets;

Industry comps are available please get in touch!

Marika Visser
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