“Performance Jitters” – by Cassie Tucker

Cassie performing with her partner Andrew at the Australian Dancesport Championships (photo courtesy of Feather Finish Photography)

"Performance Jitters - Don't bring a Knife to a Gun Fight"


DK Ballroom Instructor Cassie Tucker provides advice on overcoming performance day jitters.


Performance Jitters - Don’t bring a Knife to a Gun Fight

Ever heard the phrase: “Always be yourself unless you can be Batman; then always be Batman!”?

It’s a funny quote that frequently does the rounds on Facebook, but when taken seriously, this little nugget of wisdom can be the key to coping with performance jitters.  How so, do you ask?  It all comes down to bringing the right version of yourself to the right situation.  

Think about the last time you had to perform in front of your peers.  It may have been a medal exam, a competition, or maybe even your teacher taking you aside to demonstrate a step or figure in front of the class.  How did you feel?  Nervous?  Anxious?  Were you thinking thoughts like “I can’t do this”, “everyone is judging me”, “I’m going to make a mistake.”  Did your heart pound and your breathing get shaky?  How did you end up performing?  Did you make a mistake even though you knew your routine inside and out?  Did you feel you let yourself down?

What if you could send someone else to perform in your place.  Someone confident, someone with nerves of steel.  Someone like Batman.  If you were as unflappable as Batman, how would your performance have been different?  

Often we unknowingly bring the wrong tools to a performance.  Personal qualities like humility, fairness, embarrassment like to show up when what we really need is confidence, mettle and a commitment to win.  This is where creating your very own alter-ego can boost your performance.

An alter-ego allows you to focus the qualities you do want to bring to your performance in a package you can easily call to hand such as a super hero, book character, or someone of your own creation.  For a long time Beyoncé never performed on stage; we were really seeing her alter-ego Sasha Fierce.  David Bowie used Ziggy Stardust.  I have heard ballroom dancers say they use their gown or costume like armour. 

Try visualising the qualities you want to to bring to your next class or performance.  Steps you may find tricky to learn could be a piece-of-cake if you were Fred Astaire!  Try channeling different personas and see what works for you.  As they say, don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.  Bring Batman.

Reference material: The Alter Ego Effect - Todd Herman