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How do I navigate the stress of ballet competition?

There’s no doubt that as a ballet student, you will encounter moments of stress—especially during a competition! The word “stress” often has a negative connotation, but a little stress can sometimes be healthy for you in the right context. It teaches you how to calm your mind, power through tough moments, and be more resilient in the future.

Turn the stress of competition into a benefit for yourself with these four expert tips:

1. Be a positive example for others

You’ve probably heard the expression “be the change you wish to see.” Well, this is exactly what you want to channel at a ballet competition! Choose to be a role model for others, no matter your age. Show up early to class, arrive prepared, smile at the other dancers, hold the door open for someone, offer a compliment—these are all ways you can have a personal, positive influence at the competition and keep yourself from feeling too much internalized pressure.

2. Be intentional about looking for inspiration

Walk in to Day 1 of the competition knowing that you want to be inspired by your teachers, judges, and peers. You may notice that a peer’s performance quality moves you emotionally or that a teacher’s power and grace in the classroom motivates you to follow in her footsteps. Have the attitude that you can find inspiration anywhere if you are looking for it!

3. Shrug off any real (or perceived) negativity

Refuse to let any negativity from others infiltrate your thoughts during the competition. If someone else is having a down day or they seem to be giving you the cold shoulder, excuse yourself from their proximity or extend them some kindness. It helps to remember that sometimes what we perceive as negativity is simply just that: a perception. An unsmiling competitor may be dealing with an injury or struggling with insecurity. You never know someone else’s story.

4. Embrace the expert feedback you receive

Participating in a ballet competition is as much about learning as it is performing. Receiving feedback from renowned experts in the industry is an asset to your training if you choose to take it to heart. Apply the corrections and criticism you receive with a growth mindset, and use the compliments to expand your strengths. And remember to continue using this feedback after the event so that it will serve you for years to come.

It’s completely normal and natural to feel some amount of stress related to participating in a ballet competition; it would be strange if you didn’t! Decide to use that stress to your advantage by approaching it with these four tips. Your personal outcome will reflect not just your ballet technique and performance, but your ability to persevere through these challenges!

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