Good Feis Practice For Irish Dancers With Stage Fright

03.31.09

Here's a tip I've learned over the years by getting ready to compete at tons of feiseanna. It helps dramatically of course to practice in a dance studio with a whole wall of mirrors so you can perfect your steps, turn-out, posture, the works. If you can see what you're doing you're going to Irish dance better, no doubt.

But, if you're like me and get that sudden stage fright that hits you like a ton of bricks whenever the judges have their eyes on you, looking up to an absence of mirrors can only make the situation worse. If you only practice in a studio with mirrors, it can be a shock that creates just enough panic so you forget a couple steps. BOOM! You're whole dance can get thrown off! Believe me, I'm not ashamed to admit it has happened to me MANY times.

Good practice for all of you who have stage fright like me is to go through your entire dance facing the wall away from the mirror. It doesn't sound that much harder, but it can be! It is for me. You're forced to not know what you look like, move in opposite directions and most importantly it challenges your mind to concentrate harder on the sequence of steps rather than the execution.

Here is a nice video example of what I mean by facing away from the mirror.:

If you're mind is trained to remember the sequence of steps better it will be more likely to take over in those brief moments of stage fright where you space out for a second (I think you know what I mean... eep!). Once you come back down to Earth (who knows where I was at the last feis... geez) and realize you're still in front of the judges, you'll hopefully find your legs took over the sequence of steps you drilled in your head without looking, during that moment of panic.

Hope this helps for those who have feis stage fright like me. It's hard to perform your best when it counts. Believe me, I, more than anyone know what it feels like. Just remember that when the panic makes you mess up, again...and again, and again while someone is watching, know that you're just as good a dancer as any Irish dancer who doesn't get stage fright. In actuality, the fact that you can perform as well as you do with that much pressure shows a bit more strength than those who don't ever feel panic at all, I would think.

Article written by Shelly Allen
Photo by Shelly Allen Photography

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