I will not have stage fright the night of June 10th. I may not even be visibly nervous. (Key word: visible) Most of my competitors are pretty cool characters with experience in the spotlight, so this is not an issue for them. Austin Rhodes probably doesn’t even know what nervous feels like. This article is not for him.
This article is for those of you who have ever experienced any form of anxiousness preceding a big event. Perhaps your heart beats faster before you have to make a speech. Maybe your stomach feels a little tense when the big event you’ve been planning is getting underway. Some people get sweaty palms before meeting people who may be important to them (potential in-laws, bosses, tax advisors).
I have experienced all of these symptoms when thinking about performing as a Dancing Star. Here are some of the strategies which have given me the courage to make my bold opening statement.
1. Time heals all nervousness.
Nervousness is like hunger. At first you are uncomfortable; then the feeling blossoms into nausea. Eventually, enough time passes, and you are not even hungry anymore. The body can only take so much anxiety before it becomes tired of thinking of it. It’s been living with the “fight or flight” feeling for so long it will sit down with a book and say, “Call me when you’re ready to panic.” I have encountered and overcome the heart palpitations so many times that it doesn’t even faze me. I actually found myself recently looking at auditions for a play, thinking, “I could do that”. Then I remembered I don’t act.
2. Play a Role
Speaking of acting, Stephen tells me I cannot be nervous when I dance, because it really won’t be me performing. I will get into character, and that character is the one who will be on stage. This is where Austin has a competitive advantage. He has been acting for years-since high school, I think, or perhaps since he was a zygote. He will probably wake up that Friday morning and think, “Don’t I have something to do tonight? Oh yeah, I need to dance in front of a packed Bell Auditorium.”
Stephen asked me to come up with a character, complete with name and back story. I wasn’t able to do that, but was able to come up with many brave and confident female personae that inspire me. Laura Croft, from the movie Tomb Raider, is a character that I admire. She fights the bad guys, drives a motorcycle, and does bungee ballet in her free time. Elle Woods also speaks to me. The “Legally Blond” character, when challenged about her back-up plan in case she is not accepted into Harvard, stated, “I don’t need back-ups. I’m going to Harvard.”
So I meditate on the images of these strong females, and also on some of the things I have accomplished and survived in my own life. I may channel some combination of all of them when I get on the dance floor, but more likely the character I will be playing is one called “Angela kicking some ass.”
3. Music is therapeutic
Have you noticed that when you hear some songs, you cannot be anything but happy? Others make you want to dance, or cry, or relax. I have a combination of all of these kinds of songs on my iPod, so that on the off-chance that there is some minor heart fluttering on the 10th, I can plug in the headphones and rock out until I calm down. If you see me that night backstage singing aloud to Eminem, you might want to leave me alone for awhile.
4. Support system in place
My friends, dealership and family have been amazing. They have supported me with words of encouragement and donations to the cause. I will have 4 tables of support on June 10th: two from the dealership (who sponsored the event), one from my family, and one from my incredible book club friends.
Kevin has been awesome! He has listened to the daily details of my adventure, helped to pay for the dance lessons, held me when I practiced my turns and offered positive encouragement throughout the entire experience. Kevin’s mom Judy has been supporting me all the way from Missouri-sending a donation, putting an article in their small-town paper, and sending me Facebook messages of encouragement.
My Mom and Dad have been helping to raise money/votes for me, so much so that I officially deemed my Mom my official “Dance Manager”. You couldn’t find a better person to have in your corner. She is behind me all the way, and has been from the start.
Suffice it to say, “Team Angela” has all the strength and love behind it. You know that saying “Too blessed to be stressed”? Well, it is true, and I am!
5. The Power of Prayer
Speaking of blessings, it is important to note the impact of meditation and prayer in overcoming one’s personal challenges. So I offer this: “God grant me the strength to work hard in my preparations, guide me as I honor the commitment I have made to this endeavor, and help me to show grace under pressure. Thank you for the spectacular team at the Alzheimer’s Association for all of the faith they have placed in me. Thank you for Stephen, who is an incredible dancing teacher, and for everyone at the Ballroom Dance Center who are so positive and who have welcomed me into their home. Thank you for all of my competitors, who are working just as hard as I am for this great cause. Finally, bless my family, friends and co-workers who have offered their unconditional love and support. Amen.”
6. It’s all in Perspective
It’s always good to remind yourself what is important in life. Nervousness is often based on worrying what other people will think of you, and that is not the noblest path of thought. That is why I will remember the story Kathy Tuckey told about the caretaker who was helping multiple family members with Alzheimer’s disease. All she wanted in the whole world was some time to herself, so that she could go to Wal-Mart. That is infinitely more important than anything Angela has going on in her mind. So I tell myself, nervousness is really not such a big deal, really. Let’s keep it all in perspective and remember why we are dancing.
So there you have it, Angela’s tips for the new performers out there. For those of you who have any advice for me, please let me know what I am missing! (Austin, that would be you!) I humbly admit I do need all the tips I can get.
I encourage everyone to come out and be a part of what will truly be a memorable evening. If you have not yet purchased your ticket to see 10 phenomenal couples taking the dance floor for this worthy cause, I encourage you to do so right away!