Low-Stress Level and High-Performance Skills – What Do They Have to Do with Each Other?

How do stress and high-performance intertwine? 

Have you ever thought that no matter how much effort you put in and how much you practice for a competition, you may still lose it on the dancefloor? Stress and high-performance. How do these two connect? The two concepts relate to each other in multiple ways and only a few professional ballroom dancers around the world are aware of this.

Ask teachers, and they will tell you that almost 95% of their students are not delivering at a performance what they can do in the safety of the dancing studio. Why? Because their stress level is low and they can put all their energy and focus into the sole act of dancing.

Stress is very simple. Most of the time it has to do with what is your focus on. When you are in the studio, you are familiar with your teacher, the other dancers, and the surroundings. You could say that you don’t even think about all these factors. Your attention goes only on what moves you have to do and how much you enjoy yourself.

This does not apply when you enter a room full of people that come here to judge or simply enjoy your performance. It’s getting hard to focus only on dancing. Having all those eyes scrutinizing you can be daunting! Many go into freeze mode and it’s visible… 

The performance becomes robotic because dancers are not in the moment anymore. It’s just something they have to do. Most of them start thinking about what the audience would like to see and how to reach perfection (as if that would be the purpose). It’s like trying to read a book while watching television. 

You must let go of everything and just dance!

Focusing on something that you can’t control leads to stress.

The fundation of ballroom dancing is partnering skills. If you’re needy, a nagger, and you expect your partner to just deliver, you’re doing it wrong. Probably you’ll end up harming your relationship. 

Do your best to maintain focus on what it is that you have to offer. The human autonomous nervous system is telling you that you can’t even completely control yourself. So let’s not even think about controlling your partner.

You are no longer free in your mind, body, and emotions

It has nothing to do with how much practice you did in the last two-three months or the new choreography. When stress takes over we go back to our old behavior. We can’t show the learning from the past months. 

Our breath gets shorter, our muscles tighter and we are not that free in our body. Nobody enjoys it. It’s pretty obvious that as a professional dancer you want that freedom on the dancefloor. It will lead you to a good performance.

Knowing how to deal with stress is more important than stress itself.

Stress can come from a multitude of sources. The choreography, the music, the wardrobe, the other competitors, not being ready on time, not looking well, not feeling well and we can go on with the list.

In my research, I found 25 issues that can cause you stress. It’s obvious that we can’t escape stress but we can definitely improve the way we react to it. A shift from all these external factors towards ourselves can have a great impact on our performance. Truly, the stress is within us!

Planning for each round of the competition is important.

If you don’t have a plan, you go on automatic behavior and the mind has result expectations. This gets very much in the way of a good performance because you start thinking about too many things. What will you do next? Will the song be good for the moves that you are preparing to do? 

On the opposite. If you know what you’re doing, you won’t be surprised by either of these things. The worst case scenario is that you will be forced to improvise. Remember that planning means that you get ready for the unexpected so you can easily adapt.

The mistake most of us make is dancing non-stop for stamina.

There is one more thing that is often wrongly interpreted and it’s called stamina. If dancers rehearse non-stop just to increase stamina, then the body will learn that non-stop is just for stamina. 

On the contrary. They should work on the performance goal. If you dance non-stop in order to perform better and not to increase your stamina, you will automatically learn to perform under stress.

Cool stuff: There is a Stress Indicator Test available in both of Maximiliaan’s books, Dance To Your Maximum and Dancing Without Stress. I invite you to examine yourself. It’s a list with what you may perceive as stressful. On average, the dancers that deliver amazing performances score around 22 stress points which is 25% less than the average dancer. 

If you want to be amongst the professionals you must master yourself and deliver a great performance.

Photography: Stefan Strassenburg


Dancing has been my passion since I was 13 and since then I've been doing things in that direction. Writing, creating and putting together the biggest community for dancers around the world!


Tags: competition performance stress

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