Nicci Arentsen: Remember the Spark



As dancers, we are faced with many obstacles that we think we may never overcome or are not ready to face head-on. It could be a new trick that we cannot consistently get or we are put into a competition dance in the style that we feel the least confident in. When these situations arise, I used to get worried and it messed with the thoughts in my head. Yet, I have come to the realization that these are the moments that will help me grow the most, so I hope to give you some helpful tips when situations similar to these come up for you.

As a studio, before our groups go on stage, we do our studio’s chant as loud as we can outside to yell out all the nerves. We make up a new chant every year and use it at every event of that season. With my fellow teammates as we are waiting backstage, we always huddle up to get our minds ready, say some positive words, and pray before we go on stage too. There are always so many things going on at a competition with quick changes, remembering all your dances, cheering on your friends, and the chaos of loud music all around. To calm myself right before I walk on stage, I make myself yawn, which calms down my whole body and soul before I take my place on stage.
One of the things I still have a fear of is the thought of auditioning. I have had many experiences, with convention auditions, some in LA, mock auditions at my studio, and auditions for my dance team at school. The challenge I have at auditions is that I get so in my head. The negative thoughts take over my head and I begin to forget the combo and not dance from passion inside of me. It is a constant work-in-progress for me.

The thing that has helped me the most is just practicing. Participating in the auditions at conventions and the Spotlight Dance Down has helped me grow immensely as a dancer. Anything that helps me practice picking up choreography fast and having to perform it right away. In my classes at my studio, when we learn a new combo I try to challenge myself to perform the combo all alone at the end of class to practice how quickly I could perform a new piece. I also take every class as if it is an audition so next time I am at an audition it will just feel like I am taking the class. Another thought that might help you in auditioning is before you break up into groups try to position yourself as you do the combo in as many different spots around the room. This is for you to remind your body that no matter what spot you stand in the audition they are all the same and you can shine just as much. The last thing that has helped me is giving myself small pep talks before I perform the combo, only positive thoughts and reminding myself to enjoy and soak up all the new information I am gaining.

A tip that has also helped me, when a situation comes my way that I do not want to do, I try to picture myself on a set in LA. This is because if you ever become a professional dancer, you will have to follow whatever the director tells you to do. This is how the industry works – either you get paid and do your job or you get fired for not following directions. I take it more seriously and most of the time end up learning new things about myself as a dancer and expanding the versatility in my dancing.

Another tip that I use when it is not my favorite style, I try to just have fun with it and remind myself to enjoy this as if it’s my last time dancing ever. When I think of it this way, it helps lighten the mood in my mind and calm the stressful nerves. I would never want to have a negative thought in my mind if it was my last memory performing on stage. In the end, it helps me have fun and really jump into the whole character behind the story in my dance.

I want to remind you all too if you have fear about the other studios at your competition or you are noticing you are only focusing on the awards, always remember that dance is an art form and remember the spark that started the fire in your passion for dance. Walk on stage remembering the reason you started to dance and how it makes you feel then you will be proud of yourself no matter what award you receive later that day. Also, if you love to dance, remember that it means you love every part of dance. So if you are nervous about performing one specific style, just remind yourself to appreciate every style because you are a mover and you do not need to limit yourself to only the styles you feel most confident in.

Don’t get me wrong, I still struggle with my anxiety at auditions, right before I perform at competitions, or jumping into new stuff without warning. Yet, I hope these tips helped a little. Always remember to dance from your heart, enjoy every moment, have a positive attitude, and be proud of all that you share on stage through dance…