Question: Hi Nikol! Love your facebook page and hoping to purchase your ebooks soon. I had a question regarding some acting difficulties in Nutcracker. I am Clara and my directors really want a strong “connection” between her and the nephew/nutcracker prince. There are times where I have to really look at him with “affection” and mean it! Its hard! Do you have any advice for connecting with your partner? Thanks! ~ Colleen
Answer: Hello Colleen. First off, I would like to say congratulations to you on landing the part of Clara in The Nutcracker. As a young dancer, performing the role of Clara was one of those times that I remember the most vividly and had the most fun dancing on stage. Now we all know the story of The Nutcracker, but I want you to find the book (if you don’t already have it) and really read the story. While you are reading the story, I want you to take careful note of the emotions that Clara is feeling. She is delighted by the gift that Drosselmeyer gives her, overwhelmed at this magical land that she didn’t know existed, enchanted by the prince who so bravely battled the Mouse King, etc. Write down a list of these different emotions. Now, think of the different instances in the ballet where you have to convey these emotions through choreography.
If you can immerse yourself completely in the role of Clara and focus on the story you are trying to convey, you shouldn’t have any awkward moments with the Prince. What I used to do is imagine the Prince to be a boy that I had a crush on. I know it sounds silly, but it works. So whether it’s Justin Bieber or Taylor Lautner, pretend like the “Prince” standing in front of you is him and feel what an honor it is to be led through the Kingdom of the Sweets by such a “superstar.” (Just don’t tell the prince that you are doing this! lol)
The other thing that can make you feel more comfortable around your partner is getting to know him a little better. If you two can become friends and have an awesome open communication that will also transfer well on stage.
Most of all, don’t be shy. Just as you should feel honored to be dancing with the Nutcracker Prince, you should feel even more honored to have been chosen to dance the role of Clara! Cherish the next two months in your “reign” as Clara and most importantly, have fun! Oh, and don’t forget to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) to let me know how it goes!
Committed to Your Dancing,
Now that you have identified the type of performance nervousness you are feeling from Part 1 of my Performance Nervousness series, it is time to come up with a solution. In the book I wrote, The Ballet Audition Preparation Guide, (www.balletaudition.com) I outline the types of techniques that can be used to get rid of Audition nerves. The same concepts can be applied to backstage nerves.
Here are some of the long-term things you can do prior to the show to ensure that you are feeling confident going into theatre week.
Set Goals- Write out your goals ahead of time, starting with your first rehearsal. If you set realistic performance goals and work on them throughout the weeks of rehearsals leading up to the show, you will feel more confident.
Mental Preparation- Mentally prepare yourself through imagery. This is something that I have gone into extensively in The Ballet Audition Preparation Guide. If you can visualize yourself performing a role perfectly, you can take that same feeling into the real performing situation.
Here are some of the short-term things that you can do to help with pre-performance butterflies.
Avoid Caffeine & Sugar- I remember sugaring up before shows when I was in school and it always turned out disastrous. Either you feel like you’re going to jump out of your skin while you’re onstage or your sugar high crashes right before the show and you are left feeling tired and lethargic.
Eat and Hydrate- No one performs at his or her best on an empty stomach. To ensure that you won’t energy bonk before the show, eat at least 1 hour prior to call. Sip on an electrolyte enhanced beverage throughout the day.
Listen to Music- Listening to your favorite tunes on your iPod before the show can have a huge calming effect on your nerves. Most Professional Dancers practice this technique pre-performance.
Warm-up- Warming-up before the show will give your body the peace of mind it needs to successfully execute choreographic demands.
Focus in the Wings- Think positive before you are about to make your stage entrance.
Breathe- Don’t forget to breathe and relax before going onstage. If you’re holding your breath, all of the movements that you have been working so hard on in rehearsal will feel lot harder and more taxing on the body.
Try some of these techniques before your Nutcracker performances this month! If you are looking for more techniques to try pre-performance, check out the eBook I wrote at www.balletaudition.com. The techniques outlined in that book aren’t just for auditioners!
Nikol Klein, Professional Ballet Dancer / Author