Conquering Stage Fright

Janet Leigh Screaming!Fear backstage is common for at least 50% of performers, regardless of performance experience. More commonly known as “stage fright”, performance anxiety can be a constant problem or something that emerges over time.

Stage fright can occur for many reasons, as well as bring unexplainable, such as because of an injury or recovery from one, a bad experience or pressure of an important performance. Anxiety can drastically affect your performance and love of dance, if not overcome and dealt with accordingly. Symptoms of stage fright include racing pulses and fast breathing, a dry mouth, tight throat, trembling, and sweaty or cold hands. Mental symptoms can affect your career if not dealt with, with fear and self-doubt taking over.

A reason behind stage fright has been suggested as a result of the brain’s fight or flight response. Most performers are able to control stage fright by controlling the lead up to a performance and controlling a certain amount of anxiety needed to perform. This can be done such as by a pre-performance routine or a specific warm up. However, too much anxiety and adrenaline will mean you turn and run, sometimes literally.

It is important to take care of your body, and in turn control and calm performance anxiety. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, especially before a performance and eat potassium-rich foods to help lower your blood pressure naturally. A familiar routine backstage, and peace and quiet, can also aid anxious feelings. Breathe deeply and try to relax.

Mastering The Ballet Bun

Ballet Bun

Sometimes one of the most problematic problems in the life of the dancer is not keeping up in class, long rehearsals or tricky performances: it might simply be the problem of the ballet bun. It can be notoriously difficult, sometimes, to perfect the height of the ponytail, the ‘largeness’ of the bun, or control how much it protrudes from the head.

Younger dancers, or dancers without so much hair, may prefer to use a ‘doughnut’ at times, a tightly coiled plastic ring device which is placed over the hairband of the ponytail with the hair then spread over the doughnut and secured in place by hair grips. However, those with longer hair are able to employ this technique without the use of the doughnut, achieving aesthetically pleasing results of a more modest bun and classical ballet hairstyle.

In order to achieve this look without the use of the doughnut, tie the hair in a mid-height ponytail. Tip the head down to look at the floor and spread the hair evenly over the hairband securing the ponytail. As with using a doughnut, sweep the hair around into a doughnut shape by twisting all the parts around the hairband and securing them with hair grips and Kirby grips. Here you can work to make the bun as flat or as round and pert as you would like or is required.

The more hair you have, sometimes the harder it is to secure it neatly. However, this method is a successful way of making all that hair look neat, without using methods such as twisting the ponytail first and winding it round the hairband, which can look bulky and uneven, or plaiting the ponytail before the same action, which does not produce the look of a classical hairstyle.

Give it a go!

Image courtesy of WikiHow.

West End Kids

West End Kids At The Albert Hall

As one of the UK’s most prestigious and highest profile musical theatre song and dance troupes, West End Kids has gone from strength to strength since its inception in 2001, and is now famous nationwide. Formed by Musical Director and specialist vocal coach Martin-Gwyn Williams, WEKs is based primarily on the American model of training young Broadway performers.

WEKs is renowned for providing exceptionally talented young and aspiring performers with the opportunity to advance their talents further, encouraging them to tighten their tap shoes and step confidently in front of the microphone. The WEKs – approximately 20 – are in high demand due to their unfaltering successes, handling an incredibly busy schedule of high profile events, performances and studio recordings. Just recently, WEKs performed at the Charles Dickens bicentenary dinner, providing a professional and slick spectacle, kicking up the heels of their character shoes! They have previously spread their influence at the London 2012 Olympic Games, West End Live, Move IT and Children In Need, amongst hundreds of other events.

Last year, the WEKs were seen and heard by over 1 million people, and through online technology such as Facebook and Twitter, they have a large following throughout the world. Be it leotards, show tights and New Yorkers, or jazz pants and jazz trainers, the WEKs work to tailor each performance to each individual client. Additionally, the WEKs have recorded and released numerous studio recordings, with the most recent being a new arrangement of Aint No Mountain High Enough which is available on iTunes. In 2011 the world-class WEKs performed for British Prime Minister David Cameron at the Commonwealth State Banquet after being selected as the UKs brightest star within youth music theatre; 2012 looks as though it is set to be another year of success and performance for the WEKs!

For further information visit

Image courtesy of West End Kids.

The Royal Ballet of Flanders at Sadler’s Wells

Sadler's Wells

Sadler’s Wells is due to host the Royal Ballet of Flanders with Artifact, nearly thirty years after its premiere. American choreographer William Forsythe has created this subversive new-dance masterpiece, which is due to run at Sadler’s Wells until April 21st. As a 2009 Olivier award winner, the Royal Ballet of Flanders has been performing and touring worldwide for over four decades, renowned for their flawless technique and unconventional productions. The company specialises in classical ballet, neoclassical ballet and contemporary ballet and has done since its inception in 1969. Recently, the company has raised its international profile by adding more contemporary works to its repertoire.

Set to the music of Bach, Artifact was the first ballet that Forsythe created after becoming director of the Frankfurt Ballet 1984, and Artifact has since been described as “a masterpiece”. Forsythe is widely regarded as the most influential practitioner of the art form since Balanchine, creating works which questions the classical aesthetic of ballet and develops it further. As a ballet in four parts, Artifact features the choreography, scenography, lighting, and costumes of Forsythe, completely conveying his choreographic practices. Sporting warm yellow unitards, the dancers display impeccable classical technique, mixing pointe shoes with the bare foot. Artifact is famous for the way it subverts the traditional physical principles of ballet, and for the ways it plays with audiences’ ideas about the forms ballet can take on.

There is not a tutu to be found within Artifact, despite being performed by the only professional classically trained dance company in Flanders, engaging audiences and critics alike from Shanghai to Houston. Within the upcoming season, the company is due to tour to some of the most international ballet capitals of the world, spreading their influence… and airing their leg warmers!

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Urban Strides

Urban Strides, the renowned street dance specialists, pride themselves providing the ultimate street dance experience for every dance ability level from the age of 7 to adult. Urban Strides aims to fulfil this through creating the most exciting, inspirational and authentic street dance experience possible, delivered with passion, positivity and fun, and possibly some knee pads!

Founder Andy Instone’s sheer passion and commitment, emotionally, physically and mentally, launched Urban Strides on the road to success. Originally self taught, Instone has since studied mainstream forms of dance – Ballet, Jazz, Contemporary and Tap – and has travelled around the globe to learn from the pioneers of original street dance and hip hop styles, taking authentic dance, movement and expression to as many people as possible. Instone fuses funk movement with classical training techniques and choreographic conventions in order to add quality and dynamics to Urban Strides’ ethos and work.

Urban Strides offers classes, workshops, community work and performances, having also branched out into creating “streetwear” dance clothes and DVDs of their work. A variety of street dance styles are practised by Urban Strides, in order to provide a whole and comprehensive experience for those involved in the Urban Strides t-shirt clan. Additionally, Urban Strides has extensive experience and understanding of the education sector, regularly providing workshops for A Level and GCSE students, as well as inspirational workshops for beginners. Performances conducted by Urban Strides are additionally produced to be as accessible as possible for audiences, opening up the dance sector to everyone with their vibrant and exciting choreography.

The philosophy of Urban Strides means it aims to provide the highest quality possible at an affordable price, be it classes, workshops or performances. The accessibility of Urban Strides too means that if it’s your first day stepping into your urban dance sneakers, or you fifth year of pulling on your favourite street dance hoodie, Urban Strides is for you.