Why Do I Have Pre-Competition Nerves? How to put your butterflies to bed (for good!)

February 16th, 2016 by Roy Patterson

dance, dance competition, dance competitions, dancer, starquest, starquest dance, inspiration, dancer
Photo Credit: Kingshots

Photo Credit: Kingshots


We all know how this story goes: after hundreds of hours in the studio, broken toenails, blisters, trading friend-time for an extra rehearsal, it’s finally the night before your biggest competition of the season. It’s an hour after you tried to go to bed, but your brain won’t stop rushing, and you’re a nervous wreck.

Not ideal. At all.

Pre-competition nerves are the WORST. You don’t have to let them run your life, though. Here’s how:

Before you do anything, give yourself permission to be nervous. You are a dancer, but you’re also a human — and humans feel things sometimes. It’s natural to be nervous before a competition. When we’re stressed, our bodies send a signal from the pituitary gland to the adrenal gland, producing adrenalin. This extra jolt of hormones is how our body prepares itself to fight off whatever dangers it senses. It’s just like how our bodies tell us we’re tired, hungry, or hurt. Inconvenient, but important.

So how do we deal with our nerves in order to be the best dancers we can be?

  1. Embrace them! If you didn’t care about the competition, you wouldn’t be nervous. You’ve sacrificed a lot to get to this point, and you want to do well — not only for the accolades, but also to prove to yourself that it was worth it. Give yourself permission to feel how you’re feeling, but don’t let the icky nervous energy consume you.
  2. Stop focusing on trying to please others! Your parents, your friends, your studio director, your teachers, your choreographers, your team, your pet, your stuffed animals… They’re all still going to love you after it’s over — whether it was the most amazing routine of your life, or if your mind goes blank after the first 8-count.
  3. Look at what you can control. Is your competition bag packed? Do you know what time you’re expected at the venue? Have you rehearsed until you can perform your routine in your sleep? All good, great!
  4. Remember the past. You’ve felt confident dancing before — on stage during recitals, for your friends, during competitions. Focus on one time you’ve been completely in the zone, present in the moment. Kick the nerves out of your brain, and fill their void with the glow of your good memories.
  5. Rename your nerves! Why are you nervous? You love performing. You love communicating through dance, pushing yourself. You’re passionate. Dancing is when you feel most at home. None of these things are a negative! Try calling your nerves what they are – excitement. Or flurries, fireflies, powers. Pick a word that makes that transforms your nerves into something you can work with – try spark!

It’s okay to be nervous before a competition, but don’t let anxiety control your life.


You are a powerful, dedicated, talented spark of awsparkofawesomenessesomeness.


Believe it. Show it. Slay it. Work it. Be the best version of yourself.


Mariel Pauline Rosen is the StarQuest social media concierge. She likes shiny things and believes in your sparkle!