The following is a post by Miss Yesenia, Director of the Belly Motions TEENS Programs and the RAKettes, a competitive Belly Dance team.

Competitions can be scary—especially if it’s your first one!

There are professional judges who might intimidate you and you may even have a large audience to impress. Chances are you’ve trained for months with your instructor as he/she has given you constructive feedback that you’ve worked on every day. But no matter how much you’ve practiced, you may start to get nervous as the big day arrives. As a seasoned competition choreographer, I have some advice to give!

Here are 4 tips on how to prepare for a dance competition…

1. Create a Checklist! The day of competition, you’ll be responsible for bringing quite a few things. DO NOT COMMIT THIS TO MEMORY! You can’t expect your mind to remember everything especially when you’re nervous! Create a checklist a few days before and review it until it is perfect. Your checklist should include your costume, props, safety pins, hairbrush, makeup, etc. You may even want to include a sewing kit for emergencies! Make sure to pack your items the day before and then check your list one last time before you go to bed.  This will help you sleep as you won’t be worrying that you’ll forget something the next morning.

2. Get Plenty of Sleep! This is easier said than done. Getting deep sleep is so important the night before a competition. Having a well rested body will help you cope with the pressures of the stage and will allow your body to have the energy to perform your dance moves to the fullest.  If you have trouble falling asleep, try to watch a comedy or read your favorite book until you feel your eyes get heavy. A cup of tea always helps too! The key is to STOP thinking about competition, give your mind a rest and your body will follow!

3. Avoid Cramming! Do not stay up the night before to get in extra hours of dance practice. “Craming” your choreography will only lead to anxiety and self doubt on competition day. Cramming is not learning.  For true comfort, solid technique and grace, a dancer must practice in the months and weeks leading up to the performance, not the night before!

4. Avoid Over Thinking! More than likely, you’ve been rehearsing your choreography for months. Never doubt your memory in the moments before hitting the stage. I have seen many students practicing the dance while waiting in the wings backstage. That’s all fine and dandy, until I hear, “OMG! What comes after this part?! or “What foot does this move start on?!” There’s no reason for this. You know it! Trust in yourself or you might wind up confusing YOURSELF and then possibly messing up on stage when you wouldn’t have otherwise.

5. Have Fun! Take a deep breath, relax, and try to have fun! Isn’t that what competition is all about in the first place? Take it all in…this is what you’ve worked so hard for!  As long as you’re having fun you’ll have a positive experience…whether you win or not!

Check out the RAKettes, the Belly Motions competitive dance team as they compete at the Rakstar Competition on October 4, 2013 in Miami Beach. Tickets are available at Belly Motions!