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Open Access Performance Anxiety Experiences of Professional Ballet Dancers

The Importance of Control

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Performance anxiety research abounds in sport psychology, yet has been relatively sparse in dance. The present study explores ballet dancers' experiences of performance anxiety in relation to: 1. symptom type, intensity, and directional interpretation; 2. experience level (including company rank); and 3. self-confidence and psychological skills. Fifteen elite ballet dancers representing all ranks in one company were interviewed, and qualitative content analysis was conducted. Results revealed that cognitive anxiety was more dominant than somatic anxiety, and was unanimously interpreted as debilitative to performance. Somatic anxiety was more likely to be interpreted as facilitative, with the majority of dancers recognizing that a certain amount of anxiety could be beneficial to performance. Principal dancers suffered from higher intensities of performance anxiety than corps de ballet members. Feeling out of control emerged as a major theme in both the experience of anxiety and its interpretation. As a result, prevention or handling of anxiety symptoms may be accomplished by helping dancers to feel in control. Dancers may benefit from education about anxiety symptoms and their interpretation, in addition to psychological skills training incorporating cognitive restructuring strategies and problem-focussed coping to help increase their feelings of being in control.

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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Trinity Laban Conservatorie of Music and Dance, Creekside, London SE8 3DZ, United Kingdom;, Email: [email protected] 2: Trinity Laban Conservatorie of Music and Dance, London, United Kingdom

Publication date: December 1, 2010

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