I Forgot My Dance On Stage. Now What?

Hello dancers and welcome back to another FTT blog post! Today we are discussing what to do when you don’t know what to do. That’s right, we’re talking about the dreaded experience of forgetting your dance on stage! At one point or another, we’ve all been in a situation where we are performing and boom! Your mind just goes pitch black. Everything was going according to plan, you were hitting every beat, killing every eight count and then out of nowhere, straight crickets! Even if you’re on the verge of forgetting and your memory kicks in right on time, it’s enough to make you wan’t to pass out. Though an uncomfortable situation to be in, it’s actually extremely common. It is the fear of said situation, however, that brings the most nerves surrounding the scenario. So in this blog post, we’re going to break down a few ways to ease the stress that comes along with the thought of forgetting your dance on stage, the best ways to push through if it happens and even what causes these hiccups in the first place. Let’s get right into it!

What Causes It

Now to better understand how to conquer these situations, we must continue to better understand why this situation can arise in the first place. Three of the most common reasons for forgetting your dance can include, but are not limited to, nerves, lack of practice, and natural human imperfection. When you’re insanely nervous before hitting the stage or suffer from stage fright, it is very easy to bring that nervous energy with you while in the midst of performing. Nerves can have the tendency to cloud our mental space, which can lead to us having on stage “brain farts’ . Lack of practice can also contribute to these situations because you may have not given your mind the time that it needs to retain the information of choreography that it was given, thus causing the dreaded blank spots that come along with lack of preparation. This is always why we advocate for due diligence in at home practice because it’s entirely okay if your brain is not a super, one and done memory machine. Practice always makes progress. And lastly, sometimes all of this is just down right human nature. No matter how much you practice or how at ease you may be, sometimes humanity is humanity, and humanity comes with a lack of perfection. Even if that means remembering every small detail of a dance and then just going blank out of nowhere. 

So now that we have mentioned a few of the main causes for forgetting choreography, let’s talk about some ways to divert and/or deal with the situation if it happens.

  1. Don’t Hype Up The Possibility 

“What if I forget my dance on stage?!” 

I cannot tell you how many times this phrase/question has been uttered by some of my students before a big performance, especially if it’s a solo. However, it is a question that is very normal and quite natural to enter the mind of every dancer, no matter how long you’ve been dancing. I would still pose the question to myself from time to time. Then I had a bit of an epiphany: This just may become more probable to happen if I walk around intimidated by the thought. Our minds are an extremely powerful place and just like we can mentally subtract ourselves from panic filled situations by remaining calm and neutral, we can just as easily place ourselves into panic filled situations by being timid and scared. That is one of the reasons the term “Be scared and do it anyway” is so popular, we conquer what we take fear out of. So one of the biggest ways to avoid being in the predicament of forgetting your dance is to not fear the possibility. The more power you take over the fear, the less likely it is to occur. It may sound extremely hippie to say, but I have definitely found this to be true.

  1. If It Does Happen, Don’t Panic

“Don’t panic?! How?!”

Because you’re going to get through it, I promise! The number one way to make forgetting your dance on stage that much more mortifying is to panic. As a matter of fact, panic is what makes the situation so intimidating in the first place. If you feel your memory slipping away from you mid-pirouette, quickly acknowledge what’s going on and come to this conclusion: “Oh shoot, this is happening right now. Okay, okay. I’ve got this.”

  1. Don’t Make ‘The Face’

This is a tip that I still have to keep in mind and that is, if you forget a piece of your dance or even make a misstep, don’t make the face! And even without explaining what “the face” is, every dancer knows exactly what I’m talking about. The term “Poker face” has been around forever simply because it works. Showing “oh no, what do I do?” on your face will naturally send off red flags of panic to the audience and put the situation on the spot instantly. But if you don’t show that something is wrong, no one watching will know that anything is wrong. This also elots you some mental privacy to handle the situation 

  1. Now, Freestyle!

Like every dance teacher always says, if you forget one dance, make up a new one! This is where all of those improv exercises in class really come into handy! Given that you know the music well and you are connected with its message, draw inspiration from it and freestyle to fill in the blank spots. Add in a few of your best moves, let the music take you and wing it until the moment passes. The extra layer of comfort with adding in improv to the blank spot is the fact that no one watching except for you and your teacher knows that what you’re doing isn’t the choreography. In the meantime and between time, you’ll blow everyone else away!

  1. Let It Flow, Your Memory Will Kick Back In

The next thing to keep in mind is that if this ever happens is to freestyle and just let the moment flow because your memory will indeed kick back in. Though these moments seem to last forever because of the fight or flight factor that arises, in all actuality the real time of the situation is fleeting. If you just continue to improv to fill in the blank spot and keep yourself calm, your mind will catch up with the moment and the next part of the choreography will come back to your mind. All will be well in the end.

  1. Don’t Let It Become a Phobia

And last but certainly not least, whether you have been through this experience or not, please do not let the fear of forgetting choreo become a phobia. This almost harkens back to the first tip not letting it become a fear that plagues you. One thing to always keep in mind is the reality that though this experience never feels good, you aren’t the first to go through it and you will certainly not be the last. Many dancers, both training and professional, have this scare at some point or another. Please do not allow the experience to haunt you into the duration of your training and career. You got through it and that’s all that truly matters. If by chance it ever happens again, you will conquer it once again. You’ve got this! We believe in you! 

Thank you all so much for hanging out with us today! We hope this post was able to help you that much more along your dance journey. As always, we wish you a weekend filled with love, light and until our next blog post, remember…

Keep dancing!


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