Anxiety feels very much the same in the body as excitement. If fact, I believe the feelings are physically interchangeable. The difference is the metal challenge of FEAR. And you don't have to be unafraid to be courageous. Double in fact, I believe it may be impossible, by definition to be courageous without the presence of fear. I'm going to have to look that up.
Occasionally before a show I feel anxious. Pre-show jitters. Nervousness. Stage fright. Full on PANIC.
But I've gratefully discovered an easy fix. "I am excited". Improvisational performance is unpredictable. I could soar or I could plummet. Taking that on is a THRILL. "I am thrilled". I find that changing the label I give my physical state, changes the overall experience, like magic.
Saturday night's duo show started just this way for me. I had, a half hour before, done a performance that left me feeling disenchanted. Nothing had gone "wrong". I had simply felt "wonky", as it were, "floaty", in a terrifically peopled and formatted ensemble show. Now I was preparing to hit the stage for a duo show. Just me and Nicole Acaurdi, with a brand new, "half baked" format. There was a part of me, a LOUD part, that was just certain... (Imagine the long, slow, painful plummet of a cannon ball here). We managed, literally hand and hand, to "buck up", to change the narrative around our trepidation and to produce a truly exceptional performance.
I knew it was exceptional because my partner, Nicole, was beaming as we left the stage and entered the green room. We were both a flutter of laughter and praise for one another. And the audience was desperate to chat us up after the show. It was while talking to a student about the show that it occurred to me how nervous energy feeds performance. Confidence is a lovely goal each time you walk on stage, but sometimes that confidence allows us to fall away from the task at hand, to be indifferent on stage at most and at the least, not have the acute focus that arises out of apprehension.
This is of course not to say we should be frightened as performers, but rather that when we are we can channel that energy into our performance and create something wonderful!