I wanted to thank my wonderful guest-posters who have been sharing some of the things they’ve learned from their time as dancers onstage for this series (check out part two and three of this series for their contributions). They are both such inspirational women: balancing their personal lives, professional lives, and also finding time for some personal artistic expression in a seamless blend. Perhaps it’s a dancer thing that allows them to cover their busy lives in a smooth, serene outer shell, never letting on they are surely stressed at times, and exhausted at others. Or, perhaps they really are just super-women, but whatever is really on the inside, the stage presence they carry off the stage and into their lives allows them to exude a peacefulness, power, and serenity that is quite contagious:
For the first many years of my dance career, plastering on an onstage-smile was pretty low on my cue checklist. I was much more concerned with not forgetting my choreography, not tripping on a piece of scenery, following my music cues, executing costume changes, and please, please, please pulling off that pirouette. There was so much going on in my little head, smiling seemed completely unimportant and so, unbeknownst to me, the chaos and concentration inside me was clearly written on my face and unfortunately impressing itself on my audience. It didn’t really matter if I completed my dance error-free, if I actually pulled off a triple pirouette instead of a stupid single, if I perfectly entered and exited stage, stayed on cue, and was flawlessly dressed. The audience picked up not on my performance, but on what they were expecting from my performance based on the expression I was exhibiting: something of a rabbit about to be hit by a moving vehicle. Thus the beginning years of my career were spent: being chastised by my director who tirelessly tried to slap a smile on my face (not literally of course) to show the audience that the only thing running through my head onstage was complete and utter confidence. I usually was confident too, I had rehearsed plenty and knew exactly what I was doing, but my running to-do list in my head was completely muddling my dance-face and I was portraying an unnecessary chaos to an audience that should have been comfortably viewing a dancer in control.
Of course, there are times where the ballet you’re performing is a tragedy, or the meeting you’re holding is serious business, and, if you intend to make your dance a tear-jerker, or the meeting a day to remember, go ahead and pull out the frown. But if you’re having your own personal tragedy of a day, don’t paint it across your face and bring whatever potential or real catastrophe that’s in your head out onto the audience you’re in front of.
A lesson I learned from the stage? Make sure the title your mood is screaming at your audience is one you want them to read.
– ❤ A.
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