Psyched to be performing tonight! Terrified to be performing tonight!
Well, at this moment, not exactly terrified–more like anxious. But just back from being terrified, thanks very much.
After performing dance in some way for several decades, I’ve thought a lot about, witnessed and experienced my share of the colorful parade known as performance anxiety. Pretty fascinating and curious stuff.
Why do we do this to ourselves, anyway– keep putting ourselves out there even if it scares the pants off us? Because we LOVE to dance! Because making art in this kinesthetic way brings us thrillingly alive! Because we want to share this inspiring source of healing, beauty, creativity and joy with the universe!
So, we plug along, knees knocking and all.
As with all things fear-related, this roller coaster ride defies logic. We can tell ourselves we’ll be fine and there’s nothing to be afraid of and that we’re blessed to be doing what we love. We can urge ourselves to buck up, remembering that the world needs more art–and heart.
We can take deep breaths, follow surprising and even bizarre rituals (the endless runs to the loo, “lucky” clothing and amulets, specific food, muttering to self, physical tics–check out major league baseball batters for some fabulous examples), visualize, pace, mark through our movement, engage in hysterical laughing fits with others (or alone:)), sit and rock ourselves catatonically in a corner.
And still be sweating, shaking, nauseated jangling bundles of nerves. (Eek! I’m reliving all of that as I write!)
I ask myself what, exactly, am I afraid of? Making a fool of myself as I go blank and just stand there, daft, onstage in front of the audience? Vomiting before everyone? Not doing my absolute best and letting the work down? Letting the other dancers down? Letting the paying audience down? Letting Art, with a capital A, and Dance, with a capital D, down?
Oh. Well, yes, actually. I know–pretty silly if we’ve worked this hard, have these good intentions, will give it our all. Still, there it is.
One very cool thing about the performing arts, and dance specifically, is that each night is different. Each day we wake up with bodies, minds and souls that are new to us, permutations that we’ve never actually danced in before. Too bad if we’re low/injured/exhausted/angry with our friend or spouse/scattered/terrified. We’ve still got to try to approach and execute the dance in this new instrument as closely as we can to the dance’s intention and inspiration.
And let ourselves sail among the stars, if we can.
Tonight in particular, I will be wearing more hats than usual as I perform work that I’ve choreographed, as well as talk with the audience as I lead the dancers in demonstrating some of our process and facilitate some audience-created improvisational movement that I and the dancers will then perform. Lots of potential for error and omission.
Thankfully, I have finally learned and experienced, if only sometimes, that the best thing to do actually is to relax and to be present. Deeply. Just as the mindfulness gurus tell us.
That way, when the inevitable unexpected happens–mind blanking out, cues missed, sweaty bare feet slipping, music skipping–I am super aware. Mindful, and therefore able to respond well. Just as in life.
And now, without further ado…..SHOWTIME, baby!!!