I was recently included as part of the opening act of Vibrancy- if you caught my earlier post. It was a BIG show. How so you ask?
Let’s start with the stage. I’m used to dancing in restaurants, haflas, studios, private parties, intimate gigs. I don’t do the Massive Spectacular, you know? But this stage was BIG in every way. The danceable surface area was MASSIVE and the hot spot would follow you like the Mario Castle ghost if you wandered out of it. The upstage area, you know, that place you rarely go as part of a stage production, and proscenium were BIG. The curtains were BIG, the airspace overhead BIG, the auditorium seating capacity BIG, the HUGE SCREEN with moving pictures of STUFF behind you was BIG.
There was a BIG list of performers. Dancers, musicians, ensembles, a Bollywood finale decked in glitter dot. Some of the names on the performer list? BIG.
Did I mention it was “sold out”?
Geez, sounds like enough to make a girl a little nervous.
So how do you deal with the BIG?
Here’s five things to consider if you KNOW you’re going into a performance situation you are less comfortable with.
1) Know your piece. Other people refer to this as “over preparation” and I never gave this much credence until Rachel Brice told me to. I listened to the music ad nauseum and we practiced for hours and hours to prepare. I even let go of my NanoWrimo word count for a day to prepare. That’s hardcore overpreparation. This will help you feel less nervous.
2) Know your space- if there’s a dress rehearsal, go to it. You don’t have to put on your costume. Don’t just do your piece as a run through, either. Take a moment and walk the stage. Feel upstage, feel downstage, left and right. Look out, see where the lights are. Take stock of the time and space of this stage area. Make it your temporary home. Own it. Know your hotspot- even if it moves and goes “BOO!”
3) Know the order- you’re already nervous, don’t add uncertainty to the mix! Get a program, get a setlist. Make someone tell you, so you know. Have some control over your situation. Control = calm. But don’t over do it. You’re not the producer (unless you’re the producer).
4) Say a little prayer. Doesn’t have to be to your particular religious deity. Just think on a set of words that are calming. A meditation. It’s a standard practice in classical Indian dance to honor the dance and space before practice or performance, but it also relaxes and sharpens your focus. Even if it’s just you with your hands in prayer position repeating “Zoe Zoe Zoe Mardi Mardi Mardi Samia Samia Samia” over and over again, it’s a practice, it’s an honoring. It’s a calming of the mind. Do it.
5) Never tell yourself it’s “not a big deal” or that “you don’t care.” You DO care, otherwise you wouldn’t have done the practice, learned the dance, paid for the lessons, sewn the costume, tolerated the painful hair pinning. You DO care, passionately! If you don’t, then what are you doing? I find saying these things is like lying to myself- and it doesn’t help one damn bit with my nerves. Instead, try a little positive framing. Imagine yourself succeeding. Don’t visualize anything else. Visualize yourself dancing. If you can imagine it, you can do it.
Just please don’t imagine yourself storming Manhattan on a Giant Dragon of Fiery Doom.