performance

“You Must Believe In Spring”

“You Must Believe in Spring” is a piece that stemmed from a concept Mario Spinetti (the musical genius on vocals and keyboard here…) brought to me to bring to life with movement. It expresses what it’s like to feel alone and depressed, like there’s no way out, and then the complete opposite side of that coin – what it’s like to be around others who help you see the light. It’s amazing how being close to others and feeling supported can make all the difference in the world in terms of perspective.

 

There’s always a way out of darkness, but sometimes we just can’t see.

 

I’m so very grateful also to Rocco Contini who brought this vision to life with his videography talents. Collaboration is a beautiful thing! Thank you!!

When are you grateful?

Is it just at Thanksgiving dinner? When you earn that promotion? When you land that dance gig? What about being grateful for the crap in your life? What about being grateful for the parts of your body that you wish were leaner, thinner, or simply not there? What about being grateful for that argument you had with your director or boss? What about being grateful for when your dancing or life doesn’t quite go as planned? What about being grateful when you are struggling with a physical injury?

All of the things that come into our lives – good, bad, and even ugly – are gifts for us. Whether they appear to be gifts that are welcomed (yay promotion!) or are completely undesirable (yay injury!) we have attracted them into our lives and they have found us. (Yes, I absolutely believe in the laws of attraction and the power they hold within this beautiful and crazy universe).

However difficult it may be when something unfortunate comes up to bat, we navigate it with infinitely more grace if we swing some gratitude on it first and foremost. And why not? There is always something to learn. Adversity has its way of blessing us with lessons a hell of a lot more bluntly than Success.

This past week I had a “comeback” performance with Parsons Dance at the Brown Theatre in the Wortham Center in Houston, Texas. The company was double booked (a beautiful gift for a dance company – too many shows!).  There was an afternoon performance for autistic children that the current company couldn’t be present for – in came the retired Parsons-back-up-crew to the rescue! Those autistic children and their families have been dealt a different hand – one that will provide them unique, beautiful gifts and advancements all the same. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel immense gratitude for the state of my body and mind and how it has supported me through my life and career.

How quickly those of us who are in “good” health forget how lucky we are. How quickly we forget how amazing our bodies are – how resilient, how capable. I haven’t always treated my body with love and respect, yet it has never failed me.

Heck, I’ve starved it at times; I’ve hated on parts of it that didn’t meet the ridiculously perfect and unobtainable bar I’ve set for it; I’ve danced the hell out with it and didn’t stretch it; I’ve neglected it of the TLC of massages and baths when it was screaming at me; I’ve trash-talked to it.

Amazingly enough, it has always healed itself miraculously. It continues to stick with me after all the abuse I’ve given it.

If your body is so capable despite neglect and abuse, what is it (and are you) capable of when you are grateful for it?

Don’t let yourself suffer through poor health before you appreciate the glory of your body right now. Hardship and physical set-backs aren’t needed to be grateful for what you have right now (However sometimes they sure can speed up the process for some who can spin the positive despite them).

The more you are grateful for what you have – body and life – the more beauty, prosperity, and abundance flow right back to you.

So, before you dance, be grateful. Before you workout, be grateful. Before you create, be grateful. Before you eat, be grateful. Before you pay for something, be grateful. Before you move from your bed, be grateful. Before you rest your eyes at night, be grateful. Say it aloud to yourself. Dance your entire next class or performance with gratitude.

Share with me. What are you grateful for? How has throwing gratitude on your body and life helped you?

Nerves, aches, and fatigue. Hold it together! Conquering performances like an all-star.

Performances are the heightened, amplified moments your family, friends, colleagues, directors, critics, lovers, and complete strangers get to come see what you work so hard on during rehearsals.  With Parsons Dance, our two weeks at the Joyce Theater is the one time a year I am guaranteed to perform for my New York family.  It’s my moment to show off to the ones who hear I’m supposedly a talented dancer but rudely only give me one shot every 365 days to see what I truly do and of course, have their speculations rightly confirmed.  It serves as my annual marker to see where I’ve come as a performer and as an opportunity to set a fresh intention of what I wish to accomplish out of two weeks of constant performing.

With the weight of significant performances, nerves and performance pressures can lurk, ready to snap precious and peacefully cherished dance moves without consent.  Nerves, not all bad at all, come in endless distracting flavors.  Sometimes the nervous belly pays a visit at half hour to curtain because you want to nail all your dance steps with the utmost artistic finesse.  Sometimes a surge of excitement blesses you from someone new to modern dance coming to watch for the first time because you’ve introduced them to your world.  Sometimes it’s a wave of longing because it’s the last time on stage in a certain work with the same special cast.  And sometimes it’s an absolute dire sensitivity to your aching body you must be mindful of to survive the show without a hitch.  How do you prep the mind for the nerves and focus your energy appropriately to make for the best show for those who come for proof, and more importantly, yourself, regardless of circumstances?  And “regardless of circumstances” is the kicker here because during strenuous and lengthy performance series, you don’t always feel your freshest every day, regardless of how well you wish to feel, and regardless if Baryshnikov decides to make an appearance in the house. (Hi Mikhail.  Yes, please come tomorrow.  I believe my left hamstring will be a bit stronger and I’ll be on my leg for you.  Thanks.  Kisses.)  Physical and mental states vary as your whole being is thrown to master the test of endurance from daily performances.  This means making those seemingly impossible shows, completely possible and even surprisingly enjoyable be it sprained ankles, colds, fevers, tendentious, fatigue, and soreness.  (Game on!)

So now that you’re completely curious for the reveal of my personal goals for this past Joyce, straight from my journal –  may I have the drum roll please?  Ahem…. To be fearless and selfless through generous performances.  To not fear the unknown of live performance, but to relish in it.  To be absent from judgmental thoughts.  To get lost and surrender to the moments deeper than I have previously by giving everything and expecting nothing.

A funny request, considering the chain of fun-filled events that happened within the first few hours of moving into the Joyce.   (Ahh, here come those lovely circumstances!)

Roughly three hours before curtain, as we were about to start our press call for opening night, I rolled over my already-slightly-bummed left ankle which was sprained a few weeks earlier.  Bravo, Christina.  I hobbled off stage, gracefully let out a few select curse words, iced my ankle, and let a tear or two stream down my cheek due not as much from sadness but from the utter rage of this hideous timing.  I was furious.  And when I’m angry (or tired, hungry, abundantly happy, you name it…), I cry.  I had so much to look forward to with these shows and had extensively prepared my mind and body for this hefty work load – the pieces were well-rehearsed, I had sufficient sleep, my home life was organized and armed with epsom salt, stretching toys, candles, and vitamin drinks to accommodate crazy performance life.  Yet It simply didn’t matter how prepared I was, because, pardon my french, shit happens.  I wanted to whine like a baby, and I gave myself about 5 minutes to whimper and feel bad for myself in the dressing room until I held it together and took the thankfully pitiful-sized injury and turned it into a blessing.  There was a lesson to be learned if I could quiet my temper tantrum and listen.  Justin Flores, a healing God here on earth, came to save the day and graced me with my first session of acupuncture and did some additional body work to get the minimal swelling that creeped in, down as much as possible; he had my ankle moving at more or less full capacity before showtime.  This forced me into hyper-conscious mode.  This opening night show could not be about blowing it out and pushing beyond my means.  I had no choice but to be completely thoughtful with each step, each descent from a lift, each relevé.  I hadn’t thought about my ankle much since I over-stretched the ligament initially, and this sudden and gratefully only minor glitch reminded me how fragile bodies are, how much proper strengthening of weaknesses are completely mandatory, and how completely lucky I am able to move as freely as I do.  I headed into this first show, with any opening night jitters knocked cold right out of me, and an unwavering focus protecting my body.  It was absolutely imperative to concentrate my attention, not just a task I casually handpicked for a fresh perspective, because I had to guarantee myself and my dance family a minimum of two weeks of performances.

Oddly enough, I relished in the restriction.  Taking the performance stride by stride opened a world of time and calmness.

Between moves and counts lie opportunities to make choices.  Music and movement may be swift, but there is a quiet place in the mind that can allow for space between those notes to breathe, pace yourself, and make artistic choices.  Nerves are sequestered under intense focus of a task (one way to calm down, check!).  Furthermore, any fear of screwing up a dance step dissipates when you give yourself the permission to make a mess (not striving for perfection, check!).  A successful performance for me on opening night with a sprained ankle, was simply getting through the show without having to play gimpy in desperation for a wing.

And just as one ailment heals, ankle feeling stronger, another one strikes.  Week two brought a battle with a fever and an unfortunate cold that I wearily won.  Lesson I learned here?  Whenever you are having the most significant performances, your body is put under intense rigors and inevitably unravels.  What makes you special is when you deliver a brilliant performance regardless of the circumstances, because those circumstances will be there.  How can you preserve and deliver your best when you may feel your most compromised?  How many dancers grin and bear it through tendentious, tears, foot splits, and colds?  Regardless of what you got, we all got something.  The unfortunate happens, but it also happens for a reason. It’s not unfortunate at all.  It is a gift; a blessing to pay attention on a deeper level and allow mental focus to resonate beautifully through your physical being.

And while attempting to get a grip on nerves and remain cool, calm, and collected under daunting circumstances, it also helps to redefine performances, put them in perspective, and decide what makes them glorious;  something I love to remind myself of in the quiet of the wings before showtime.

First off, no one in the world can do the pieces you are about to perform (thank you Liz Koeppen!); not critics, other dancers, and thank-god, not your brother or boyfriend.  The perspective as an audience member includes positive thoughts.  (Not once have I sat in the theatre, hoping the performers would fall flat on their face or tumble from a lift with a partner.) All the outside can see is the final product.  Not what you should be doing or could have done, but what you are presently doing, and they are on your team each step of the way.  They came to have fun and be entertained, so p.s., kick back and have a good time out there!

Next, no two performances will ever be alike so there is no point in doing the comparison from night to night or agonizing over a misstep here or a wobble there.  Fretting doesn’t happen nearly as readily in the studio, where the liberty to make mistakes, laugh them off, and carry on care-free reigns.  The stage can be known as the place where the hard work gets hidden, and ideally the elating product gets displayed without a drag.  Why that pressure?  Performances are another place you get to experiment and try something new.  All performances, studio and stage the same, are just another influencing experience.  When you reflect upon your career, you will not remember the details of specific moments as much as you will remember how you felt doing it, and those moments regardless of where they took place, when you felt particularly transformed, moved.  The beauty in dance is its replication of life.  LIfe is full of mistakes, and boy do people love to see someone win a struggle.  Who doesn’t get a thrill watching that “perfect” prima ballerina fight for that extra turn with a sparkle in her eye of sheer will and determination?  On the other hand, there is nothing worse than the eye of defeat in the spirit who lets the pressures get the best of them and lets one mishap run them into the ground for the remainder of the show.   When dance bloopers happen you should be in a state light-hearted enough to drop it, rather than wallow and crumble in its replay in your mind.

What makes for a stunning performance is the one not necessarily flawless, but gutsy and honest.  The dancer fearful of making a mistake is not going to be interesting or worthwhile to watch.  The dancer fearful to make a mistake is the only one who will be sure to fail.  You cannot fail at dance (or anything really), so get the fear of screwing up a lousy dance step out of your head.  It’s a dance move for crying out loud, not brain surgery.  And what about all those millions of steps you do right that you conveniently forget about as you grieve over your sickled disaster of a foot in one arabesque?  Once you put that fear aside, there is a whole other layer of dancing to reach and master. (But it wouldn’t kill you to put a little effort into that biscuit you called a foot the night prior, before you give it a second go-round!)

Lastly, performing doesn’t mean you throw every ounce of your energy into every step.  Every ounce of your thought and focus, yes.  However, when we vomit sheer force and fire over everything all the time it can over-power and make for jagged steps and frenetic connections.  Breathe.  Take a second.  Look at your partner.  No, really look.  See.  And above all listen.  Listen so you can learn.  If you are doing all the talking in your mind with busy thoughts, you cannot listen to the music or your partner, or the group’s connection, or your sensations.  So make a vow to listen so you can learn and adapt to each circumstance live performances throws your way.  I guarantee it will throw you a ton of fun ones.


I’ll leave you with the majority of mantras I used while at the Joyce.  I must always take a few moments to myself on the stage to check in and see where my energy is at, calm myself down, be grateful I can do what I do with a functional and able body, and focus on what I want to gain from the performance ahead, filling my thoughts with words that bring me peace and make me feel I don’t have the world to lift on my shoulders.  Here it goes!

“Surrender everything” -Me

“Save 7% for yourselves.” -Kate Skarpetowska

“Engage, Embrace, Enjoy.” -Dove, yes that would be some brilliant chocolate!

“Those who bring sunshine to others cannot help but keep it from themselves.” -Dove

“You don’t have the luxury of negative thought.” -Christina Applegate

“The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” -Franklin Roosevelt

“Failure seldom stops you.  What stops you is the fear of failure.” -Jack Lemmon

“Fear nothing, cherish everything.” -Me

“Take no prisoners.” -Me

“Be thoughtful. Be beautiful.” -Kate Skarepetowska

“Doing this for love.” -PD company

“I’m so grateful.” -Me

“One step at a time.” -Kate Skarpetowska

“Be generous.” -Me

“Give everything and expect nothing.” -Me

Performance Pressures….bring it on!

Inspired by:
Rick Pitino, with Bill Reynolds
“Success is a Choice: Ten steps to overachieving in business and life”

….it’s been awhile since I’ve posted but here’s for some ruthless gumption!

My boyfriend (at the time….unfortunately a long story) lent me Rick Pitino’s “Success is a Choice” when I was craving a motivational, self-help if you will, read. I didn’t know what to expect from the former NY Knicks coach, but turned out his motivational mantras proved more than valid and helpful when applied in reference to dancing and working effectively within a dance company, which at times is absolutely a team or family. As I enter my second season with Parsons Dance, it is my upmost priority to make this season more fulfilling than the first. To take what challenged me, and make those weaknesses into my strengths, and to maximize my strengths to capitalize on what makes me special as a dancer. One aspect I wish to focus on here is performance pressure. As performers we’ve all had our moments where we feel these pressures seep into our bones, when the thought of convincingly moving those rattling bones becomes a much more daunting accomplishment than moments prior in rehearsal. In class and rehearsals, we can more easily tap into the glorious freedom of taking risks with movement and being fearless to make big mistakes and take a wipeout in lieu of finding where our physical limitations lie; these moments are exhilarating because we are pushing ourselves to our maximum. Performance can be exhilarating as well, when those limitations found by falling in the studio, can be trusted and so closely breached as we propel our body full throttle through space with the somewhat-calculated knowledge gained from hours of rehearsal. Most shocking however is, as a professional, this liberty of rehearsing specific works repeatedly to gain the confidence and full comprehension of how our bodies respond to each moment, simply doesn’t exist. Lack of funds, relates directly to the amount of rehearsal time allotted which relates directly to the feeling of preparedness prior to lights, costumes, and stage. I’ve been off-stage with only a single-hand of run-thrus under my belt, partner and all – “Slow Dance” this past summer is reminiscent – and forced to take this pressure and turn it into a positive influence and deliver a moving, elating experience for myself and the audience. Was I completely certain about every moment in the piece? No. We can never be entirely certain of a performance. It hasn’t happened yet; we don’t know what lies ahead. That’s life and what makes it exciting, unless we prefer to take this unknown and make it feel daunting instead. The choice is ours. Pressures exist, and thank god they do. They make us strive harder, longer, seeking finer details and additional nuances. If deadlines of performances and expectations of artist directors and fellow dancers didn’t exist and impose the feeling of wanting to be the best version of ourselves for them, we would be floating around in the blasé realm of mediocrity. And as far as I’m concerned, when we feel ourselves slipping into coasting mediocrity, which inevitably happens from time to time, we need to gratefully seize the opportunity to up the ante, set new goals, reach for higher sights.

So lets not feel negative pressure from the audience and those we wish to impress; that simply leads to stress and fear of failure – completely stifling. Failure is only an emotion we chose, not in definitive existence. Choosing to fear failure of certain moments within a piece, or not having the best performance, we are allowing those fears to take control unnecessarily. Instead lets use the pressure opportunity to see how far we can go. No two performances will ever be the same and this uncertainty is exciting.

So, easier said than done. How can we feel we have a grip on this pressure? For one thing, be confident in the moments we do know in a dance. Do our homework. Know every count, study a video, get into the studio and do some extra work to ease out the moments we don’t know as well or don’t feel as organic on our bodies. No rehearsal time with the rest of the company doesn’t mean we have to stop our work there and settle for not being as comfortable as we need to feel prior to a performance. Eliminate the uncertainties we have control over because other obstacles will always throw us for a loop in live performance – costume malfunction (Nasciemento skirt becoming untied and strings playfully doing another dance around my ankles), odd wings and back stage space (try an octagonal stage in FL with wings about two feet deep with 3 dancers hiding before a grand entrance), makeup running in our eyes (performing Envelope with my glasses pressed onto my face so hard my mascara runs and I’m forced to see out of one, barely open, blurry eye, which tends to happen on multiple occasions). Who says I’m talking from personal experience?? ; )

The performance is going to happen regardless. We choose to experience it trepidatiously or with an all-out vigor leaving no moment full expressed. Lets find trust in our work ethic and discipline. Performance is the prize for all those endless hours of rehearsal and class. So what if we’ve only rehearsal a dance 5 times before we perform it. We’ve had countless hours of dancing under our belt that prepares us to fly under this moment. So lets bring on the pressure and find out just what we are capable of; I bet we’ll surprise even ourselves.

(….gosh, even re-reading this serves as a helpful reminder!)

Outreach @ Terence Cardinal Cook Care Center

Julie Blume, veteran Parsons dancer, has an ongoing relationship with Eileen Fogarty who works at Terence Cardinal Cook Health Care Center (found on fifth avenue between 105th and 106th streets) and has repetitively and graciously organized a performance for the patients suffering with Huntington’s Disease.  This year, I was gratefully able to participate in this informal showing where we did segments of various Parsons pieces in the gymnasium of the care center.  Huntington’s Disease is genetically transmitted and gradually degenerates the nerves cells found in the brain.  Physical symptoms include sudden quick jerks of random limbs, facial movements, slow uncontrolled movements, and head turning to focus the eyes.  Behaviorally, irritability, mood swings, dementia, loss of memory and judgement, and changes in personality and speech ensue.  There is no cure or medications to prevent its onset and if a parent has the disorder, you have a 50% chance of having the same gene mutation responsible for its development.  Those receiving care at Terence Cardinal Cook are in the more advance stages of their disease, and our respectful and enthusiastic audience were wheelchair-bound and accompanied by those who assist in their care.  Everyone had varying capabilities and methods of soaking in our performance.  I strongly believe whether or not their eyes were focused on us, our energy and even the mere shift in their daily regimen had some positive effect on their spirits.  Many applauded and commented during and after each piece which brought added reassurance.

By far one of the most touching and enthusiastic viewers was Julio, sitting front and center, who was a professional flamenco dancer in Cuba.  Amazingly, he had much of his wit and dance knowledge still with him.  The thought of using your body as a form of expression and way of being, to then later be completely deprived of your body control and confined to a seat day in and day out is beyond comprehension.  Julio carried an air of acceptance and knowledge about his degenerative state, but maintained a glowing face and his contagious laughter.

It is so beautiful to have the capacity to extend yourself to others and this experience reinforced the gift of waking up every morning with the ability to dance.  Here are some photos Eileen took throughout the afternoon.  The dancers beyond myself who participated include: Julie Blume, Sarah Braverman, Eric Borne, John Corsa, Emily Daly, Jason Macdonald, and Ian Spring.  Very much looking forward to our next visit!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Taking “Flight” with Take Dance

Last night was opening night and the much-deserved festive gala event for Take Dance’s season at Dance Theatre Workshop.  L’Cheim!  I’m a sucker for a toast whenever possible!  To be entirely honest, I’m typing this now in the slight haziness of the celebratory vodka-sodas I thoroughly enjoyed last evening.  I was entirely grateful to have friends and colleagues in the audience – some of whom have seen me dance countless times and others for the first time.  Thank you all!

The existence of certain people in the audience, be it the New York Times or loved ones, plays a factor in the pre-show excitement.  The sense of eyes watching brings forth an accountability, making this ephemeral art form much more defined.  This accountability is part of what makes performances such a heightened experience distinctive from the studio.  Following in similar vein to the mindset I had with pervious performances, maintaining a sense of calm and quietness of thought enables a more liberated stage experience.  The thoughts of so-and-so watching me cannot enter my mind because that is the exact moment I will detract from the dance and perform less than desirably, or put more simply “flub up.”  Focusing on the task at hand, nothing more, nothing less, has granted me a sense of ease.  My over-zealous self relaxes with the momentous thought, “all I need to do right now is this.”  I’m no longer concerned with the exhaustion or what is going to happen next in the dance.  This present thought process enables smart decision-making, conscious choices in the midst of movement;  to be so aware that in the middle of a jump I can choose to dynamically alter the timing of the landing or have enough gusto to crank out another pirouette because I’ve recognized my weight is to far back.  Instead of taking note of these desires in hindsight, it’s thrilling to recognize it immediately and make a choice to better it instantaneously.  The idea of having a constant choice while dancing also feels liberating because of the sense of control it grants me over the unpredictability of live-performance.

Don’t get me wrong, on rare occasions projective thoughts muddle my Zen presence.  What I’m not the Budda?  Crap…  Nearing the end of a dance feels different than just starting it.  In the beginning there is the desire for a well-executed, invested performance.  Nearing the end of a dance there becomes a sense of abandon.  The hardest parts are over.  Steps prior went well.  This freedom and comfort needs to be felt from the start.  Instead of being uncertain of how future steps will go, embracing the uncertainty and finding excitement enables this abandonment.  Complete abandon is what I value out of performances – most importantly abandon of self, which subsequently manifests physically allowing for languid, luscious, full-bodied expression.  Ahhhh, sounds fantastic.  Well off to the theatre again for round two, getting another crack at a super-conscious and more importantly fun performance!

http://www.dancetheaterworkshop.org/take

The Hatch, a choreographic baby born…

So after much back and forth action, I decided to plug forward and present a brief solo at The Hatch to be performed today!

My hesitations were mostly due to wearing myself too thin and mere procrastination of propelling my choreography further, although the latter was much harder to admit to myself.  Since procrastination and a jam-packed schedule never stopped me in the past, I really have no reason not to do it.  (Particularly, because pulling out from the performance would cost me $100!)  I’ve been having a tough time working in the studio on a solo for myself with no set of outside eyes on it so I gratefully recruited my friend Kate Griffler, dancer/choreographer/producer extraordinaire, to be my lovely canvas (you can see her work as part of the Reverb festival where she curates and choreographs).

I choreographed some of this movement prior – some of it originates from the 60×60 choreographic festival, which morphed into the collaboration with the International Street Cannibals (a duet with the always fabulous Rebecca Rainey), which soon morphed into a group piece for my residency at the Fine and Performing Arts Center in Howell, HS.  All this material has been slowly developing into this solo work.  I chose the melodic music of Michael Galasso’s Scene IV which ideally leads into a group piece I choreographed while at college, Naked Branches, to another track on his same album.  Ideally, after I stitch this solo together I would love to recreate the group piece and perform them both as a larger work.  Perhaps even create more solos for different tracks from the album for all my friends and create a full program! Ohhh getting ahead of myself like usual.  Time will tell…

Today is performance day so come down to the Hatch for an 8pm show to catch this world premiere! Very official, haha.

Stay tuned for some video footage of rehearsals and the performance.  I’m a little slow on the technical, editing aspect!

Remember Me – no really, don’t forget! My last one…for now I hope!

Just came back from Park City, Utah after my final performance of Remember Me and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit nostalgic for the constant rigors of performance and rehearsal, plus the fabulous company of gifted dancers.  Not to mention I am essentially unemployed and slightly broke!  Interested in teaching positions if anyone knows anyone hiring!  Ruthless plug I know, but desperate times call for desperate measures!  Moving on…

My movement tendency, much like my personal tendency is to do more, do all I can.  So it didn’t surprise me one bit to watch a tape of my performance at the Joyce and take notice of my exuberant energy (hate watching past videos but actually found this to be productive rather than a self-loathing experience).  During those performances while I felt my energy was high, I noted a lack of finesse in some of the finer moments.  I wasn’t able to control all the details and articulation as well because of my outward energy.  A sense of grounding and rootedness was lacking.  With these observations and some corrections from Liz (associate director extraordinaire) and David, I decided my aim for this final performance was to maintain a clear precise focus; directness to all the movements trumping an over-zealously quality.  Not to mention there was some necessity in this goal – I was winded!  The elevation in Park City was at 7,000 feet while NYC is a mere 33 feet.  Now, I thought I was in decent shape but I definitely felt the altitude’s effects, even during barre.  Everything seemed a bit more labor-intensive particularly after a flight and sitting around all day prior; my muscles were quite lethargic.  Note to other winded performers: I did use the oxygen tank at a level 3 for about 8 breaths at half hour and I didn’t feel as winded as I was during the tech run.  (Liz mentioned to us previously that using the oxygen at half hour seemed to work best for her in the past and while I don’t have any comparison it seemed to help me out).  So needless to say, efficiency and directness was my official approach to a glorious, stellar performance.

The curtain rose, lights came up, I danced around a bit, and took an ever-divine bow.  Overall, my performance was much more focused and my mind was quieter.  The constant writing and thinking about non-judgmental, present focus made it a primary importance and translated into the performance.  This clear focus in body comes easiest when I have clear focus with my vision.  Actually tangibly looking, seeing, and identifying all moments is key.  To have a clear definition of each moment in a dance penetrates to an audience and back to myself as a thorough performer.  Those tiny transitions are some of my favorite to indulge in because they give the meat of the movement its reason.  In this case, a more distinct focus helped to relax my body into the movement and heighten my awareness of the others around me.  I found ease in mind and my body when I thought, “ this is all I have to do, no more.”  I felt my body relax and I did gain an awareness of more subtle details.  I wasn’t as physically exhausted from over-exerting myself unnecessarily so the execution was smoother.

One exercise I am particularly interested in doing after all this thought about the mind in performance is to record myself performing and speaking my thoughts aloud.  It’s one thing to write about a performance after the fact, but there is significance in the immediate thoughts and sensations which are worthy of investigation.  However, so many thoughts overlap and are inexplicable in terms of concrete words.  I’ll have to think about this one…

This was my last performance for a bit so back into class, choreography, and teaching mode!

“Remember Me” with Parsons Dance at the Joyce – Lady Gaga step aside.

Backstage in the dressing room of the Joyce, I tediously and ritualistically applied my makeup entirely too early.  I literally did it as slow and methodically as humanly possible just so I didn’t have ions of time before curtain to psych myself out.  My hair had about a full 20 minutes of unnecessary maintenance time.  All the teasing and spraying was putting the girls from Jersey Shore to shame.  Then I put on my costume just-so right before I covered up with layers of warm ups and headed for the stage during half-hour call.  After going through some last-minute partnering details, there was nothing more I could do; rehearsal was over.  Now it was just between me, the music, my partners, and the stage.  All the hours of rehearsal seemed to culminate during these select performances.  I couldn’t help but feel entirely energized and slightly nervous for my first performance of Remember Me.  It was marking my debut with Parsons Dance and felt like somewhat of an audition to see if my efforts and talent in the studio adequately translated to performance.  As an understudy, I had never danced the piece with lights or an audience and it was my second time dancing with the full company on the stage.  Crazy fun!  I was grateful to be nervous.  There have been times recently where performing onstage felt like another day, and to be nervous reminded me of how important dance remained to me.  Then the cool breeze from the house rushed in as the curtain lifted and the music began.  I thought with my first steps, “No stopping now.  What ever you do is right.  Enjoy the ride.  Have fun.  Be a rock star.”

Performing is somewhat of a mind game.   Remember Me was still fresh in my body.  More than the movements themselves (which trust me still need improving), what seemed the most unfamiliar was simply being in the space with the other performers.  It was no longer me, in the studio, executing the movements solo.  Now there were 10 other dancers on stage, slightly disorienting lights, and an audience including my friends and family watching.  I swear I thought I could hear my mini fan club chatting about me from the front rows.  Gosh this could be terrifying or thrilling!  One reason I crave dance is for the rush and high of live performance, so go figure, the performance-junkie chose the latter.

I would be lying entirely if I claimed to have no judgmental thoughts in the midst of my two performances at the Joyce.   These were not performances of complete glorious abandon, taken over by movement, music, and character.  Dispersed between moments of divine abdication were contrasting moments of vicious counting to stay on time, extensive use of my periphery to make sure I wasn’t crash-carting another dancer, fleeting last minute-corrections and partnering techniques, and thoughts of “damn this is so fun,” all whipping past my mind.  Also, I cannot be more gracious to all the fabulously talented performers who literally rooted and egged me on from start to finish.  Their endless encouragement and energy carried me through all the curve balls of live performance.  Did some moments work out better in the studio? Absolutely.  Did a new energy and aliveness come through the movements?  Of course.  Regardless of what happened on stage and my judgments on it, at bow someone could have told me I just one a million dollars because that was exactly how I felt – or at least how I imagine I would feel because the jackpot has definitely yet to come my way.  Rock star moment – check!  I was totally Lady Gaga at the Grammy’s (or perhaps Lindsay Vonn on the gold medal podium)!

I’d like to give myself the luxury of saying abandoned performances completely devoid of judgmental thoughts come with time and being comfortable within the material.  However, I don’t believe this to be true.  As a professional, a majority of your performances occur under-rehearsed, without the luxury of time.  Fresh material can serve as a gateway to a purely present performance.  You choose to be either daunted and distracted or elated and in the zone.  Despite however foreign the material is, your mind, body, and spirit are the tools you have and can rely on – they are not unfamiliar.

Some of my most liberating and transcending performances have been those where my mind goes quiet; there is no other concern in the world beside the existence of the present moment.  My endless goal is to achieve this presence as much as possible when dancing – be it studio or stage.

I have one more final crack at Remember Me in Park City, Utah where I fully intend to question this process of performing and the mental focus necessary to Just Dance Gaga-stlye.