I remember attending a workshop with a US-based dancer who said that when we perform, we only achieve 80% of the greatness that we have off-stage. I reflected on this at the time and came to the conclusion that while I am often more relaxed when dancing in the studio, I am definitely more powerful, stronger, and more capable on stage - thanks to adrenaline and being in the zone. But this isn't the case for many dancers who feel more burdened than empowered by nervous energy when performing.
Undirected nervous energy can lead to feelings of flightiness and ungrounded movement - sometimes spilling into a loss of balance, physical disconnection or dis-embodiment (where the origin of movement comes from the periphery rather than the centre of our being) and 'throwing out' of energy, often manifested through unfinished movements and phrasing, and even sudden transitions. A great technique for making performance on stage your supapowa is to incorporate moments of grounding into your pre-dance or dance routine, where you deliberately connect with your para-sympathetic nervous system, breathe & exhale, melt, ooze, cultivate, be. Just be. And in that moment, you will know you have your supapowa at your disposal.
Standing on the earth outside is a great, immediate form of grounding but that's not always available to us before going on stage. But we can replicate that feeling through practice. Yoga is another way. Contemporary dance and contact improvisation have also helped me immensely. It helps not only with our stage presence, but our balance and quality of movement on stage. I also believe that stage fright is often caused by a loss of grounding because the dancer becomes very reliant on the audience's energy, which can stimulate feelings of vulnerability and cause us to shut off.
Make the stage a fertile ground for your supapowa and you will never look back.
How do you connect with your supapowa? What is your experience on stage? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Have you ever wondered why some dancers flow like honey, and others can strike with precision? Dancers who seem like they are made of jello are in fact holding on to everything; and conversely, dancers who can hit moves with power and precision, are really good at letting go. How does this work? If you think about it, we can never become effective at striking movements with power if we cannot take risks and throw our energy 'outwards'. But inhabiting movement, holding on to energy, also takes commitment and trust. It is this sustained embodiment that that creates movement that ripples, swarms, lingers. So next time you try to become more fierce in your dance, practise letting go. And if you want to melt with boneless movement, practise holding on.
1. Move always with a connection to your centre and breath, rather than driving your arms and legs. It will turn your body into a storytelling vessel rather than a collection of moving limbs.
2. It's great to include vocabulary that you have learned but most of the time, the music calls for an elaboration of a motif rather than a string of moves.
3. Ground yourself by humbling yourself before performance, remember that we are all students striving to expand and explore our own art. Remember most 'stuff' out there that we laden and torment ourselves with is just a story - a story you can turn off.
4. In choreographed dance, stay in the precipice between the right and left brains. Stay attuned to the choreography, but trust yourself enough to wear it and not let it wear you. Remaining yourself is the key to expression and presence. This also means you need to know yourself (improvisation practice helps).
5. Embrace absolute stillness on stage.
For Rita's latest news