Sunday, 25 April 2010

In the spotlight

I'm currently practising for my exam and have been working pretty hard at learning the syllabus inside out, getting my feet and arms right as well as sorting out the terms in my head ready for the enchainement (which is totally new to me coming from an RAD 'learn it perfectly and don't ask questions' approach to an IDTA 'thinking dancer' approach!). This all sounds fairly straightforward, usual dancery stuff, but I feel like I've had a lot of catching up to do since only starting back to ballet properly in November.

I'm proud of myself for rising to the challenge, and as I mentioned before, my teacher has been complimentary recently. Why then, is it that, in front of other people I go to pieces? All I had to do was perform a pas-de-bourre over and under and then in reverse and I totally fluffed it up! It wasn't even like I was standing at the back of the room not paying attention whilst the other girls performed, I was practising all the while! But as soon as I had to perform it to the room, I got it all wrong. My teacher even noted that she'd seen me do it so why couldn't I perform it. The same for the variation. I do it perfectly every time at home, I usually stand in a place where I can't see anyone else so I'm sure I know the dance without watching anyone else, but as soon as I have to perform it by myself it just doesn't come together how it looks in my head. What frustration: I am working so hard and being so, so positive about the whole experience, I don't remember being like this as a teenager, so why now when I'm supposedly a more confident adult?

Any advice? Any tips for helping me to still my beating heart when I have to perform? They'd be gratefully received!


  1. I think sometimes it's harder to dance for a teacher who is evaluating you than it is to dance in front of 3,000 people in a theater.

    At my school and ballet company, there are no specific standardized tests to pass from level to level, so I am not as familiar with what you are going through. But here is what I do when I have to mentally prepare (for class, for performance, for everything because we are constantly evaluated, formally or not):

    1. Visualize yourself succeeding. When I have a combination or a variation to perfect, I practice it constantly. And when I can't practice, I dream it. I imagine myself doing it perfectly.

    2. Look good. Wear your best leo, make sure your hair looks great (I love high buns for auditions - do whatever makes you feel most beautiful), ensure your shoes and tights are in the best shape.

    3. Know what you are doing. :) Clearly you do since you do it perfectly at home. So be there in your mind. Even when you are dancing for others (whether an audience, or your teacher while being graded) always remember that you are dancing for yourself.

    Good luck!!!

  2. Well first off I am so excited for you to be doing this. How amazing! I never went through RAD testing but wish I had.

    Secondly, I have no tips for you because it still happens to me. But I know that being comfortable just comes with practice. Being patient, as you know, is a huge part in ballet. It's actually the hardest part for me.

  3. Wow! Thank you for your really detailed response. If there was a 'like' button for this reply I'd have clicked it. Really great advice, now I have to practise putting it into action.

  4. Ooh, and Dancing Branflake - I've only just picked up your message (my mac doesn't seem to update websites properly at the moment!), but thanks!

    The issue is really, I guess, that as a teenager, I did RAD - and it's SO prescriptive. You rehearse and rehearse until you can't possibly get anything wrong but my IDTA teacher is far 'dancier' and less concerned with absolute technical perfection. It's great for me to learn to be more thinking, to respond to the music and the enchainements given, but it unnerves me, and I think this is why I mess up when I know that I can do it under normal circumstances!

  5. as someone who also returned to the ballet world after a hiatus, i definitely know how frustrating it can be to not dance the same way you did when you were 13. every time i grand battement i am forced to remember how fantastic my extension once was.

    but when we were young, we had no inhibitions, we weren't the critical advanced thinkers we are now. and that thinking can totally be what messes you up. when you learn to let go of all that tension and stress and to stop over analyzing every single little movement, things just fall into place.

    also what ballet madeline said about visualizing yourself succeeding is spot on; affirmations, meditation, and self visualization may sound like fluff, but it really does work. i tested it out last audition season. i'd meditate and calm myself, then imagine myself dancing better than ever, and 9 times out of 10 i did. good luck!