Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Be More In the Moment By Being Prepared

That title sounds self-contradictory doesn't it? Being "in the moment" is often considered to be an impulsive, suddenly-inspired happening, while "being prepared" is about taking time to painstakingly put something together.  But they actually do go hand-in-hand.

When I first started dancing, it seemed imperative to have a new set and a new costume to go with it for nearly every performance.  I had a lot of ideas, and in my mind, a lot of people to impress. I probably created 2-3 times as many sets in a single year back then, then I have in the last 3 years put together.  It's not that I have gotten lazy or less industrious in my dance pursuits, but rather I've had a different frame of mind and approach to performing.  This is what I've learned:

-No matter how much I practice a piece and knew the music, there's something else in play when I actually perform it for an audience, and it really doesn't come alive until that moment, for better or for worse.  I used to premiere new pieces at really big events, and they never went according to plan, leaving me disappointed and upset.  I noticed it was the 2nd or 3rd time the piece was performed that things seemed to come together, and I realized the issue wasn't so much the pressure of the big event, it was not having that first-time out to really figure things out in a comfortable setting.  So I changed my game-plan and present pieces at small events before it gets to a "big stage" whenever possible. 

-There's a balance between performing a piece too many times, and just enough.  Even with a small area (the Bay Area or New England), not everyone makes it out to the same event - and even with youtube, seeing a performance live is such a different experience than seeing it videotaped.  I've also had people say, they love being able to see multiple performances of the same piece, because there's always something new for them to discover about it, something they didn't notice or realize the first time.  As long as you're not doing the same piece in the same costume at every single event, people will rarely get bored with it.

-Reducing the amount of different pieces you're performing actively makes for better performances.  The more familiar you get with a piece, the more comfortable you are, the more angles you can work it.  The more you can relax and be "in the moment."

-Having 2-3 pieces that you are comfortable with means you can reliably pull out that set and that costume at a moment's notice, and "be prepared" to perform it, versus going through the stress of trying to find a new song, new costume, rehearse a new dance.

So don't fall into the trap of "everything must be new" - and don't be afraid to take time to get to know your pieces better.

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