Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Giving up the perfect picture

When you're working on your piece for a performance, you will have some idea of what the perfect picture is... and you should. You also should use that to do visualization and get your mind in the game. It's really a useful tool.

That being said, at one point, you have to let go of that perfect image. Because, honestly, it is extremely rare when a performance will go exactly according to plan and to that perfect image. Therefore, it's best not to be too attached to that mental picture.

I received two pieces of advice from Tempest several years ago that essentially get at this concept.

One of the pieces of advice was that the piece isn't final until it's performed.  Meaning that it's a draft until then. And, from my experience, each time I perform, the piece is slightly different or, sometimes, drastically different. (As a disclaimer, I'm doing a whole lot of improv when I dance so that contributes to that.) But even when the piece is rather fully fleshed out, it will vary from performance to performance. You could view it as when you tell a story: the exact way that you tell a story will vary from time to time.

The other very good advice is to do the best that you can with the circumstances of the day. In the perfect picture, you'd be perfectly composed, in charge, feeling awesome, etc. In reality, you may have come out of a workshop and rushing to get ready for the performance or you didn't sleep enough the night before or you didn't hydrate well enough or eaten enough or you are sick that day or all of the above together or any other circumstance. Meaning that a lot of things can affect your performance capacity on any given day. Do the best that you can with it all and that's all that matters.

When you're too attached to the perfect picture that you have in your head, it will actually hinder you. How? You'll fight whatever is happening. So you were supposed to turn right and you turned left... oh well... keep on going... You were supposed to do a shimmy at this spot and it didn't happen? No one will know. But if you stop your spin midway to go the other way or force a shimmy somewhere else just 'cause, it will show and the piece will look like it's hiccuping. Moreover, you'll have this look on your face that says "oh no! I've messed up!" and people will read it. (If you have a good poker face, it may not show.)

The other thing is that, when these things happen, you'll end up being in your head too much instead of being in the moment. You really do need to be in the moment to be able to emote the emotions and fully flow with the piece.

I think, though, that the most detrimental end result of holding onto to that perfect image is that you will not be satisfied with your piece... and that's really terrible. It's also quite infuriating because you would be attempting to achieve something that is really unattainable. So if you consistently feel like you never perform well enough, assess whether you have that image that is sticking too much in your head. Again, use it as a tool to help you visualize what you want to achieve but then let it go. Try to be Zen about it. You will find yourself much more satisfied with your performances.

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