jitters & rituals

Before an especially nerve-wracking performance, I listen to Eminem’s Lose Yourself.  I’m not proud of it, but when I first began competing at Youth America Grand Prix in 2004, Hailie was 8 years old, 8 Mile was still (sort of) relevant, and the rap anthem’s carpe minutam memorandum wound my nerves into sanction.  What can I say?  Slim Shady did and does provide my chill.  Everyone has their rituals, and today we’re peeking into the pre-show mind of The Joffrey Ballet’s Mahallia Ward to spy on hers…IMG_2950

MW: Before my first performance of the season, as I was reacquainting myself with pre-show rituals and jitters, I became highly aware of the annoying and almost comical amount of nervous chatter occupying my mind. I alternated between fruitless attempts at calm, and moments of amused observation:

“It’ll feel so good to be on stage again. Dress rehearsal was bad so…that’s good right? Whatever, don’t think about it…What to eat…? Just relax, you got this. You’re a pro…yeah right…no you are. Shut up.

“Ugh! Adrenaline my old friend, I don’t like you. What use are my legs in a fight or flight situation if they have melted into puddles of jelly??! C’mon, strength, energy…Just breathe…ahh yes…oh this would make a cool blog post! This is what you love. This is the fun part! Enjoy it! Just rip up the stage! But take it easy. No stress. But it’s normal to stress, everyone’s stressing inside. So don’t worry. You should probably reinforce the ribbons on your shoes one more time though, just to be sure…

Ok these shoes only have to last one. more. show. Crap they’re buckling. Grrr. Time to plank…60, 59, 58, 57… Nice. Remember just breathe…this is no. big. deal. Just pretend you do this all the time, like you have something way harder to do tomorrow. This is nothing. A breeze! A breezy breeze. Should I pee one more time?

And on and on…
IMG_2915IMG_2947The nerves come with the gig, but I find performing much more enjoyable when I am able to relax and quieten this high strung inner dialogue. 

Here are some ideas to help de-stress and prepare mentally for the stage.

1) Take a nap. During the break between rehearsals and show time, one can find a number of Joffrey’s dancers sprawled out beneath their dressing tables, zipped to the chin in warmups, refueling with some zzz’s.

2) Get out of the building. After rehearsing in a dark theater all day, a dose of fresh air and natural light help me clear my mind and feel energized.

3) Pull out your favorite mindless craft. During our run of The Nutcracker one can find dancers sitting on the pt room floor, make-up half finished, surrounded by crayons and Nutcracker themed coloring pages. Sometimes it helps to focus on staying within the lines rather than worry about (enter favorite performance nightmare here). Crocheting also does the trick. And these coloring books are awesome.

4. Take a shower. A hot shower before a show is like magic. It’s warming, relaxing and makes hair easier to twist. It’s a great way to “reset” and freshen up before going on stage.

5) Give yourself lots of makeup time. For me, putting on my stage makeup is like a meditation. Doing a clean job helps me feel prepared and beautiful and centered in my character. Allowing lots of time minimizes smudges and spills and the stress of sticky eyelash situations.

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For more tips and tricks, head over here.

all photos by Mahallia Ward.

2 piece or not 2 piece?

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I came across a video recently in which the director of a dance competition called out to teachers across the nation, asking them, “Is that 2-piece costume really necessary?”  He pointed out the fact that the number of people whose bodies are flattered by such a revealing costume is no where near proportionate to the amount of students performing at any given competition.  With that statement fresh from his lips, the director asks his audience of dance instructors to explain why they continue to select these 2-piece costumes, with the thousands of more suitable options available to them.

The responses disgusted, but did not shock me.  Many teachers admitted, with little shame, that they select 2-piece costumes in hopes of inspiring heavier dancers to lose excess weight.  While I am completely in support of maintaining a strong healthy body and striving to create the most beautiful lines possible, I cannot get behind this exploitive intimidation technique.  It is a direct breech of trust in an environment where a dancer is supposed to feel most comfortable: on stage.

This presentation was directed mainly towards instructors at competition schools, but I believe it can be applied to the ballet world as well.  Of course, there are classical roles where a 2-piece costume is traditional, expected by the audience and therefore a necessity, like Arabian in The Nutcracker or Nikiya in La Bayadare.  But for contemporary ballets in which the costuming is entirely subjective to the preference of choreographer, how does one deem a 2-piece costume appropriate for the piece being danced?

You can probably guess by now that I have in fact been cast in a pas de deux during which I must don a 2-piece costume.  The last dancer to perform this choreography was the ever-fierce, 6-pack enigma pictured above, Ms. Jennifer Ricci.  A Rhode-Island legend and FBP-veteran for almost 25 years, Jenn pulls off the midriff-bearing costumes better than anyone I know.  But when you have to follow up that class act with, how should I put this…decidedly less muscular definition? things can get pretty stressful (re: I have been freaking out about it for the past 3 weeks).

SO, I guess what I’m trying to say here, is how do you guys feel about 2-piece costumes?  Have you ever had to wear one on stage?  Did it turn you into a nervous wreck?  Please tell me I’m not the only one who’s midriff shy!

 

 

 

photo by Thomas Nola-Rian

jitterbug

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Remember those butterflies you felt in your stomach before your first day of middle school?  Well it seems I’ve swallowed a whole garden’s worth and they are fluttering about like crazy in there.  I guess that’s par for the course at 11:30 the night before my first day back to work since May!  Eeeek- SO EXCITED!!!!  But it’s off to bed, wish me luck!