Have you ever watched a performance video of yourself and gasped out loud: "Why did no one tell me this???". The outrage... All you can see is that unpointed foot, that low arabesque you thought was high, the en dedans foot in your glissade before your grand jeté, the turned in passé of your pirouette or your tensed shoulders and neck. We've all been there. In the current world we live in, social media only shows us to see the best part of most dancers, physically and technically, but not the 6 or 7 tries before the perfect version posted. #guilty
- The "figure it out" video of Dulcinea in Don Quichotte:
- The better one:
Every dancer strives for perfection. I know what I'm talking about, I'm a Virgo ;) ... Being extra detailed is a blessing and a curse. I feel the need to work out every moment of what I do which can create lots of anxiety as when you're on stage half your control goes out the window. So how could we be more constructive about it?
1/ Watch yourself on video (performance or rehearsal). Yes, you can do it, I promise.
I can already hear you from miles away telling me : "but I hate watching myself!! it's too depressing!". Trust me, I know that feeling but I have to say I mostly got that feeling looking at a performance video AFTER the fact because unconsciously you know it's over and you can't fix it anymore... It also ruins your internal image of that performance because you might have had a great feeling on stage in the moment. So the solution is to film yourself in rehearsal or watch your dress rehearsal/first performance, if you want the full effect. At Carolina Ballet we had access to videos from all our shows which was amazing but here at the Opéra de Nice, there are some videos of maybe one show out of the whole series but it's quite hard for us to get them. If you can do both, you will reach the best result you can get. If not, then record yourself while rehearsing. You have to see it as objectively as possible, as an addition to your ballet master or director's eyes. Having the feeling of the movement is obviously primordial but being your own teacher's eyes is key to improve.
What could have I told myself there? :
- Relax my shoulders & neck in my sissones
- Point my feet better in sissones
- Way higher passés at the end
- Lower your my arms in last diagonal
(Gypsie Solo in the "Two Pigeons")
Those are my own critiques which, to MY eyes, would make it better. So the next time I would rehearse, I would try to achieve all those corrections and build from there. Then when I get to the shows, I know I will have "fixed" what was important to me. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder right? So, on top of advice from your peers and artistic staff, you satisfy who? well the most important one, yourself... By having a fairer vision of your dancing and acting, weirdly enough your confidence will grow, especially on stage. AND, added plus, you'll end up not looking in that mirror as much because you know you would have incorporated your adjustments already.
2/ Pre-performance visualization.
As you read in my previous post on calf tears, Balanchine's Serenade is one of the most dear ballets to my heart. That music, the long flowy blue tulle skirt, the patterns we create, the joy of movement (the calf tear hum hum...), I wanted to do it justice and liberate myself from the technical aspects (especially Russian Girl) so I could truly enjoy its greatness.
So I tried something for the first time: visualization in two ways.
The first one (earlier in the process) consists in visualizing what you are dancing to music from beginning to end by mentally feeling what corrections you want to include, which muscle to engage. You have to see yourself execute the movement perfectly and cleanly. You can see yourself from the outside like from your teacher or ballet master's view point.
The second one comes a little later in the game, closer to the performance. It is a bit different as this time you will try to be in your body and see what surrounds you. It works best when you are as precise as possible. The stage, the seats in front of you, what your eyes will see as the movement changes, your partner if there is one, people on stage while you're dancing, picture the wings when your eyes should see them, the lights, the costumes of others or parts of yours, the music, the orchestra if there is one and all the other things you can think about. And again, you go through your dance from beginning to end, picturing it going amazingly well but in a real performance setting.
I did this for Serenade for about 2 weeks before the shows. To some of you it may sound a little far-fetched (not "fetch" Gretchen, yes I quoted "Mean Girls") or woo-woo but this only Serenade show I had was the best I had ever danced it... Yes, I was nervous before it but during it, something I cannot explain happened.. So give it a shot!! What's the best that could happen? 😉