While waiting in the wings there is no view more perfect. You stand surrounded by organized chaos. Dancers preparing to share their gift. Scenery and drops flying in and out, wheeled in every which direction. Wardrobe mistresses tending to some last minute mending. The orchestra tuning. A mere snapshot of a night at the ballet — this is truly “behind the scenes.” As a former professional dancer, I no longer wait in the wings ready to step out for my next solo or pas de deux. But what grew from those treasured moments waiting are lessons I shall never forget.
Lessons from the wings that soar!
Three of these lessons from the wings soar far beyond the stage: Opinions do not define us. Devour every moment you are given. Embrace each beauty mark as your individual quirk!
A Critic’s Review.
Non-constructive criticism is a terrific method for killing one’s love of their art. Ever been on the receiving end of that? Basically there are two types of criticism: constructive and non-constructive. (Thank goodness mirrors can’t speak, otherwise we may have to count a third!) Constructive criticism helps us grow. It is what gets us to the stage. Non-constructive comments bring us down, as if gravity upped its force. Remember. A professional critic’s job is to communicate their opinion. And, this is where we, the dancer, come in. Most of us can accept that we are not perfect. No one is. We do have a huge responsibility though. To our audience. They have entrusted us with their time and their money, not to mention their expectations. Go out there! Give everything of yourself. Don’t ever hold back, as you will never please everyone. Putting yourself out there – be it on stage or in life – means that critics will come. You can count it. Take in the information. Dispose of what is not valid. Opinions do not define us. That goes for those filled with an abundance of praise and those with a bite. Been wounded? Rub on some salve. Allow it to heal. Listen to those you count among your trusted champions. The ones waiting in the wings with a truthful “Great job.” “Congratulations!” or “Next time.”
- Why do they Say What They Say? [Joseph Carman, Dance Magazine]
Steps With a Purpose.
Approach every performance as if it is your last. Be present, connected to now. Living in the moment will truly make the whole experience richer. When you dance full out or put all you got into a task, you intensify the value of the outcome. It becomes more meaningful. Go ahead. Imagine the future. Take a look at the next eight bars of music, but only if one does not detract from the other. Make the most of each moment, keenly aware, present with each of your senses alert. Learn from the past, but let’s not live there. Wash away anxiety for the future with hope, confident expectation. Ready to perform your solo variation? You have practiced until red in the face. Leotard soaked. And, toes wrinkled from sweat. This is the time. Pack each step with all-out effort and energy. A heightened sense of elation will overcome you and, ultimately, overflow to your audience. Savor it. Devour the sweet essence of each moment you are given. You owe yourself that much.
Under all that stage make-up is the true you – pockmarks, splotches and all! Stage make-up enhances our good features. Other techniques help cover up the imperfections. But only temporarily. At the end of the show, we simply have to wash our face. And there we are. Underneath it all, just where we were all along. Spots and blemishes intact. What if we each embraced what makes us unique? Just as no two snowflakes are alike – although they all should be on stage – consider each beauty mark your individual quirk.
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
Writer and poet Oscar Wilde was known for his wit. Cleverly stated. And true. Authenticity. We are the sum total of all that we have experienced in our lives. We are also what others come to know and believe is true of us. Do yourself a big favor. Leave the role-playing behind on stage. Live the real you. The one present when you are all alone. It involves a clear picture of your values and passions. Do not obsess over what others may or may not think of you. Do not alter your beliefs from one social group to another. Never depict a false self. It only prolongs getting to know who you really are. While you are at it, do those around you a favor, too. Allow them to meet the one and only version of you. For it is good enough!