Existing Now: On Trusting Myself


 

Oh, she’s a thinker.

(A tour guide in Italy) I can tell this one has a question.

Alaina, you think too much.

Alaina, stop thinking.  You screw up when you think.


Tommy said that last one two lessons ago.  It’s something I’ve been told all my life, and I always respond with a resigned “Yes, I know.”  Life is certainly a delicate balancing act.  So logically speaking, there are times to be inside your head and times when you need to enjoy the moment.  While learning to cope with my anxiety, I’ve realized the importance of the latter.  However, it’s not just as a person.  This applies to being an artist, too.

I’m reading a book for my new media class.  It’s called Respect for Acting by legendary actress Uta Hagen.  An actress is supposed to live in the stage, rather than on the stage.  What she meant was that the actress must use his or her real experiences for her character.  It’s not about preconceived notions but about existing right now.  Here’s what she said about anticipation:

Anticipation does not present itself as a problem only at the moment of finding the lost object (which you yourself have concealed) but at every moment of the search.

She’s talking about a specific acting exercise used to hone your sense of spontaneity.  Hide a mundane object that is easily misplaced.  For example, I often lose sight of my glasses.  Now, embark on a thorough “search” for them.  Carefully look through the most logical places.  Sift through your clothes drawer, look on your desk, etc.  The trick is putting the same amount of energy into the “search” as you would in a genuine situation.  However, don’t think about how you’re going to search or what you’re reaction is going to be when you “find” what you’ve misplaced.  It halts the evolution of the scene you are creating.  This can hinder the spontaneity and realism.  These principles apply to my following, too.

My mind often travels at warp speed when I’m dancing.  I’m thinking about technique, what Tommy may do next, my facial expression, etc.  That’s when I screw up, and Tommy calls me out.  A dancer is a performer that, like an actress, needs to live in the moment.  One can still be aware without being neurotic.  That’s my challenge.  My dance is now and at no other time.  I need to convince my audience and ever-important judges that what’s going down in the floor is genuine.  It’s not a woman in a shiny dress with loads of make-up and hairspray going through the physical motions of a routine.  It’s an artist creating a piece with her partner, another artist.  That piece is only going to exist for ninety seconds.  Better make it shine.

“But how on earth does a thinker like me do that?”  I often ask myself.  It takes trust and a reasonable amount of confidence in myself.  A good dancer or actress will put in plenty of rehearsal time.  They’ll maddeningly polish every bit of their work until it sparkles.  Put simply, they work hard.  Once that work has been done, the artist must trust the material to come as needed.  That’s what I have to do.  I put in plenty of practice this summer, and I’m just as studious in dance as I am in school.  When my moment comes, be it at a private lesson or competition, it will be all I have.  I’d best not waste it. 

 

 

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