A great master once told me, the audience don’t see the dancer! They see the illusion the dancer creates.
Have you ever seen one of the really great dancers perform, either live, or maybe on a you-tube video? Take a look at how they enter stage. From the very first moment you see them, they are shining. You sit in your seat, and they’re up on stage, telling you: “this is going to be fantastic”. And you believe it. From there, the road to rioting audiences and 50 curtain calls is a lot shorter than if the dancer were to enter the stage with an expression like “oh my, I hope this will go well..”.
As a dancer, this is something I try to think about every day. It’s not a question of playing a role or acting like you’re the best in the world – it’s merely about believing in yourself. Believing that what you do is unique and see-worthy. I once was doing a competition, and my master and I was rehearsing the Giselle 2.nd act variation just the day before it. It was my first competition, and I was very nervous – most of my fellow competitors came from completely different backgrounds, with stronger training and with physical attributes I could only dream of at the time. I told my master that I was sure it wouldn’t go well, because the others looked much better than me. He answered: “That’s your greatest advantage. All the others have a clean technique, nice feet and a bunch of experience from other competitions. That’s what the jury will see. But you are the surprise – the one that stands out from the crowd. If you believe in yourself, the jury will as well! After all, if you don’t, who will?”
This is the one and only secret to a good performance. I made it to the final of the competition, succeeding dancers that were technically way out of my league. It’s all psychology: For the audience, it doesn’t really matter how many pirouettes you turn, or which tricks you show them. The human brain is always looking for something sincere, something real. In the variation I mentioned, Albrecht is begging for his life to the queen of the Wilis (don’t understand anything of this sentence? Read the Bedtime Story on Giselle, and you’ll get it!). This was what we practiced the most – not only how to do the turns, the jumps, but how a person would do it if he were to beg for his life. Dance is about communicating with movement. It might sound cliché, but dance your feelings! Tell the audience how you feel, or what you want to tell them, with movements. What does 15 pirouettes communicate?
Until next time