I remember being a little girl, in my mint green unitard, black knee pads and lyrical sandals, getting ready to compete in a dance competition. I was nine or ten. Maybe ten—I believe it was after my brother had passed.
I was really getting into lyrical/modern as my favorite dance form, and my mother had created a solo for me set to the song “Forever” by J.T. Taylor and Regina Belle from the movie TAP. I vaguely remember absolutely loving that film. It’s sort of a love story.
This particular lyrical solo was my first lesson in “emoting.” My parents both urged me to use my body to allow the audience a look inside of how I was feeling. A ten year old, dancing to a love song, showing love. Hah! It makes me laugh just thinking of how it must have appeared to the audience.
I remember scrunching up my face in angst and making big, dramatic movements with my body to illustrate how I was “feeling” about love. That’s what the knee pads were for. To protect my precious knees from all the floor work—it was dramatic!
As hilarious a memory as that is, I now appreciate that lesson in my life. And it guides me onstage to this day.
My parents were the ones to guide that authentic performer out of me and onto the stage. Sure, they worked their asses off to build a studio and amateur dance company and hired all the best teachers that money could buy. But they were the ones that focused on the heart of the situation: Dancing with emotion.
As my preferences in dance changed, I took that lesson with me. I have delighted audiences all over the country and later the world, while “emoting” and showing off my fabulous technique. Most of the time.
There have been a few times where I let fear get in the way onstage. Fear of forgetting the choreography, fear of falling flat on my face, fear of missing my cues, fear of costume malfunctions, fear of the audience not liking my performance. Lots of fears. I’m sure there are more…
But those times, those times when I let the fear go and tap into that energy that flows through me and share it with the audience? That’s who I really am. That is the authentic me. That is me being true to myself.
Do you ever wonder why some performers are so stunning on stage that they capture the audience and mesmerize them? Have you come to the conclusion that it is their amazingly dazzling costumes? What about their flawless dance technique? Is there more to the story than you know?
In a short answer, YES.
Wanna know the secret? That’s the long answer…so here goes.
They are performing with authenticity.
That’s all. You’re welcome.
Kidding. Allow me to illustrate.
When I was a young bun head. I had the privilege of taking classes from some of the most celebrated Prima ballerinas from the Kirov Ballet in Leningrad, Russia. Gabriela Komleva and Alla Sizova. Both brilliant—in their own ways.
Alla Sizova was world-famous for her role as Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty that was aired on national television in the United States, sometime in the 60s. Her technique was flawless. She was the most brilliant technician of her time. But she didn’t really inspire me. Her gorgeous banana feet, lovely extensions and graceful arms didn’t move me. At all. Granted it was a TV appearance and some of the magic is lost in translation, but even as I took her classes 30 years later, I was uninspired.
Gabriela Komleva, however, she INSPIRED me! Her child-like demeanor in class, the twinkle in her eye, her humor, and of course her lovely technique. She was not as strong a technician as Alla, but woah her character! She lit up the room! She was the ultimate ballerina, in my eyes.
I’ll be honest. It took me awhile to figure out what the difference between the two were. They both had flawless ballet technique, lovely bodies and faces, and were so intelligent! But Gabriela moved me because of her authenticity. She was offering herself to the world. Everything she had experienced to that point, she shared with the world. Without shame, fear or guardedness. She was truly authentic and inspiring—onstage and in the classroom.
And that is what I bring to the stage. A level of authenticity that allows the audience to trust and love me, to be inspired by me, to open up and take a journey with me. It is the ultimate high I express here.
I invite you to look inside and ask yourself,
Are you being true to yourself? Onstage? Off? Is that authentic self being shared with the audience every time you hit that stage?
Comment below if you resonate with this.