Connecting with the Audience
As a performer, you’ve probably heard of the “X Factor.” No, I’m not talking about the TV show. I’m talking about the essence of a performer that cannot be explained or quantified. The “It” or “je ne se quoi” quality of that one performer that you cannot take your eyes off of when they perform. Even when they are in a group. Even if they are not even moving. They could just stand there and make you lean in, hanging on the edge of your seat for what they will do next.
I happen to believe that it can be taught and learned.
It is the focus of my performance coaching series and program that I offer here.
I can’t remember a time when I performed onstage and didn’t break that fourth wall or felt so alive and high that nothing else mattered. I must have been very young when I figured it out—my own personal X Factor.
The je ne se quoi of my personal performances and even class work in the early days, couldn’t be quantified. Maybe with scholarships and competitions I won, but a lot of people who were watching really had no idea how to articulate just what was happening when I was onstage. It was like magic.
While training and know how is very important in the dance world and theatrical arts, it can only get you so far. Especially if you spend too much headspace and energy stuck there. What I mean by that is if you are too worried about execution of choreography—sticking that turn, holding that pose or making that jump higher, you have less space to allow your it to show through.
It can be one of the hardest things to master, though it doesn’t take mastery at all.
It takes authenticity.
Being true to yourself, being real, takes courage. Courage to allow the world a peek into the real you. The you that sings at the top of your lungs in the shower or dances naked in front of the mirror when you are alone. That is the real, true, authentic you. The you that sometimes gets hidden from the world for whatever reason or another. The you that wants to have fun and be free to be you. That is who you really are and that you should bring with you to the stage to share with the audience.
That is also an important point—sharing with the audience. They paid to come see you! They want to be transported, transformed, communicated with and moved. They want to be entertained! That is what it means to entertain. Each performer has a different way of doing it, but in the end, the memorable ones are the ones that show up, pour their heart and soul on that stage and then graciously leave the audience in appreciation of having experienced their art.
I have watched performers of various performance backgrounds, and I have concluded that many of them struggle with getting out of their head and into their hearts. I see them either calculating every single movement and failing to breech that fourth wall, or desperately trying to break the fourth wall by performing every trick their bodies can manage in their allotted time onstage, but not taking off their guarded mask that protects them and their hearts from being trampled.
To me, that’s the difference between a dancer and an artist. The dancer is so worried about the execution of the choreography and if every little aspect of their technique is perfect that they fail to connect to their it and really move the audience in a way that only an artist can do.
An artist connects with themselves on a deep level and prepares a vibe to carry onstage with them to then connect with their audience. If you are afraid of that audience, you cannot connect with them and neither of you will leave satisfied.
At least, that has been my experience.
I recently performed in a show and was surprised at my lack of connection to the audience. What I did was freak myself out before I went onstage, left my confidence backstage and went onstage without my true self. My performance felt lackluster to me and that I had failed to do my role in the process of connecting with and entertaining the audience. Yeah, even I have my bad days.
It truly is a process. It is not just a fly by the seat of your pants experience—just going out there, throwing it all on the stage and hoping the audience liked it.
It is a process, a craft, an art.
You need to ease into it and enjoy the entire journey from putting on your face, warming up, getting into costume, breathing into you, and preparing your entire self—soul and body to walk out onto the stage. It is the journey that you want to enjoy, not the destination.
When was the last time you opened your heart to the audience? Showed up in a way that made you feel vulnerable or invincible? That is true connection. When you can let go and just be on that stage as the amazing performer that you are.
Please share your experiences below. If you would like to work with me to tap into your it factor, you can find out more about my programs here.
Until next time!
Athena, aka Gazella