01 March, 2015

Tips for first time performers!

Performing in front of an audience for the first time as an adult can be scary. Many of your peers may be ex-dancers, or gymnasts, who have had many years of performance experience. This in itself can be intimidating, but fear not! You can do this....

You will zone out.

It's likely that you will zone out completely and turn in to a routine robot. You will barely register the audience. You will rush through your routine forgetting to hold things. You won't even look at the audience or smile, from fear and concentration. This is normal. And it gets better every single time you perform. You may recall one of my earlier posts where I talked about how I suddenly became more lucid the last time I performed. Be fair to yourself - it is your first time performing! You are going to be messy, you are going to make mistakes, you are going to rush through. It's okay!

You will make mistakes.

There isn't a single performer who hasn't made a mistake when performing. Your audience doesn't know your routine and won't even notice if you miss a move out or do something wrong. One of the first times I performed I definitely stumbled but everyone said they didn't even notice. Most recently there was water around the bottom of the pole, SERIOUUUUSLLLYYY, and I nearly fell over. I can see that moment every time I watch the video but NO ONE noticed. I also very often forget where I am, finish my routine early or end up missing out whole sections. Again - no one ever really notices. No one knows my routine after all. I've also dropped more hula hoops than I can count - grab them and keep on going! I performed onstage with the Funkinstein's at a festival last summer and I most definitely hit the bassist with my hoop....and we all just laughed it off afterwards. We're all human.

Sometimes audiences are silent, sometimes they cheer and shout. It's definitely easier if they make a noise. I feel uncomfortable when its silent. But it doesn't mean they haven't enjoyed it. No one has ever come up to me with negative feedback after a routine. Everyone ALWAYS says how amazing I was, even when I know I can do better. Fact is, even at this level, what we do is amazing and few others can do it. I always feel filled with complete pride and joy when watching students perform. They ALL have amazing strengths and I tend to focus my eyes to that, even if overall their routine is messy or they looked nervous or they paused for a second and looked confused. I'm just so happy they found the confidence to get up there and do it.

Also no one says this but it's actually harder to perform for people you know, or fellow pole/aerial hoop/hula hoopers. You can almost feeeel the judgement roll off the crowd, even when there is none. As I said above; everyone will think you're amazing regardless and a crowd of your peers is likely to cheer you on when something goes wrong. But still I usually feel happier performing for complete strangers and members of the public! You may be the reverse of this. But it's an interesting point.

  • Always warm up properly beforehand and stretch afterwards. It's so easy to forget to do when you're nervous or riding that post-performance adrenaline high but damn you will regret it the next day if you don't!
  • Do dress rehearsals. Tape everything down. EVERYTHING!!! This becomes more important if you're performing in a competition as you can often be disqualified or marked down for flashing. But also know that we've all flashed the audience at some point and it's not the end of the world. We all have naked bodies and no one actually really cares.
  • Hold your moves. Figure out how long to hold each move and actually count the seconds in your head when performing. A millisecond seems like a life time when you're performing but it won't be the same for your audience.
  • Try and fully extend every move. Messy arms and legs are the most common issue with amateur performers. Taking some ballet classes really helped me. My hand and arm positions still aren't always flawless but they're a million miles better.
  • KEEP MOVING. No matter what. Even if you do the same move 10 times it is better than walking off mid-performance. Your audience doesn't know your routine. Just keep moving until you find your place again. 
  • I ALWAYS have an extra combination of moves I can add on the end if I accidentally finish early. And I, more often than not, do. Again keep moving, even if you finish early and the music is still playing.
  • Try and give eye contact to the audience, try and smile. It likely won't happen the first time you perform but that's okay!
  • If you're doing a group routine keep an eye on the other performers. It will help with your timing and help if you get lost.
  • Get someone to film your routine. It is NEVER as bad as you think. Pick out the bits you did well and pat yourself on the back. Did you ace a move you were worried about? Did you managed to not forget a single move? Did you just get through the routine? What did you do that was good for you?
  • Reflect. If you want to keep performing then you need to reflect not only on the good but also the bad. What needs work? What can you fix for next time? Every time I perform I pick up on one new thing to focus on for next time. Don't overload yourself with trying to fix everything all at once. One of the first things for me was being neater overall (holding moves longer, extending properly, neater lines, straighter legs). My most recent goals was to be more passionate, to loosen up. And my goal now? To smile more, to give eye contact to the audience, to own the stage! Take it bit by bit.
And remember, above all - HAVE FUN!
No matter how good a job you do or how much the audience loved it - you will still pick apart what you did and notice things that went wrong. There is no such thing as a completely flawless routine. NONE AT ALL. Be fair to yourself!

- Bex