“Remember Me” with Parsons Dance at the Joyce – Lady Gaga step aside.
Backstage in the dressing room of the Joyce, I tediously and ritualistically applied my makeup entirely too early. I literally did it as slow and methodically as humanly possible just so I didn’t have ions of time before curtain to psych myself out. My hair had about a full 20 minutes of unnecessary maintenance time. All the teasing and spraying was putting the girls from Jersey Shore to shame. Then I put on my costume just-so right before I covered up with layers of warm ups and headed for the stage during half-hour call. After going through some last-minute partnering details, there was nothing more I could do; rehearsal was over. Now it was just between me, the music, my partners, and the stage. All the hours of rehearsal seemed to culminate during these select performances. I couldn’t help but feel entirely energized and slightly nervous for my first performance of Remember Me. It was marking my debut with Parsons Dance and felt like somewhat of an audition to see if my efforts and talent in the studio adequately translated to performance. As an understudy, I had never danced the piece with lights or an audience and it was my second time dancing with the full company on the stage. Crazy fun! I was grateful to be nervous. There have been times recently where performing onstage felt like another day, and to be nervous reminded me of how important dance remained to me. Then the cool breeze from the house rushed in as the curtain lifted and the music began. I thought with my first steps, “No stopping now. What ever you do is right. Enjoy the ride. Have fun. Be a rock star.”
Performing is somewhat of a mind game. Remember Me was still fresh in my body. More than the movements themselves (which trust me still need improving), what seemed the most unfamiliar was simply being in the space with the other performers. It was no longer me, in the studio, executing the movements solo. Now there were 10 other dancers on stage, slightly disorienting lights, and an audience including my friends and family watching. I swear I thought I could hear my mini fan club chatting about me from the front rows. Gosh this could be terrifying or thrilling! One reason I crave dance is for the rush and high of live performance, so go figure, the performance-junkie chose the latter.
I would be lying entirely if I claimed to have no judgmental thoughts in the midst of my two performances at the Joyce. These were not performances of complete glorious abandon, taken over by movement, music, and character. Dispersed between moments of divine abdication were contrasting moments of vicious counting to stay on time, extensive use of my periphery to make sure I wasn’t crash-carting another dancer, fleeting last minute-corrections and partnering techniques, and thoughts of “damn this is so fun,” all whipping past my mind. Also, I cannot be more gracious to all the fabulously talented performers who literally rooted and egged me on from start to finish. Their endless encouragement and energy carried me through all the curve balls of live performance. Did some moments work out better in the studio? Absolutely. Did a new energy and aliveness come through the movements? Of course. Regardless of what happened on stage and my judgments on it, at bow someone could have told me I just one a million dollars because that was exactly how I felt – or at least how I imagine I would feel because the jackpot has definitely yet to come my way. Rock star moment – check! I was totally Lady Gaga at the Grammy’s (or perhaps Lindsay Vonn on the gold medal podium)!
I’d like to give myself the luxury of saying abandoned performances completely devoid of judgmental thoughts come with time and being comfortable within the material. However, I don’t believe this to be true. As a professional, a majority of your performances occur under-rehearsed, without the luxury of time. Fresh material can serve as a gateway to a purely present performance. You choose to be either daunted and distracted or elated and in the zone. Despite however foreign the material is, your mind, body, and spirit are the tools you have and can rely on – they are not unfamiliar.
Some of my most liberating and transcending performances have been those where my mind goes quiet; there is no other concern in the world beside the existence of the present moment. My endless goal is to achieve this presence as much as possible when dancing – be it studio or stage.
I have one more final crack at Remember Me in Park City, Utah where I fully intend to question this process of performing and the mental focus necessary to Just Dance Gaga-stlye.