In the Flow

I’m sitting on the bed, my heart pounding, and the crew guy looks at me to ask,

Are you ready?

I nod, exhale, and then am wheeled out onto a bright stage and a packed audience of over 2,000 people. The orchestra begins, and there’s no going back.

I pick up my suitcase, awash in the spotlight, and sing my solo. It’s really happening…..and all I can feel is the glory of the moment, Andrew Lloyd Weber’s score soaring as I sing, Another Suitcase in Another Hall.

The notes pour out of me, my nerves disappear, and I feel that magic of the stage, the magic of the moment, and the acknowledgement that I have made it.

I’m in the flow.

So, THIS is what it feels like…..

 

In 2005/2006 I was on the 25th Anniversary National Tour of Evita.  It was a dream come true, and my first National Tour.  The tour was overseen by Broadway icon Hal Prince and directed by the original Broadway choreographer, Larry Fuller. I understudied the mistress, and went through the tour with a smile plastered on my face.

This was a whole new level for me, and my favorite show. 

When I had the opportunity to go on for the mistress for the first time, I was very nervous.

And yet, when the bed was wheeled out at the beginning of the scene, something happened.

It’s almost as if time stood still, and I just delivered.  I sang from my heart, and stared into the lights and that huge audience.  Everything else just fell away.

I walked off the stage almost in a daze….not even fully understanding.

I was in the Flow.

 

Have you experienced this in your Creativity?

Hours go by with a new melody
Endless pages written on your latest story
A canvas coming to life
The photo shoot that you just keep seeing a new angle
The dance class where you are doing triple pirouettes with ease

It’s as if the muse just keeps whispering in your ear, and you are  saying,
YES!

All the other nonsense just falls away and you feel invincible, unstoppable, and free. What’s more, you are productive beyond your wildest dreams and getting things done!

Would you call this Creative Flow?
And what the heck would you call that moment when it all feels SO hard?

 

This week I had a really amazing conversation with a videographer who described Flow in these terms,

It’s the moment of challenge meeting repetition.

I felt like a light-bulb went off in my head when I thought of the combination of challenge and repetition.  In the case of understudying the mistress, it wasn’t just that I was performing a song I had sung TONS of times, and practiced for hours…it was the growth I was experiencing by playing a supporting role in a National Tour.  At that point in my career. this was a first.

And to do it in front of Hal Prince and Larry Fuller was an opportunity I had been waiting for.

The experience of singing was BOTH energizing and calming.  I went into Flow because I was growing and also singing a song I had been singing every day for weeks.

Now, what’s interesting, is my conversation with the videographer about Flow actually began with a whole other topic,

Focus.

And this is where the light bulb really went off.

The truth is, so many of us as Creatives are using a repetitive practice and really have no idea. The repetition comes in our practice of our art form.

The dance
The writing
The song
The brushstroke

But, here’s WHY it works….

It provides us with FULL INVOLVEMENT in what we are doing.  This doesn’t mean we are hyper-focused, but instead something far more powerful,

Single focused.

And what happens when we are single focused?  We are able to sing to a packed audience of 2,000 people and not miss a beat and actually ENJOY it.  We feel fulfilled.  We feel comfort, we feel joy and confidence.

The single focus ALLOWS us to go into Flow, and once we are there,that’s when the magic occurs.

Once in flow,  you can
1) Take risks
2) Release judgement on yourself and not worry what the audience thinks
3) Trust yourself in the moment

And when you are in flow, everyone else can FEEL it to.  You become in demand for your genius.

I can think of so many instances in my performing career where my voice was caught in my throat, or I tripped over my shoes. And now I can go back and ask,

Where was my focus?
How was I distracting myself?

I can look up at that list above and know quite clearly I wasn’t trusting myself and I was most likely in judgement of my ability. I was completely in my head worrying instead of being in my body and being FULLY INVOLVED in my performance.

It seem we can so easily distract ourselves in the process of putting our work out and trying to connect with our audience.  We so often can get off track and pulled in a million other directions, instead of staying in the repetitive practice that is actually going to get us where we want to BE.

If you are not seeing the results you want right now, ask yourself where your focus is.

Trust you don’t need the distractions, and come back to your task at hand.

Find those opportunities that allow you to bring your repetitive practice AND growth. Those opportunities that allow for your flow.

Then step into the spotlight, and sing.

Your audience is waiting to applaud.

It’s All in the Timing

The music swells, the lights dim, and every seat is filled with Tschaikovsky’s famous score.  This is the ultimate romantic fairytale, with a cast of fantastical characters…..

Sleeping Beauty

I lean forward in my red plush seat, the overture in full swing, excited for my first encounter with this famous Balanchine ballet.

And then it all stops…..and the conductor waves his baton to halt.

Let’s try that again!

Because this isn’t a normal performance….quite the opposite in fact.  Tonight, I am witnessing the final dress rehearsal of New York City Ballet’s production.

And there will be stopping.

This is bringing back memories…..

 

I’ve spent most of my adult life on stage.

Whether I was dancing or singing or acting, or doing them all at once…I often found myself in full costume under glowing lights with full makeup.

I may have been flipping my skirt in Buenos Aires, or grabbing my long cat tail in a junkyard, or singing under the sea with a glittery fin.

I’ve been up there so many times in the final dress, figuring out the spacing, the lights, my costume, and how to transfer the hard work I did in the rehearsal room to a live audience and no mirror.

Most of all…I found myself dealing with timing.

A show is like a well oiled machine, after all.  There are so many moving pieces, and they all come together for Opening Night.

They all come together to create that magic the audience experiences, and the magic I feel as an Artist.  It’s that knowing of exactly when to take each step within the story, like puzzle pieces coming together.

 

Watching the final dress of Sleeping Beauty was fascinating.  The choreography is some of the most intricate and challenging I’ve seen, and the tempos were brisk.

And not every dancer was keeping up. As it was dress rehearsal, some were still settling in, and there were missed steps.  The artistic director was on stage for most of the dress rehearsal giving notes and adjusting spacing.

So, the real question became, what was setting those dancers apart?  The ones who were on their game, and those who were struggling?

How was Aurora so poised and balanced?

Timing.

In ballet, and with Tschaikovsky’s driving score, there has to be absolute attack and understanding of what and where to place your body.

And really, how is this different than any other Artistic endeavor?

With your Art, do you know where you need to be and when?

Or are you just throwing your work out with no direction?

 

There were many moments in my career that felt like I was being stopped.  I felt held up. I would book a great show, and feel like that would get me to Broadway, and then blow a callback.  I would be in dance class and fall out of my pirouette…again.

I would witness the ease and flow of another dancer sailing through a triple turn and see quite quickly what was missing in my body…

Alignment and breath.

There was such a holding on, and pushing.  I wasn’t trusting my work and doubting.  I wasn’t trusting the hours and years I had put in, and placing my attention on the PRESENT moment.  I was too busy in the future, worried about what COULD go wrong, instead of placing all my energy in the execution of now.

So, my timing was off.

Start and Stop…..

My own inner conductor was waving his baton to say,

Let’s try that again!

A reminder to wake up and place my attention where it needed to be so I could deliver my most powerful performance and feel the fulfillment of my Art.

So, where is your attention?

What is your conductor saying to you?

Are you in the present moment of your Art or living in the failures of your past?

Perhaps that is why you keep stopping.

Your point of power is always the present moment.

So lace up your shoes, and let’s dance.