The Secret to Raving Fans

Have you ever wondered what the REAL secret is with having raving fans?

Have you ever seen people absolutely foaming at the mouth for the next piece of art from their favorite Artist and questioned,
How come that’s not happening to me?

These audiences are lining up around the block for the next,
Bruno Mars concert ticket
Game of Thrones book
Hamilton Broadway ticket
Entrance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Louvre
Release of the latest Harry Potter….

You scratch your head as you look at another lukewarm reception to your latest release, or random clapping to your performance and go,
WHAT the HECK?!

How do Artists have these massive followings on Instagram?
How do Artists sell out their concerts?
How do Artists get top dollar for their original work?
How do Artists make it to the NY Times Bestseller List?

Because, at the root of the question is,
I’m working so hard, why isn’t this happening for ME?

Super frustrating, right?

I hear you.  I felt the same way.  I was killing myself with dance classes, voice lessons, meeting casting directors, having perfect head shots and eye-catching audition outfits…and yet I hit a ceiling.

My talent was not reflecting my audience.  There was a disconnect.  For my level, I should have been CHOOSING between different Broadway shows….and yet, I couldn’t make it past final callbacks to even book ONE.

Have you ever felt this?
What do we do in this moment?

How do we turn it around and truly receive the acclaim we desire?

How does our effort and talent actually equate to a thriving career and raving fans that support, cherish and love us?

 

This past weekend I went to see one of my closest friends, Lisa, present her MFA Thesis project at Martha Graham Studios.  The culmination of two years of work, I couldn’t wait.

Lisa is one of the top jazz teachers in NYC, and I take her class weekly.  She’s a real anomaly in the dance world, as she specializes in technical jazz.  So much of the classical jazz form in dance has been watered down, and Lisa has really stayed more true to the art, keeping it very technical and clean.  It’s solid, and I always leave sweating, strong, and smiling. And I’m never alone….

She has a packed class every week.  She has students that come back, regulars who have been taking her for years, and because of her class they are booking company work and theater gigs. We are FANS, plain and simple.

So, it’s no surprise to know that when Lisa’s MFA Thesis performance piece was over, the whole audience leapt to their feet, shouting and screaming.  The dancers were glowing, Lisa was beaming, and we all felt fabulous.

But Lisa was not the only choreographer to present her work that night.  She was actually second, and the first performance was beyond painful.

I actually wanted to walk out.

How can this be possible?
Two choreographers going through the same program, and yet one created a desire to leave, and the other had me on my feet ready for more?

And it all comes down to ONE thing:
Connection.

On the first piece, the choreographer (who also danced in the piece) was literally having a temper tantrum on stage.  At one point she was gasping and screaming in circles on the ground, and all I could think was,
Do you care I am here?

What was Missing?
CONNECTION TO THE AUDIENCE.

I felt completely disconnected watching her piece.  I felt completely in the dark about what was really going on, but most of all, I felt she didn’t CARE whether or not I was involved.

And I was not alone.  When her piece awkwardly ended, there was barely any clapping.  Hands barely met, as I imagine everyone was confused.

Will I return to see this choreographer’s work again?
No.

Will the rest of the audience?
I doubt it.

Why?
We were not included in the performance.
We were on the outside.

Her piece was purely about her, her rage, and her pain.  It literally was akin to a two year old having a tantrum to say, ME ME ME!  As a new choreographer, she made a mistake I see Artists of all ages make again and again,
they FORGET to include their audience.
They forget about the WE.

Because honestly, there is no Artist without an Audience, and there is no Audience without an Artist.  It’s a relationship. It goes TWO ways.

So, why did Lisa’s piece receive a standing ovation?
We were included.  Energetically, physically, in every way…..and that translates to raving fans.

And trust me, I GET the desire to express rage.  In fact, some of the most powerful work happening right now is dealing with very dark issues, like depression, inequality, racism, and bullying.

Dear Evan Hansen, speaking into bullying, is THE top ticket on Broadway right now, and it’s extremely dark….but the difference comes in the HOW. The difference comes in YOUR intention.

The writers of Dear Evan Hansen are looking to raise awareness around this topic, they are looking to ENGAGE the audience, and ask powerful questions so that they then go into the world and make new choices.

People leave inspired, not shut down.

Because, let’s be honest……we don’t need more isolation.

We don’t need more messages telling us we are alone, no one cares, and we don’t matter.  People, YOUR AUDIENCE is starving for connection.  In a world where communication seems to mostly happen electronically, where we find out our friends challenges through a social media platform, where the next generation has lost the ability to have a face to face conversation when they are scared…..

Art matters.
Art is a catalyst.

It allows our audience to access their emotions in a way nothing else does.

So, take a moment and ask yourself:
Are you connecting with your Audience?
Are you including them in your Work?
Are you engaging with them?

And most of all…what is your INTENTION?

Is it to connect or isolate?

 

Be clear on WHY you are creating in the first place.  If you are receiving lukewarm applause, come back to center, and back to square one.

Come out of isolation.

Set your intention to connect and include them.  Engage with them, and learn what they NEED.  Learn what they WANT, and then partner together.

This is a relationship.  Cultivate it with love and mutual understanding.

They come to you starved, feed them, and in doing so, feed yourself.

Open the loop and let them in.

The Artistic Middle

Do you ever feel torn between your life and your Art?

Do you feel like they can’t exist together?

There are so many demands on us today, and we want to be present for it all.
Family
Friends
Our living spaces….

We can look at a day, and feel so overwhelmed,
Grocery shopping
Laundry
Class
Day job
Email
Doctors appointments

And then there is all that is necessary to be relevant today as an Artist:
Website
Social Media
Crowdfunding
Marketing
Networking
Fan/Client Service
Email Campaigns

I imagine your head is spinning!

Where in the midst of ALL of this, do we have the space for our PROCESS?
Our love and artistic flow?
Where do we get to play?

 

This week was a massive shift for me.  After 19 1/2 years of living in New York City, I moved down to the Jersey Shore, in with my man.

From apartment to house.
From subways to cars.
From urban energy to the suburbs.

And all of this fit into a 10 foot UHaul.

Even with rain last Sunday, the move could not have gone more smoothly.  We had friends helping with loading and unloading on both ends, and my mother flew up bringing all of her decades of experience and genius from moving my family almost 20 times.

I gave myself absolute permission to feel everything that arose with the move, and most of my close friends reflected back to me what I felt deeply with every ounce of my being,

This is a BIG move.

While packing and the days leading up to the big day, I felt sadness and grief, leaving my home, and most of all, leaving the safe sanctuary in Astoria that had given me a haven while I healed from the most traumatic year of my life in 2013.

It was time to leave the cocoon.

Once the UHaul was packed, I asked for some quiet time in my sanctuary and lit Paulo Santo wood.  As the smoke wafted into the air, I walked around the 300 square feet, watching it rise and twist, and all that passed my lips was simply,

Thank you
Thank you

I sat down in the bedroom in a dark corner, and tears fell down my face, as I thanked every wall for holding me these past 4 1/2 years.

And then, I rose from the ground, took a bow, and walked out of my apartment for the last time…..

My man drove the UHaul, and my mother and I drove his car down to the house, down to my new house. As I drove along the NJ Parkway, I felt like I was in shock.  I felt like I was in the twilight zone.

The city in my rear view mirror, it felt so far away.

There was city Nikól.
And now I was driving towards suburb Nikól.

How was this going to work?
I felt so torn….

I felt like I was leaving city Nikól behind, and even that I would have to give her up.

 

Have you ever felt like this?
Torn between the passionate Artist you are and the person who is living a “normal”life?

Two days ago we dropped my mother off at LaGuardia airport in NYC, and then my man drove me to the Upper West Side to my favorite Wednesday night activity,

Advanced jazz at Steps on Broadway, taught by Lisa Harvie.

My man has never seen me dance live, as we met after my 20 professional career, so this was a big moment for me.

Class was packed and so many of my dancer friends came clamoring to the door to meet him, eyes lit up, knowing how special he is to me, and having appreciation for the journey I have been on.

As the music began, and my arms stretched to the ceiling, I started to realize something very surprising…

The class didn’t feel different.
The class felt the same.
I danced the same…..

My dancing actually didn’t change because I now lived outside the city. In fact, it was just as strong as before, and was especially boosted as I turned and leapt for my man.

His face was beaming.

But, the real lesson was how I FELT.

Perhaps city Nikól and suburb Nikól are the same.
Perhaps they have always co-existed.

The separation was all in my mind.

And perhaps, this is just part of the journey for me.

It was necessary for me to grieve in the leaving of the city.  Last week when I took Lisa’s class, I felt panic inside.  And this week, I felt calm and peace.

I needed to approach my dance from the other side, to see it’s all connected.
From NYC to Jersey.
From Jersey to NYC.

All the same.

Meeting in the middle, where my dancing lives, regardless of where I am.

 

So, where is your middle in your life?

What have you decided has to be separate?

What parts of you have you been keeping quiet, or shutting down thinking they can’t co-exist in your “normal” life?

This may be one of the largest mistakes I see Artists make, and trust me, I did it ALL the time when I was performing.

I thought I was keeping things neat and tidy, safe and secure….but in truth, I was cutting off pieces of myself and that directly showed up in my Art and career.

And for us as Artists, being whole and integrated is one of the MOST important things we can place our energy on.

Why?

Because our Art IS an expression of our lives.

Our Art comes from within.

This is why there can be a room full of painters with one subject and you will see completely different paintings.

Why 20 singers can walk into a room with the same song, and your experience as an audience member is completely different.

Why the Brooklyn Bridge has come alive through the lens of thousands of photographers, each one different in its use of light, angle, and frame.

And if our inner life is in complete turmoil and separation…..this will translate in ALL areas of our lives, not just your art, but in your relationships as well.

How you do one thing is how you do everything.

It’s all connected.

So, bring all of you to your Art.
Find the support you need to bring your life into balance.

You, the Artist and your Normal Life coming together.
We just got confused thinking they were mutually exclusive.

 

It’s all there inside.

Find your middle; the place where your Art lives regardless of where you are.

 

 

Photography: Caitlin Cannon Photography