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.

Order Switch

NikiCity_020

Wait, there has to be a mistake….I didn’t hear my name called.

I stood catching my breath, after just nailing the dance combination and singing my heart out at the callbacks for the National Broadway Tour of A Chorus Line.

And this wasn’t the first time I had been in.  I had been called back for the Broadway production, and was invited in by casting for the Tour.

I had done everything the same.  I sang the same song, I knew the choreography forwards and backwards.  I wore the same outfit, and I had nailed the infamously hard pirouette sequence.

So, why was I cut?

I just gave the performance of my life.
Was it not enough?

As I watched other friends and peers stay for the next round, I found myself blinking back tears, lowering my eyes as they started to sting.

I didn’t want to be seen like this.

As quickly as I could, I made my way to the dressing room, and changed out of my sweaty leotard and tights, and around me other dancers who were cut were voicing their disbelief and denial,

Why did I even come today?
I totally messed up the dance!
They weren’t even looking at me.
The show must already be cast.
Well, back to the day job.

And as I stuffed my leotard and feelings into my backpack, so many emotions rose in my throat, choking me off.  I was both angry and deeply confused.

I had thought for sure after being in callbacks for Broadway, I would book the Tour.

I was wrong, and I never did the show, and casting actually never called me back in.  I went from being seriously considered to no longer considered.

Just like that.

 

It’s Maddening, isn’t it?

You spend hours, days, weeks, years on your Creative Process and building your craft.  You put your heart and soul into your work and then you stand up, put it out there for your audience, and say,

HERE I AM!

You are giving your all, full of energy, hands open, eyes open, just waiting for approval, waiting for validation.

And what do you hear?

Next!
Nope!

Or even worse….crickets.

It feels completely unfair, doesn’t it?
It feels completely unbalanced.

You are giving so much.  Why isn’t it being returned?

 

Integrative Therapist and Coach Tom Tynan breaks down the world into two types:

The Givers and the Takers.

It’s pretty much exactly as you would imagine, the Givers always give first in order to receive, and the Takers take first in order to give.

So, what commonly happens?

Well, the Givers become exhausted.  They go through endless roller coasters of feeling good when they give, and then burning out when they are not recharged.  Basically, they give until they are empty.

Sound familiar?
What category would you put yourself in?

How many times have you given endlessly with your Creative work and saw no return?
Do you then feel motivated to try again?

So, what’s the answer in this cycle, since as Creatives, we so desperately want to give?

What do we do in that moment of crying out,
PICK ME PICK ME!

We need to learn how to RECEIVE.

I recently asked a writer in my tribe what it means to “Receive as an Artist”, and he couldn’t answer.

Bingo.

I know I never had an acting, dance or singing teacher give me tools or any teaching around receiving. In truth, it was a completely foreign word in my performance career. I kept viewing it all through what I had to give.

And even more so, we need to reverse the process so we don’t burn out as Artists, which means we need to Receive FIRST, and then GIVE.

So, what does this mean for you and your process?

There are two elements here to consider,

1) Having the quiet space before we go into action and into our work to actually receive our creative inspiration
2) Being able to receive what we are actually given by our audience, whether they are people hiring us or taking in our art.  Our audience is directly tied to our livelihood as Artists.

For that former dancer who was so heartbroken and frustrated at the Chorus Line callback, I didn’t have any kind of daily practice to recharge. I was pretty much operating on two extremes,

On and Off
Highs and Lows

Now I start my day with meditation, have a daily gratitude practice, and go to yoga weekly. I now have a way to open to receive BEFORE the action, to calm my monkey mind, a place of quiet.

And this may be different for you, but ask yourself, how do you recharge? And I don’t mean, distract. I’m not talking about binge watching Netflix or disappearing into social media for hours. This isn’t about escape, but about nourishing your Creative Being.

The powerful question is, how do you fill your Creative cup back up so you feel inspired?

Because the magic is, when we are able to recharge and fill our own cup, then we have the capacity to receive the rejection or being cut or experience the disappointment and use it as information.

Information instead of judgement.
Evidence to continue, instead of give up.

For whatever reason, the creative team behind A Chorus Line decided I wasn’t right for their show, and if I had these tools at that time, I could have taken a step back and known this was not a reflection on my ability.

But it was a reflection that I was burned out. And it was information to move on to the next opportunity and the next creative team who would value my talent.

We can so commonly get caught in the belief that we are not enough, that our work is not enough, but for all you givers out there, I have a gift instead:

Receive first, and then Give with your Creativity.

And ask yourself the simple question,
How AM I enough as an Artist?

Next time you find yourself caught in the frustration and feeling like no one cares,  make a list of how you are enough.  When you phrase the question this way, it can only be positive.

Because it’s from that place of knowing what you actually bring to the table, that your greatest work will occur.