Sunday, November 29, 2009

Protecting Your Performance

Sunday musings...

How are you protecting your performance?

If you have to ask me what I mean, then perhaps you aren't!

For those of you who are working in repertoire, or 8 (or more) shows a week, to those of you auditioning, giving a recital - whatever the performance - how do you protect it?

What are you doing to give yourself the physical and psychological space to prepare for that performance?

There is no such thing as "selfish" when it comes to protecting your performance! Selfish - for self - is NECESSARY, not negative. It is crucial to your well-being to create a space around you in every way in order to prepare, focus, get still, and deliver what you there to do.

Protecting your performance takes practice too. You have to learn what YOU need to make sure that performance comes off ideally. You have to be RUTHLESS about how you protect that performance. Compromise is not part of the equation here. Others don't need to get it - they aren't doing YOUR work. Only YOU can decide what makes you comfortable, and that decision has to be strong.

You do not need to apologize for taking the physical and psychological space and time needed to prepare. You don't need to explain it either. You take it. It is your performance.

Having stillness to focus and prepare is crucial to a solid performance. You have a job to do. Focusing on what you need to do is necessary - it is not assumed. We must SEE what we need to do - we must walk ourselves through it literally and figuratively. We have to visualize what we are going to do, in order for it to happen! As any athlete, we must focus on the task, the execution and the success of that task. We cannot find true focus if there is distraction around us - in ANY way.

If your family/friends don't understand, you need to tell them what you need. If they still don't understand, it doesn't matter. They either respect your boundaries or they don't. You must stand firm about your space. They'll get over it. It is not your responsibility to make sure the people around you get it; it is your responsibility to deliver a solid performance!!

We all develop a certain ritual the day of performance. This comes with experience, and it comes from knowing what we need. Take your preparation and your artistry seriously enough to discover these needs. They are CRUCIAL to your execution of performance! This is often what separates superior performances from the mediocre.

Create your ritual; determine it; fine-tune it; claim it; do not compromise it; Compromising your ritual of protection will compromise your performance. Your performance is the goal. To achieve it successfully, means protecting it viciously!!!

Protecting your performance requires uncompromising focus. It requires you to truly understand what you need and take that without apology. It requires the mental, spiritual and physical commitment to the task at hand. FEED your spirit, your body and your soul so your performance is FULL. If it doesn't feed you, it takes from you. Anything that takes away from your preparation is in the way, and must be set aside.

Get rid of anything that distracts you. Or anyONE. You can deal with things and people AFTER the performance. They aren't going anywhere! It will all be there when you are done.

If you learn to respect your performance rituals and live them, then others will begin to recognize where they are welcome and when. A superior performance requires focus and no distractions. Create your space in order for those distractions to be minimal or non-existent.

We learn how to protect our performance by doing. You will learn by paying attention to what you need, and when you KNOW you will DO. Trust that. Trust yourself. You owe no explanations to anyone, but owe to yourself and your audience the best performance you can give. Protecting that is worth it.

Find your stillness, your focus, your quiet time; find your solitude, your energy, your regeneration; create your boundaries and stay firm in them; find your rituals and stay true to them. Your performance DEMANDS it.

edited to add this: YOU are an athlete! Don't misunderstand my use of "stillness" - stillness is about YOUR SPACE and YOUR CORE. If literally being still is necessary, do it!! If you have to DO something - cardio, yoga, pilates, a run, hitting a ball - whatever you need to blow out the energy and find stillness and focus - YOU DO IT! Just don't let OTHERS dictate your needs - only YOU can do that.


  1. Thanks for this, Susan. I was contemplating this as I prepare for an audition tomorrow. Sometimes I am so haphazard about things, and I get away with it in a "fake it till you make it" kind of way. It's good, but it's not what it could be.

  2. I actually find that if pre-performance ritual includes stillness and focusing, I wind up getting more nervous during the performance. I prefer to work out, do some errands (nothing that will wipe me out, but simple things, maybe some shopping), and right before the performance, move around. Fortunately, my cabaret partner is the same way. We joke that our pre-performance prep in the green room consists of hopping. But that's me. And I give those people who need space their space. I do spend some time mentally going over my music (usually while walking the dogs or in the shower). But when it comes right down to it, I need to hop!

  3. Christine - but that IS your space. Stillness isn't necessarily literally "still"!!! Stillness is the centre of you and what it needs - calm by revving, calm by breathing, calm by yoga or working out or hopping!!

    You are claiming your athleticism through athletic activity...amen!

  4. p.s. - I edited to add this clarification to the blog entry!!!

  5. Thank you. I've always felt like I'm expected to sit in a corner and be quiet, and if I spun or hopped, I was considered frivolous. So once I was doing a competition, and I thought, "perhaps I'll try this quiet/meditation stuff," and I wound up staying in a monastery that rented rooms to the public (note: it was also because it was $33/night). I walked the labyrinth. I went to a centering service. I read contemplative texts.

    I was never so nervous in my whole life when I stepped on that stage. It was the worst performance of my life because I had not released the crazies before my performance and they descended on me as I enterd the room. Never again! Back to hopping!

    (I think I have a topic for MY blog as well...)

  6. Yes Christine!!! And get the people out of your way so you CAN hop. Nobody needs to be there distracting you! Protecting your performance means doing what YOU need with no distraction or irritation!