When a dancer trips...

Friday, November 30, 2012

During tonight's performance, I tripped.

Before jumping into a tour-jete, it felt as if someone had pulled the rug out from under me. I didn't fall down, but I stumbled. It felt my shoulder slump and my head look down. For one second, I was in front of hundreds of people and absolutely petrified.

When you love what you do, your body and mind can work together to pilot your struggling ship straight again. I'm wearing a beautiful white tutu with flowers; I have a crown upon my head. I am a ballerina. The effervescent, magical, powerful storyteller of the theater. The audience wants to love me. My mind did not forget the steps that came next; my body did not fail to get me right up upon my leg again. A quick port de bras and my pas de basques came large and expressive. I back on track. My smile returned.

Of course I am concerned about how I must have looked. Was the illusion lost? Did I contribute to a lower morale amongst my fellow dancers for the rest of the piece? Did my face wrench into an unpleasant expression as I flailed? Did I flail? Was I able to regain my posture decently enough?

A year or two ago, I may have been in tears. I would have been nervous and shaking. But now...here I sit in the dressing room, happy and content. I am fine. Unbelievably, I feel great.

During the last section of the piece, when all the various characters come on stage to get into the final tableau, there is a moment when I prance into my center spotlight with a series of developpes before taking my pose in preparation for the ending. I have a moment to look into the audience, my arms outstretched and my slippers gesturing out to the top rows. Tonight, as I smiled upon them with my lips and my heart, I thought I heard a loving applause. It could have been for the others, but I would like to think they were welcoming me back - telling me "It's okay. We have your back; well done. " As I floated into my final pose, I felt happier than I had been in a long time.

When a dancer trips, remember that the audience wants you to do well. To see someone get right back up and carry on with a genuine smile may be even more thrilling than the fall itself. People love stories of individuals overcoming obstacles. When you trip or fall, it's almost like a miniature drama playing out in front of them. If you return from your "fall from grace" with strength and beauty, the audience is thrilled.

Dancers are the athletes of god. You are blessed and beautiful. You enthrall and entertain with a poise and magic that no other entertainer possesses. When you fall, don't let yourself fall down a black hole of despair. You are one of the privileged, so smile and continue your magical spell. There is a good chance the audience barely noticed anyway.

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