"I can't perform...

Updated: Nov 8, 2018

...because I'm not good enough; because I haven't taken enough classes; because no one wants to see beginner moves; because I don't want to." The only valid excuse here is if you don't want to. That's it! Performing is for everyone from beginners to masters in aerial acrobatics.

Let me start by saying I have seen technically immaculate performances with insane, death-defying tricks that have made no impact on me at all. I have also seen pieces of only wiggling on the floor that made me cry and impacted me for days. What is the magic thing that separates the phenomenal from the flat? Stage presence.

Obviously, you must be able to get into your apparatus and perform some tricks in order to have a piece to perform. This doesn't mean that these must be crazy-hard or even that you do them correctly because they audience doesn't know or care*. They're just excited your feet are off the ground.

*This is a different story if you're entering a competition with judges.

I'll give you an example: Sara can't invert/straddle to get into a lyra, but she wants to perform. She decides to use her go-to Angel Entrance. It doesn't require a full straddle, she can simply jump off one leg to hook the other on the bottom rung and climb up. Sara's piece is dramatic, with beginning choreography on the floor. She starts in a heap and slowly rises, looking miserable. She grabs the lyra with one hand and sinks down. It looks as though she's too weak to support herself with legs alone. Suddenly she stands straight, grips with both hands, makes direct eye contact with the audience, and jumps to hook one leg. She stays there, perfectly still with her knee hooked, then slowly reaches for the ground with one hand. Her expression screams pain. She climbs up the side of the lyra slowly and deliberately. As her hands reach the top, her head rolls back and chest arches to the sky. The audience is hooked.

Here's where most people begin debating... "but you shouldn't jump," "but that's promoting bad technique," "but what if she misses"... all very valid. Let's address these.

First, there's nothing wrong with jumping, especially if it's part of the dynamics of your piece. I allow my beginner students a small jump when focusing on choreography, because there's no point in coming to an aerial class if you're not allowed into the apparatus. That being said, it's important for us to work towards entrances without jumping because we want to have the strength to create a range of performances (and also not injure ourselves as we continue to try more challenging choreography). That's what our conditioning exercises are for and why we continually train them both in warm ups and during class.

Second, the stage is not a classroom. In the classroom, you don't cater only to your strengths and you don't forget about it and keep going if you make a mistake. You cater to your weaknesses, your goals, your passions, as well as your strengths. You note your mistakes, figure out what happened, then try again. You practice correct technique again and again. You push and condition and train so that when you are on stage, you're the best version you can be.

Third, GO WITH IT! If you're on stage and you miss, fall out, forget what you're doing, whatever - just go with it! On stage, the majority of the audience doesn't know the difference between an Angel Entrance and a pullover. They don't know you shouldn't put your toes on the bar to get your butt up. They don't even know you shouldn't have fallen out! One of my students just performed an alien piece for Halloween. At one point she fell out of a move onto the floor but she made it look so purposeful that I had no idea if it was choreographed. And I'm her teacher! If you do something with confidence, the audience thinks it was on purpose (admittedly, falling out is hard to do with confidence but it can be done!).

This isn't necessarily for solo performances only. An audience doesn't know when a group is supposed to be in sync and when they're doing separate things. Just keep character and get yourself back into the choreography.

So, how do you improve your stage presence? Check out my next blog for tips.

Ultimately, performing is for you. If the thought makes you want to hide down a hole, performing may not be your thing. That's okay. But, if you've caught the aerial bug and you can't wait to see yourself up on that stage, don't limit yourself simply because you're new. Talk to your teachers and come up with choreography suited to your strengths.

Happy flying!

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