Thursday, 23 October 2014

On trust

Hot on the heels of my previous burnt offering, I know, but it springs from the same source, more or less, and anyway I promised it to a friend of mine (hope you enjoy it, B).

What got me thinking (yes, I know; dangerous) was a chance remark after my one rehearsal for this latest jump-in.  I'd been chatting to a (fabulous) colleague about the three consecutive faints in a particular place.  All to the right, I moaned.  (I always faint to the left if I can.)  He gallantly remarked that I seemed to have gone down  like a stone, and a very professional stone at that, even dropping (as opposed to dressing) to the right.

Later, I regaled a non-singer friend with this little anecdote.  She was fascinated by the concept of fainting on tap, and asked how I did it.  I started to explain before totally drying up, realising that I honestly hadn't a clue.  I confessed this, and she asked, well how do you know you're not going to knock yourself out or break anything when you fall, then?  I had to admit, once again, that I didn't know (although I do have a decent amount of natural padding helpfully in place).  I've always just thought, right ho, faint at this point, end up roughly . . . there, rolled my eyes up and gone with it.   Same with falling, and I'm quite proud of my reputation in this respect (very amused a few years ago for my Herodias in Salome to be described as a proper stuntwoman!).

And whilst this might normally have just shimmered and popped like most thought bubbles, my mind shifted in this instance in a helpful direction.  I have no doubt at all this was due in large part to the work I'd been doing over the summer with Steven Sparling, whom I am honoured to count as a coach/mentor and friend.  I can thoroughly recommend his intelligent, directed and thoughtful coaching (in my case I availed myself of his email coaching, as we are currently based in different countries.  Particularly useful in helping artists floating several feet off the ground to find their feet in the dog-eat-dog world of actual art.  More information here.  If you're curious, it's definitely worth contacting him with a query.)  Anyway, all the work we'd been doing helped me to finally make a connection between the ease with which I crash to the stage and the panic which seizes me at times and which certainly had me intermittently in its teeth in the short preparation period I had before this performance.

I'd thought the problem was fear.  And certainly that's a component.  However, comparing stage fright with the unconcerned manner in which I always fling myself to the ground, I suddenly realised that the important thing was in fact TRUST.  In the case of stage fainting or falling, I knew from experience that the worst I'd ever ended up with was a few interesting bruises; I could therefore happily trust myself to fall into the relative abyss.  In the case of singing, it's more complicated.  Fear is present because of past bad experiences - the mental equivalent of fractured bones and exploded spinal discs - therefore panic occasionally took over.  I'd really thought the answer lay in addressing the fear.  Nope.  The fear had to be batted to one side in order to actually do the necessary groundwork, yes.  Without the endless practice, the permanent word-mutterings, the DOING of the homework, panic is going to win.  I'd done it, though.  I'd practised and muttered and incanted and generally been given a very wide berth on public transport.  What I realised in that great moment when I lined up the falling and the wider aspect of performing was that the precise quality required in the moment was trust.  I had to simply take a deep breath, square my shoulders (there's an absolutely fascinating TED talk regarding this question of posture here) and trust myself to do whatever it was I needed to do.

One of those realisations that's probably gone through most people's mind before mine made the connection, but it was an epiphany for me, and I really hope that someone else might read this at the right time and benefit from it!

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