Updated: Mar 30, 2020
Well, I knew I'd start off this blogging thing with a blaze, then real life and rehearsals and starting a new job (well sorta) all began and here we are, almost two weeks without a new post. And at this moment in time, I'm home after 5 hours of rehearsal, 2 hours of yoga, a shower, the 3rd period of the Capitals game later... knowing if I don't get writing, I'll put it off another day and I have so many things I want to write about... so here goes!
IT IS SHOW WEEK! For dancers and performers, you know what this means... extra rehearsals, extra sweaty bodies, last minute costume/shoe fixes and purchases, It means an attempt at eating enough to fuel the week while also improving the body we already spend all our time freaking out over... and pray it gets better in a week *eye roll* however unrealistic and unnecessarily cruel it is to ourselves, we still try. And if you hear that people don't, they are lying.
It is the time we are hyper critical of our bodies, our technique, and suddenly get self conscious about what we have to offer... for no reason. We increase rehearsals, musicians begin to join rehearsals... everyone adjusting the tempo and sound differences... theater days can last... well as long as the theater allows. This week, for example: Thursday will be a minimum of a 10 hour day, with Friday looking the same PLUS the opening show. Saturday (this weekend anyway) there is only an evening show, so unless things go massively wrong, we have the morning to ourselves before returning to the theater early. It is also the time when the director does one of two things, panics or panics. Hahaha, no not really but it is crunch time (even if everything is done and "set") last minute additions or shifts in choreography happen. Costumers bring in their product and they need massive reworking after measurement issues ensue or they (believe it or not) realize the fabric doesn't fall the same way on the petit dancer as it does the busty girl... *cue another eye roll* Comments from marketing team and the director increase: "Dancers, please do your part in spreading word about the show..." (also known as, do extra marketing without seeming desperate... when the truth is, tickets are selling pretty well.) Not to mention this day in age, most people (especially young audiences) don't buy tickets in advance... unless demand is high... so it isn't even necessary to fret. So far I'm sure I'm leaving the BEST impression of what show week is like.
Truth is, show week is an emotional and physical rollercoaster. And dancers, we LIVE for this shit. I mean all our blood, sweat, tears, scars, and training come down to show week. We get weirdly superstitious about our rituals, how we warm up, what we put in our bodies, what other cross training comes into play (or shifts out to preserve the body). Seriously, it is a little sickening to admit... speaking for myself: I try not to change my eating too much from week previous to know what I feel like (granted I did NOT do that this time... and I'm kinda freaking out). I'm into long HOT showers after long rehearsals or epson salt baths for my muscles. (Not that I care this much about my self love and body care at other times - but it is something I'm working on). I find myself painting my nails the week or two before the show so as not to bite them off entirely in stress. I begin to second guess my abilities and why anyone would pay to see me dance... and its TOTALLY uncalled for and honestly just plain dumb and mean. But I also write this blog post tonight because I want you to understand why I become a monster, anxiety ridden mess in preparation for shows. Why?? Because every second counts, this IS our career, people are watching - whether to see ya kickass or fail. you are literally setting yourself up to be criticized more than you already do in rehearsals, but this time not by teachers, mentors etc - now you are being watched by loved ones, peers, but you are also being watched by potential employers, by critics who could destroy you, by people waiting to watch you mess up. You are responsible for taking EVERYONE in the audience on a journey, to remove them from their own life and make them feel something, ANYTHING. Yes we love our job, yes "work" isn't work because we are in love with what we do... but there is a massive responsibility with being a performing artist... there is an obligation to the creators, to the audience but also to ourselves.
Bear with me... with artists. We are overly emotional beings. It's what we are paid to do. To be vulnerable, to be someone or something else. To be strong, to portray whatever is asked of us. To dive into parts of ourselves we hate, aren't ready to face etc to make magic happen.
Bear with me...
- when I hysterically break down in tears 14 days before the show after putting on a costume and the director singles out how bad it looks on you... we immediately blame ourself, myself. Even though it is not in regards to your actual body but the way a costume falls on your obviously different body than everyone else. It was not even directed at you but the costume designer. It is a note for designer to work on that costume, and you overheard it the way you assume everyone actually sees you, like you see you. Even if it takes a lot of meditation, prayer, yoga, cross training, removing yourself from the space and getting a pep talk from your mommy - to realize that it was not a criticism of you but a recognition that this fabric and costume design is not an easy one size, one design fits all. Some bodies require more detailed measurements to make a flattering costume. It isn't intended to break us, even if we automatically without fail take it out on the body that we already put through hell. It also requires a freakish amount of self knowledge to be able to get on a stage as is, then when you add costumes... it is something else entirely, especially if you are lacking all confidence in how you look when you walk on stage... below is a perfect example, I cry often knowing I have to wear that costume but my character is the one who commands the men around, I am supposed to exude sassiness, sex appeal, power, and everything that I don't feel. But I end up having to channel the power that is a woman... and pretend I feel as sexy as I do in my Capitals jersey or onesie. ****
- when we both have inordinate amounts of bounding anxious energy AND can't function because we are pooped. Typically, show week is the week I'll come home to my roommates, and for whatever reason, something strikes my funny bone and I end up loopy as hell, giggling until I'm either silent laughing uncontrollably or crying. I don't know why it happens or what is happening but I have to be honest, I love this moment of the week, it is like my inner "IDGAF" child comes out and honestly, this kind of laughing cures everything. It feels good. It makes me feel out of control and totally alive while also not being in my own body. (This bullet point for whatever reason has me crying and laughing as I write, just for reference of the mess I become show week.)
- when we start stretching in public waiting in lines for transit, for the register. Seriously, we aren't good about it as is, wait until show week and we will be doing eleves behind the bar as we are in training thinking every little bit helps and honestly, it feels natural and like the right thing to do. Half the time, I don't even know I'm doing it. My friend Stan to this day makes fun of me for waving to people with my feet... I never noticed it was something I did... I still forget its not normal. If there is enough space to do the splits while hanging at a friends house before the show, we will. Not for any reason other than it feels weird to sit normal and because we are preparing.
- when I steal the hot water. I'm sorry. I at least always give a heads up and say go first... I always intend to be clear with my hot water usage. (Paddle Palace folks, disregard this, I swear the circumstances were different and it wasn't all my fault.)
- when we freak out for no reason about things that we don't need to. I put extra pressure on myself to be X, Y, and Z. I won't pretend there are times I make a mistake, into a mountainous mental issue... no idea why. Embarrassed about it sometimes, but I think this is just a people thing.
- when I vent incessantly. I know I'm doing it, I try to acknowledge it with gratitude for your kind ears to be listening... but sometimes if I don't get things off my chest, I will say or do something not in the best interest of the show, my friendships, etc. We dancers, no matter how much we love each other... drive each other insane. We literally roll all over each other, leave the studio smelling like each other. We are responsible for each other's safety (especially in partnering) and if anything goes wrong, it becomes more than a physical mistake but emotional at times. We spend all day looking at ourselves in a mirror, criticizing ourselves to then also have our colleagues and friends also looking for ways to help each other. Sometimes, we say things out of turn and we react. It happens. We love each other... but we all need to vent... whether it be about our colleagues, our food, our roommates, our families... honestly, we just need to vent or it interferes with everything we are accomplishing. (Not that we don't vent outside of show week... but increased time together, different habits and work ethics... tends to send us spiraling... at least for me it does.)
- when we forget to check in with how you are doing... I really do try to be not completely self involved, but do understand that isn't always the case.
And while I ask to to bear with me, I also say THANK YOU. I understand we artists can be incredibly emotional nut jobs, we really really do appreciate your support. That you don't belittle our passion and career, calling it "just dance" (and if you are one of those people, take an adv ballet class and then call me). Thank you for handling us in our rabid dog phase and then coming to our show to see why you endured it. Thank you for letting us get caught up and swept away with the emotions and drama of the week. Thank you. In a totally under supported, underrated art form and career, even your acknowledgement of our work means the world to us. We might not be the best at showing it in the midst of the chaos but we hope it comes out on stage. Our obligation is to ourselves, to the choreographer, to the company but just as importantly, our obligation is to you. The incredible audience. The people that keep us employed. I am very excited for this weekend and hope you guys will come out to see Bowen McCauley Dance at the Kennedy Center this Friday and Saturday at the Terrace Theater. Tickets can be purchased on the Kennedy Center website or if you want VIP tickets for Saturday, those are exclusively sold through the Bowen McCauley website. Follow us on instagram @bmdcodance and remember, we love what we do and we LOVE sharing it with you.
*****DISCLAIMER: I need to put this little blurb in here in regards to my image of myself. As a dancer, it is tough enough having to
see yourself and pick yourself apart and "fix" things about you... so yes I will not pretend I have one of the most warped and unfair opinions of myself... in the dance world. It's been a battle since high school. That said, I want to be very clear, I do not have an eating disorder, I never have, and I'm blessed for that. But taking an honest glimpse in a dancers world - this is part of our reality and more often than not, it leaves the studio with us. It is a topic I spent a lot of time speaking to my high school girls about and it will be a returning topic on this blog once in a while. I think it is an important conversation, what you see isn't what I see and vise versa. The grass is always greener on the other side, but it is just as hard to mow. I don't want to you to feel I hate myself - I don't. In fact I'm finally coming to a place (thanks to yoga and teaching high school students) where I can say I do love my body - not in the studio knowing it is a reason I often don't get hired... not based on my talent but my body... so its infuriating, but I also recognize I have a body to be proud of. And I am (some days more clearly than others and it is part of my journey,)
So my disclaimer is for those who are going to judge, please don't, you really don't get it. For those who suffer, I hope I can I give you hope and a reminder of self love, there is no shaming from me, just love. For those who just don't give a rats ass... then don't read those blog entries - there is enough random crazy thoughts for everyone!