Perhaps the desire blossomed long ago, when you saw a Cirque du Soleil aerialist perform for the first time and resolved then and there that someday it would be you on that stage.
Or, maybe your friend gave you a pair of shiny red Pleasers for your birthday last weekend and you are on the lookout for an opportunity to flaunt them (and your pole skills!) in front of an audience bigger than just your cat.
Regardless of the origin of your desire to perform and how long you’ve had it, fantasizing about your first routine and actually garnering the moxie to sign up to be in a show are two different things.
“Am I really good enough to perform? Can I actually string together multiple combinations and make them look good in front of an audience? Will people even want to see what I have created?”
Unfortunately, you may never truly know whether you are ready to perform. Even after performing multiple times, I still ask myself these questions. There are, however, a few helpful questions you can ask yourself when deciding whether or not to take the plunge and strut your stuff on a stage!
The Big Questions
Ultimately, whether or not you are ready to perform comes down to two questions:
1. Are you willing to get up on a stage and move in front of people?
(They want you to succeed).
2. Are you skilled enough on your apparatus that you will be proud of your routine?
(Where you are HERE & NOW - realize we can put something fabulous together at any level).
With regard to the first question, if you are not willing to move in front of other people, it will be impossible for you to perform. Willing - not confident. Pouring your heart and soul into a routine and then putting yourself on the spot to execute under the stares of an expectant audience’s eyes makes even the most experienced of performers nervous.
The determinant of your success in performing is not how you feel going into your routine, but rather how you choose to act based on these feelings.
Know that everyone was afraid to commit to their first performance and that even the most experienced of performers still gets pre-show butterflies. Still, they choose to act in alignment with their bigger goals regardless of the internal resistance they are feeling in the moment.
Creating a routine and performing it in front of an audience is not simply a matter of putting tricks together in time with music. It is a battle with confidence, with perfectionism, and with overcoming countless other personal inhibitions. But it is precisely these challenges which allow you to grow from your performance experience. Without them, performing wouldn’t be nearly as fulfilling.
Beyond being willing to put yourself out on a stage, performing requires you to do something worthy of being seen. The skill level required to enthrall your audience will largely depend on the type of show you are performing in.
Most studio showcases are an excellent environment for first time performers because the audience is composed of fellow aerialists (who understand the difficulty of putting together and executing your first routine) and their friends and family (who literally think a split is the coolest thing ever).
Since audiences are usually supportive, your success in performing for the first time will come less from your audience’s reception of your routine and more from whether your routine is something you are personally proud to show other people.
Instead of asking whether you are skilled enough to perform, ask yourself whether you will be able to meet your own standards for success in the undertaking.
While it is important to go into your first performance optimistic and willing to push yourself, it is equally important to be realistic with the progress you can make with the time you have to prepare for your show.
It’s easy to listen to a song and envision a performance filled with dynamic tricks, innovative transitions, and gorgeous floorwork. When it actually comes time to turn your ideas into a routine, however, things rarely go as planned. Choices in musicality appear rushed, transitions look awkward, and having the endurance to make it through your choreography without stopping becomes a serious issue.
Time and willingness to work through these kinks will be essential to your success, but having the courage to keep things simple for your first routine will make your experience much less formidable.
Accepting where you are at the moment in your aerial journey,
and being confident that doing what you know to the best of your ability
is good enough will enable you to feel proud of your routine,
ultimately allowing you to commit with confidence to performing.
Other Considerations to Take Into Account
In determining whether or not you are ready to perform--or, more broadly, whether or not performing in a specific show is right for you--there are few additional things you should consider as you answer the two questions posed above.
What kind of show are you signing up for? Your preparation for your studio’s low pressure open stage night will be different than that for your audition to join a traveling aerial arts ensemble. If you have the gumption and skill to have a high-profile first performance, then more power to you. However if you are less confident in your abilities, a smaller showcase intended for students may provide a more comfortable performance environment.
How much time do you have to prepare? The process of choreographing your routine, memorizing the sequence of moves, working through kinks, and cleaning up moves takes time--especially when doing so for the first time. For your first routine, it’s better to err on the side of caution and have more time available for working on your routine than you think you will need. Committing to a performance 1 -2 months from now is more conducive to first-time success than committing to one in three days.
Are you going it alone? Are you performing solo or with other people? Either way, who is responsible for the choreography? Being a member in a group performance that is choreographed by an instructor will be easier than choreographing a solo.
Do you already have ideas for the song you want to use and the combos/movements you want to perform? If you have an artistic vision going in, or at least a few movement combinations you have mastered, it will make putting your routine together much easier. If you don’t already have ideas, however, don’t worry. There are many tools available - just be prepared to spend a bit more time choreographing your routine.
Why do you want to perform? There really are no right or wrong answers to this question, but knowing what you want to get out of performing will allow you to define what success looks like to you, and show you the steps towards aligning your preparation and execution with this goal.
But Am I Ready?
Unfortunately, no blog post can definitively tell you whether or not you are ready to perform. Ultimately, it is you who will be putting yourself and all of your hard work in front of other people, and it is you who will have to decide whether or not to take the plunge and commit to your first performance.
With that being said, I can offer some general advice:
If you are asking yourself whether or not you are ready to perform, you probably are.
Napoleon Hill is famously quoted for saying “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” This observation is very relevant to the question at hand.
By nature of asking whether or not you are ready to perform, you have already envisioned yourself (to some degree) on a stage in front of people or stringing together movements to a song you love. Being able to create such mental images is a sign that you understand the work that will be required of you to meet your own standards of success in choosing to perform. Given this understanding, you will be able to break your end goal into manageable targets and progress towards it effectively.
Things have a way of coming together and working out once you say yes.
Once you commit to performing, your brain will work tirelessly to figure out how to turn your vision into reality. If you put in the time and effort, performance day will be there before you know it and you will be able to mount the stage with excitement.
And then, the moment you finish your last move and receive the applause and encouraging praise of your audience, a wave of post performance adrenaline and euphoria will wash over you. You will have proved to yourself that you are in fact ready to perform….you just did it successfully! The decision to perform next time you have the opportunity to will be much easier, and who knows, you might just become addicted to performing!
Things to keep in mind if you choose to perform:
If, after reading this article, you do decide to sign up to perform, there are a few things which are helpful to keep in mind as you begin preparing your routine.
First, know that even if you are performing a solo routine, you are not working alone. Your teachers and fellow pole dancers and aerialists want to see you succeed, especially if they themselves have experience performing.
Whether you are looking for advice on choosing a costume, need help polishing a combo, or just want someone to talk to as you go about preparing your routine, don’t be afraid to ask for and offer support.
The sense of camaraderie which comes from working synchronously alongside other aerialists/pole dancers at your studio can be just as fun and memorable as your performance itself.
Second, know that it is more than okay to keep your routine simple. If you are comfortable breaking out the big tricks during your routine, by all means do! But know that it is also okay for your routine to be short, slow, and have lots of floorwork if these attributes make you more comfortable executing it.
Remember that a simple routine done well
often looks better
than a complicated one performed sloppily.
It's not worth getting overwhelmed with - it's supposed to be fun - be willing to go into the process of preparing to perform making the most of where you are, and allow yourself to create a beautiful routine which you will be proud of.
Have you ever performed? If so, what scared you the most about doing so for the first time? If not, what questions do you have about preparing to perform?
P.S. If you are a student at Moxy looking for the opportunity to perform, consider signing up for one of our monthly open stage nights! They are held in-studio with small audiences and are an excellent and supportive place to perform for the first time.