A photo from my Vegas performance, by Lee Corkett
As I was on the way to the show I was performing at on Friday, I was hoping that I wouldn't screw anything up, thinking about the things I did wrong during troupe practice, and wondering how it is that I always manage to pull it together for a performance. I mean, that's not to say that I never mess up on stage (in fact, I messed up on Friday), it's that I usually recover well and put on a great face and give an overall pleasing performance with a flub or two in between.
But at practice, one flub can suddenly snowball into half a dozen flubs! Taking the wrong step at the start of a choreo can mean feeling slightly "off" for the entire dance and thinking that I am screwing everything up.
So what is the difference?
I think when I'm in class, at troupe practice, or practicing choreography at home, I'm in thinking mode. There's a little track running in the back of my mind, reminding me of the things that I specifically need to work on, the things the entire group has been told to watch out for, etc etc. Then if I make a mistake, I'm now thinking "Wait, what did I just do? What was I supposed to do instead? Oh crap, while I was thinking about that, I just missed that other step and now I'm off by two counts and I am making a weird face and and and and..." Add to that an element of tiredness if I'm at the end of an hour of troupe practice after an hour of class and a busy day leading up to that, and I'm going to look and feel like a hot mess.
When I'm at a show, on the other hand, I am in performing mode. I know that at this point, there's nothing to be gained by worrying about what I'm about to do, because I've practiced as much as I can, and I'm as good as I'm going to be for the moment. I'm all dressed up, I've got my makeup on, and now it's time to give it my all. If I mess up, there's no time to think about what I did wrong, I need to be on top of what I'm supposed to do next so the audience doesn't catch on. Even if they realize at that moment that I screwed up, if I recover well I can probably make them forget about it by doing an awesome job for the rest of the song, giving them an over-all good impression of the piece in question.
I guess the point is, I'm allowed to fail in class or practice, so sometimes I do. I learn from those failures, and learn how to train my body, brain and face to respond to failures. But when I'm on stage, failure is not an option! So that might mean that when I'm at home, practicing a new solo, I might try some crazy method of getting down to the floor which results in me tripping, or some new fan veil trick that results in silk strangling my neck. Those failures show me that those ideas need some more work, so when I get on stage I stick with the safe stuff. I know not to try that crazy drop because I don't want to face-plant in front of the audience!
So if you mess up in class or practice, don't let it get you down. You have to screw up behind the scenes in order to know what works on stage! You'll be fine.