A Dancer’s Diary: Putting on the finishing touches
February 29, 2012
TAHOE CITY, Calif. – Through my volunteer efforts in the community I’ve had a chance to work side by side with business people, who speak of “value propositions” and “management styles” in jargon that is Greek to me. I often remind myself that if I were to ask them for a tomb pas de bourre glissade saut de chat, they would feel equally perplexed. When I invited a certain MBA to a rehearsal, he complimented me on the “good vibe” in the room. So what is the key to pulling it all together?When a performance draws near, I always think of the old movie musicals. OK kids, let’s put on a show! No matter how many productions I present, the days leading up to performance are an anxious anticipation of all that needs to be done, all that can go wrong, and the hopes that it all goes right. As a performer, there is a personal responsibility to dance your role to your best technical and artistic ability; after all, it’s you out there on that stage.As a director, I find that I’m having to let go much more, to trust those I have put into roles both on and off the stage. That can be difficult, but asserting to those involved that they are in the role you have put them in because of their talent, ability and enthusiasm is extremely empowering to them. Originally written for directors of stage plays, Frank Hauser’s Notes on Directing has given me many tidbits of help, but my favorite will always be: “Assume that everyone is in a permanent state of catatonic terror. This will help you approach the impossible state of infinite patience and benevolence that actors and others expect from you.”Last week I stepped back into the role of dancer. In New York, I got together with guest artists Deborah Lohse and Sierra Barter to rehearse for a section of Into the Trees. Deborah and I play the Elders, looking for a new leader to guide the tribe of young women. Enter Barter, all fire and fury, who proves to us she’s ready to meet the challenge. To wear the hat of dancer and director simultaneously is using all my creative, intellectual, technical and emotional energies, but the chance to share the stage with these two profound artists that have each shaped my experience in very different ways is an antithesis; the moment when all the hard work and agony and bleeding feet and muscle spasms come together just right to make a beautiful moment.But it’s not all dance. When I met Brian Orr I learned he was a stunning artist who worked in pen and ink, black and white, with a haunting line and use of negative space. I was starting to conceptualize this performance and thought of the ballet Giselle. How would you like to do a backdrop, 15 feet high by 40 feet wide? Almost every night Brian arrives at the studio at the end of rehearsal, unfolds the massive canvas, and gets to work on his giant masterpiece. Brian told me that he has mostly done his art for himself, but through this process is more comfortable with making it public. Admittedly daunted by this enormous project, Brian is learning that the bigger risks are worth taking, and has had offers to design ad campaigns and graphics for hard goods in just the last few weeks.So is this what happens when we put our faith in others? Yes. When someone asserts his or her faith in you, as an affirmation from someone or somewhere you didn’t expect it, it can make you think of yourself in a whole new light, and see yourself and the potential that others see in you. As you sit in the audience and watch the curtain open next week, as you see young dancers in white tutus doing everything they can to stay on the music and in their perfect lines, think about your own ‘premiere’ moments and what or who made those possible. As performers, we are very lucky to experience the adrenaline and energy of the performance as the culmination of all our hard work, for all the world to see. – Christin Hanna is the founding artistic director of Tahoe Youth Ballet. Its upcoming performance. “Dancing Women, Then and Now.” will be presented Friday and Saturday March 9-10. For more information, visit http://www.tahoeyouthballet.com.