The day had finally arrived! Opening night was upon us and I went back and forth between excitement and sheer terror. No matter how many productions I have done, pre-show jitters will always be a part of the ritual. This means trying to remember choreography in a panic, shortness of breath, the thought of messing up in front of the audience and many more “fun” symptoms. Two years ago, it got to the point where I completely blanked in a group performance as the music started. It was during a presidential conference in which over five thousand people attended. I think I was so stunned by the amount of people present, that three months of hard work had to be reminded to me by looking at a fellow dancer. This made me realise that something had to change and I now take over-the-counter calmatives before opening night. I checked with my doctor first and he recommended a natural tranquilizer of sorts. It’s great because it doesn’t make me drowsy or forgetful but rather stops that rising panic that starts from your stomach and goes all the way to your ears. Another way to combat pre-show jitters is to talk about it with your dance crew, you’re definitely not the only one experiencing it and it definitely helps to talk about it! As cheesy as this may sound, you got this. All those long rehearsal hours, all that feedback and constant improvement, this is finally your time to shine. Don’t let your head get in the way of that.
With show week, comes an array of other pre-show rituals. I love the smell of hairspray simply because it confirms what’s about to take place meaning it’s finally time to hang all my costumes onto a rack and litter my dressing room with bobby pins (which are all sure to disappear by interval of the first night). I normally hate having my hair and makeup done for me but I use this time to relax just before the madness of backstage goes to full throttle. Backstage is always a mess just before opening night. People trying to iron outfits last minute, dancers going over a quick run of new changes and there’s always that one girl trying to find a pin. But I love it. It means that I’m finally home.
A quick group prayer just before the curtain rises and suddenly the show is on. The blinding lights, the onstage wardrobe malfunctions, the accidental hitting of somebody else on stage. Every night is different, because every audience is different. As performers, we rely heavily on the theatre atmosphere in order to constantly deliver high energy performances. It requires a lot more effort to be entertaining when you have an audience who’s afraid to react or even clap at the end of every performance. Whether the auditorium be half full, or sold out, the collective personality of the audience is what truly establishes the relationship between us, the entertainment and them, the entertained. Every show has to deliver in terms of technicality, creativity as well as energy, but it’s a lot more rewarding to perform for those who appreciate it as compared to those who seem to be falling off to sleep. So the next time you visit the theatre, I urge you to enjoy yourself! Clap as loudly as you can, react and have fun. After all, the performance is for you.
For me, my favourite part of a show is the end. Don’t get me wrong, I love every piece I get to perform and share with others but there’s something magical about performing the finale, standing on stage even though your lungs are on fire and your mouth seems to no longer be able to produce saliva, only to witness a standing ovation. After an entire presentation of what your blood, sweat and (definitely) tears have managed to create over a rehearsal period of however many hours; having the audience not just recognise that but also appreciate it, is the most rewarding part of this entire job. Getting to see your loved ones after the show, waiting for you in the foyer with flowers and a “Job well done!” makes all the weeks of cancelled social events, the lack of your presence in their lives as well as the failure to commit to anything other than your show, worth it. It cannot be easy to love a performer due to our crazy schedules and intensive work life, however every show is truly performed as a personal love note written for those who support us, and nothing is more evident on that stage.
Thank you reader, for sharing this experience with me. It was exhausting, nerve-wracking and overwhelming yet so, so rewarding. Here’s to a life filled with many more.