I have choreographed shows for SeaWorld’s summer Cirque-style attractions for 27 years. Each year we hire about 30 performers, a third of which are “newbies;” those who have never performed or had formal gymnastics or acrobat training. I have to admit, I have a blast coaching them up like they’re Olympic athletes. I am relentless with them with EVERYTHING: technique, form, movement quality, musicality, teaching them to count music, facial expressions, the importance of transitions, appropriate demeanor in rehearsal… And then hearing them tell me from across the stage, “Miss Val I’m just really tired” is probably not the best choice.
For the Newbies, I’m having to start from scratch with the rules of theatre, “If you can see the audience the audience can see you;” and backstage performance etiquette, “No, it’s not okay to burp and fart in the dressing room filled with other male and female performers.” Yes, I actually had to give this talk just last week. It also included, “I’m not interested in your personal hygiene philosophy… use deodorant.”
While I can’t believe how many times I have to repeat “straighten your legs,” “pointe your feet,” and “stand up on 1 not 1 and…” it is their on-stage dynamic “showmanship” that is the biggest challenge. Most of them bring it sporadically throughout the number, but they don’t understand how to keep that taut-inner-pulsing-magical-hum throughout the whole show.
I was about to give my last “pre-game” speech to the cast yesterday before our show opened when I had a revelation… tell them to tap into their inner Rock Star!
When was the last time you saw a timid or cautious Rock Star? When have you ever seen a Rock Star crumble in humiliation and embarrassment when they made a mistake? When have you ever seen a Rock Star not have a certifiable strut… although some may seem awkward, but regardless they OWN IT! Think Mick Jagger… now that’s a strut.
So how can these Newbies (and you!) tap into your inner Rock Star? First, know that everything you do is part of the show, so execute with confidence and if you happen to make a mistake continue with conviction. There is no failure (remember I don’t believe in the F word), just the exciting and often unpredictability of live performance which all of us call Life.
Next, own the skills, style and flair you bring to your daily life. When Sammy Hagar took over the role as lead singer of the rock band Van Halen, he didn’t try to emulate David Lee Roth—he became his own unique Rock Star. Over decades fans got to hear the same songs with two different Rock Stars bringing their own flair to the stage. Neither tries to match the assets of the other, all they do is fearlessly perform.
Rock Stars know that people pay to see them perform. The attendees are fans and want to say they just witnessed a great performance. Rock Stars don’t go on stage wondering if the crowd will like them… they understand the audience has already purchased their tickets.
It’s exactly the same with you, whether you’re on the stage or behind a desk. Your employer hired you! They bought a ticket to see you perform. Execute your job with confidence. Create, cultivate and own your peronal cadence, your inner humble yet unapologetic taut magical hum. Embrace your inner Rock Star!
And if you’re in San Diego go check out our show ~ Cirque Electrique. It is spectacular… and filled with Rock Stars! Make sure you bring your strut.