So many dancers start out thinking that dancing is in the moves. Sure, I've seen some dances that have the most amazing feats in the world added in. Full back bends. Flips. Double swords balanced on the head. Swords balanced on the tips of daggers. But the moves are never what makes a performance. I've seen dances with some beautiful choreographies, but the dancers look like they're performing under threat of death. If you've ever been to a beginner hafla, then you know what I'm talking about. They're those expressions that come from a dance leader saying over and over again, "SMILE, LADIES!" The dancers look everywhere from entrants into a Miss America pageant or staunchly staring down the back of the room even though their audience is right in front of them.
For the beginner pieces last year that was fine, but the intermediate piece demands so much more than that. The song we're dancing to is called "The Man Who Drinks". While I don't exactly know the lyrics (they're in Russian), I can tell by the upbeat sound that whichever man is drinking is pretty excited about it. This means that the dancers have to show excitement too. Teaching how to perform excited is very, very difficult. I have no idea how acting coaches do it.
What I do know is that for all the countless times I've screwed up when performing, it's always been my facial expressions that have saved me and kept me in the moment. And even if it was horribly obvious that I was doing something completely different from another performer, the audience looks at my face and sees what I want them to: "Oh! Silly me. Wasn't that cute that I totally planned to mess up!" "Why are you thinking I'm confused? I'm smiling just like nothing is wrong at all! These are not the droids you're looking for!"
I feel like mastering performing comes with time and confidence. Forcing it seems very difficult. But if I even manage to get one of those ladies to smile and straighten up for the whole dance at practice tonight, then I'll be happy. And come the show in a few weeks, I think the audience will be happy too. Well, that is if I can find a gypsy costume that doesn't make us look like happy-go-lucky pirate wenches.