With the dance performance season kicking off, dozens of dancers are spending every minute rehearsing, finalizing details and making sure this will be the best show they have ever been a part of. With so much running through these students’ heads, we caught up with alumna Gillian Murphy and new ballet faculty member Angelina Sansone to learn their best advice they could give to dancers heading into a performance.
American Ballet Theatre (ABT) principal dancer and School of Dance alumna Gillian Murphy always makes sure she is fueled up and ready to go before a performance. “I always have a good lunch and take a power nap before an evening performance,” she says. The power nap is especially important to Murphy, adding that it is the “key to recharging my energy and helping me switch from an analytical state of mind to a zone in which I can freely channel emotions through my body.”
“We spend so much time as dancers polishing and refining the physicality needed in a performance,” says Murphy, “that it’s easy to forget how much one's mental approach influences a performer, both technically and artistically, in live theater.” Murphy, who counts roles in “Swan Lake,” “The Dream,” and “In the Upper Room” among her favorite roles she has performed, adds that she would caution young dancers against letting their mind spiral into doubts and anxieties and to understand that it is completely natural to feel some stress and fear before a performance. “It’s critical to learn how to steer the mind in a more positive direction so that any trepidation is turned into excitement and that adrenaline is working to boost your experience and performance onstage,” says Murphy.
New ballet faculty member Angelina Sansone shares advice given to her by fellow retired Kansas City Ballet dancer Kimberly Cowen during her career: slow down the special moments of stillness on stage and savor them. This advice stuck with Sansone throughout her career as she found moments in every show to really take it all in. She lists “the energy of the audience, the grandeur of the sets and live music, the warmth of the stage lights and feeling of sharing the stage with close friends,” as the main aspects she would focus on, adding, “now I have moments that I will have locked in my memories for years.”
Sansone says her secret weapon is her tried and true mantra. “It may be a silly mental game, but right before I go on stage, when I'm standing in the wings I tell myself ‘you are the most beautiful ballerina in all the land!’” While this mantra may seem silly, it has proven to be successful for Sansone, who says it makes her giggle and walk on with confidence. With this mantra, she is able to not be too hard on herself.
Murphy says her advice to young dancers is to worry less about “perfection” when you are performing and focus more on enjoying the journey onstage and sharing your feelings with an audience who is ready to be transported. Sansone adds that making real eye contact with your fellow dancers onstage makes the moment even more special. “When you're all out there together breathing as one, magic happens,” she says.
Whether it is for an audience of 20 or 2,000, performing is the most thrilling part of a dancer’s career. After weeks of rehearsals and preparation, there are often hundreds of reminders and to do lists running through a dancer’s mind leading up to opening night. Before your next dance performance, take a deep breath, remember this advice and step confidently into the spotlight.
September 24, 2018