This is a series about conquering stage fright. First, we talked about the importance of knowing yourself. Then, we talked about the fear factor. Third, we talked about creating positive experiences to help fight the panic. Fourth, we looked at the importance of knowing what you’re doing. Last week, we examined how our general state of wellbeing (use of ourselves) affects our performance.
This week, we’re giving ourselves time.
Today in my singing lesson, I was reminded of what is possibly the greatest luxury any performer can give themselves.
Time is a slippery customer. It can seem to move so quickly. It can feel as though it is in someone else’s control. When I asked my students at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama what they found hardest about doing auditions, feeling rushed came high on the list. My students felt as though they were not able to give themselves the time and space to give the calibre of performance they were capable of giving.
Note this: they felt as though they couldn’t give themselves time.
No one said they couldn’t. No one told them not to take a second to breathe. It was a choice that they made in reaction to the given circumstances (such as the general atmosphere in the room).
Allowing oneself a moment to stop is a fundamental tool within the Alexander Technique. When FM was trying to solve his vocal hoarseness, he realised that:
“if ever I was to be able to change my habitual use … it would be necessary for me to make the experience of receiving a stimulus to speak and of refusing to do anything immediately in response.”*
FM realised that if he didn’t give himself this pause, he was far more likely to speak using his body in the more habitual way that caused the hoarseness. If he received the stimulus but refused to do anything immediately in response, he gave himself the chance to put his new reasoned process into action.
So give yourself time.
Stand up. Pause. Then begin the speech.
Finish the sentence. Let it be finished. Then start the next.
Finish the musical phrase. Stop the breath. Allow the body to breathe in. Then sing.
If you stop, you give yourself a priceless gift: the chance to choose what happens next. So what will you choose?
*FM Alexander, The Use of the Self in the Irdeat Complete Edition, p. 424.
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