Archive for Performance Tips

Please, Stop the Music!

Yup, sometimes you just don’t like the music you’ve been asked to perform to. And sometimes artists make peculiar, I mean, interesting, choices as to what will fit an event.

So, what to do?

Your job is to sell it, no matter what your personal feelings are. I have had to perform to songs with lyrics like “A love emergency, don’t make me wait…” and sell it even though I’m dressed in pink and performing in an atrium with another woman and it’s not a love thing at all…

Another time I was performing to an electronic soundscape that wasn’t really countable. The choreographer added a ‘click track’ that we dancers could hear, but the audience couldn’t. Clever.

And then there was the aerial improv portion of an audition where instead of the super cool jazzy music everyone else had, I got “Send in the Clowns”. I’m not joking. This stuff really happens. After a brief moment of “What the…?!”, I channelled my inner Clown and got the job done. And, I got the part.

clown red wig
1. You’re a professional, so make it work.
Put your personal feelings aside. Laugh all you want in rehearsal. Then put your game face on.

2. If you really don’t like it, suggest alternatives to your client
Nothing is worse than, “I don’t like it” or “It’s just not working” unless you can offer suitable alternatives.

Make good use of YouTube. Many songs are available there, and it’s a great way to send songs to a client, without having to buy them all on iTunes first. Here’s a Beats Antique song I sometimes like to perform to.
http://youtu.be/k3LGdimsRF4

Some clients are willing to listen to your suggestions, and others, sometimes for reasons beyond their control, must require you to perform to a certain song. There’s no way to argue with someone’s favorite wedding tune…

And, Facebook is a great place to put up a post saying, “I’m looking for a piece that embodies the theme “Shine”. Any suggestions?”

3. Not liking a piece is not the same as the piece not being a good fit.
Just because a song is not your personal taste doesn’t mean it’s not a good fit for the event. You’ve been hired to do a job, so get it done. Preferably with a good attitude.

4. What makes a good piece of music:
Variety: Look for music that has a definite, beginning, middle and end. The music has to go somewhere. Avoid music that is too ambient: Brian Eno’s Music for Airports doesn’t have enough action, unless you want to put the audience to sleep.
music notes
5. Lyrics vs No Lyrics
Many people have a strong association with a particular song and it’s lyrics, especially if it’s a popular one. Avoid being compared to someone’s memory of the video or to whom they were partying with when the song was big. Look for instrumental or cover versions.

Performing for kids or for Bat Mitvah or Sweet 16? Make sure you Google the lyrics first. Daddy doesn’t want to hear the explicit version of his baby’s favorite song with Grandma and Grandpa watching.

That said, we’ve used lyrics with great effect to bring an event theme to life. We used Frank Sinatra’s “Come Fly With Me” and “New York, New York” for an Olde New York themed event to great success. For a large “Shine” themed gala, we tried several songs, starting with REM’s “Shiny, Happy People” (too commercial for the crowd), and Manfred Mann’s “Blinded by the Light” (too slow and just not the right amount of punch for a final featured act. The disco remixes were way too disco). The client’s friend recommended Spectrum by Florence + the Machine (a FB post in action), and it was GREAT!

Sometimes a cover version by another artist gives you a new twist on an old standard. And mixing old and new versions can be fun.

6. Practice Practice Practice
Try to get the music as early as possible. Listen to it over and over till you can hear all the nuances. The better you know the music, the easier it will be to perform the piece, rather than being stuck counting or listening for the end.

7. Two Songs, Two Styles
Have your act ready-to-go to two different musical genres. Maybe one version is dramatic and Cirque-like, and the other is suitable for nightclubs. Then, you can send your standard songs to the client, and chances are, one will be a good fit.

8.. There’s always ear plugs.
If you really can’t stand the song, get yourself a pair of earplugs that muffle the sound but allow you to hear your cues. And remember, that earplugs are intensely practical for gigs near super loud speakers…Always good to have a pair in your make-up kit.

Have fun – and make beautiful aerial music!

Love,
Mama Silk

In Our Circles, In Our Circles: How to Spin Without Losing Your Lunch

A concerned lyra student asks:  Mama Silk, how can I not toss my cookies when I start spinning? I almost threw up on the subway platform after lyra class last week. Help!

Galapagos_Leonardo_2012-35

Good question, concerned student!  The short answer regardless of apparatus is: build up slowly, and practice till you get your sea legs (I mean your air legs). But let’s investigate the spin phenomenon a little closer:

WHY DOES SPINNING MAKE YOU SICK?  

Your brain gets information on its position in space from visual (eyes), kinesthetic (touch) and vestibular (inner ear) sources. When conflict arises from what you see, what you feel and what your brain perceives, you end up feeling crappy.

With respect to your ears, there are three semi-circular canals in each ear, one for each plane of movement (up/down, left/right, front/back).  These fluid-filled canals in your head tell you which way is up and which way is left and right so you know if you’re standing up or lying down.

Semi-Circular Ear Canals

When you spin, the fluid in these canals will spin around.  If you stop suddenly, your body stops, but the fluid in your ears is still going.   You think you’re still spinning, but your eyes are telling you that you’re not spinning. Your brain gets very confused and you feel sick. And, the ’tilt and rotate’ combination frequently used in aerial choreography is extremely challenging for the brain’s processing systems.  The scientists call it ‘aberrant  vestibular inputs’. Tourists call it “Stop slamming on the brake, cabbie!” Aerialists call it ‘Oh, my God! I’m so barfy!”

south park queasy

Scientists think some of these phenomena may harken back to our caveman days.  The same inner ear balance mechanism that is responsible for seasickness also handles the body’s ability to detect ingested poison; the signals sent to the brain when a person is spinning or seasick are the same as those sent when a person has eaten something dangerous, and the body’s protective response to poison is vomiting. Therefore, when you’re seasick, you vomit. Same goes for smells. I always feel worse at shows with lots of sensory overload: flashing lights, loud music, food odors (or worse, somebody else’s body odor), diesel fumes from generators, etc, are likely to make me feel more barfy.

PREVENTION

  • Freshen your breath.

I got this tip from an old boyfriend who was a bosun with the Canadian Navy.  If it works for the sailors, it can work for us aerial beauties.

Keep a small travel toothbrush in your training bag, or some sugarless gum so you’re all minty before you spin.  [Remember to spit the gum out BEFORE class or performing.]

  • Smell something pleasant.

Keep a small handkerchief that’s been scented with lavender oil, or some other smell you associate with comfort. Breathe in the scent to help clear your channels.  Move away from strong odors. [Or nicely tell your classmate to please go buy some anti-perspirant].

  • Train yourself to ignore your brain.

With repeated practice, you can train your brain to ignore the conflicting input it’s getting from your fabulous aerial gyrations.   Astronauts do it, and so can you.

Start by spinning slowly, right side up, then upside down, WITH YOUR HEAD IN A FIXED POSITION. Look at something stationary, like your hand, or the lyra.

Then repeat, with a soft focus, and then with roving eyes, right side up and upside down. Add  head tilts, and finally head rotations while you’re spinning.

With repeated practice, you’ll find the method that works best for you. Some people swear by staring at a fixed point. Others prefer a soft focus, or even closing their eyes. I have a straps routine that involves orbiting and spinning and inversions and head tilts all at the same time.  When I haven’t done the routine in a while, I always feel a little off the first few times I rehearse until I get my sea legs again.

  • Stay hydrated

Keep your fluid intake high. Water is best.  Avoid de-hydrating drinks like coffee, and Red Bull.

porcelain god toilet barf Don’t come to class, rehearsal or performance hung over.  It’s unprofessional and dangerous.

  • Eat Right and Light

Eat light, easily digestible food before rehearsal or performance. Time it so you’ve digested before turning upside down. Avoid fatty, spicy stuff, unless you’re OK with the consequences.

  • Spin at the end of class or rehearsal

Save the spinning until the end of class or rehearsal. This way if you do get naseous, you’ve already worked on stuff.

TREATMENT

Prevention is really the best medicine. Once you feel like crap, it can take a while to come back to normal.

  • Candied ginger

candied ginger

Delicious and nutritious (except for all that sugar). Keep a bag handy, and indulge as needed.

  • ‘Unspin’

When you touch ground, step off the mat and away from the apparatus and turn in the opposite direction to unwind. Or spin slowly a couple of times in the reverse direction.

  • Hop

Hop up and down while staring a fixed spot on the wall.  This may settle the liquid in your ears, and align the physical and visual input.

  •  Lie down

Sometimes I just like to lie down on my back, with my knees bent and my feet flat on the floor.

  • Dramamine

Spinning stimulates the cholinergic system,  producing: sweating, increased stomach acid, a desire to, um, ‘go’.

Dramamine is now available in two forms: dimenhydrinate and meclizine. Both are anti-histamines that help reduce the cholinergic reaction. Take as directed on the package – they can cause drowsiness, so don’t down it for the first time before driving to your gig, or right before you perform. See how you do on it in an un-pressured setting, first. And no post-ingestion imbibing, unless you’re taking the subway home.

  • Antacids

Keep a roll of Tums or Rolaids in your bag. Zantac and Pepcid are other good choices.

What works for you?

Mama Silk is always looking for new tips and tricks. Let us know what works best for you, so we can share it!

So spin, my darlings, spin. And create many beautiful things.

Love,

Mama Silk (and Lyra)

 

 

 

The Morning After The Night Before

We all love a good party. The planning, rehearsing, checking things off the list. Then there’s the excitement and anticipation of the event itself. Will it all go as planned? (No, but we’ll make it work). Will they like it? (Yes, we’re trained professionals – this is what we do).
Then there’s the day after. The afterglow of a job well-done. The remnants of glitter in the hair and eyelash glue around the eyes. The slight ache of a muscle overused with the pump of showtime adrenaline. The partially empty water bottles (Is this one really mine?). Oh yes, and then there’s the laundry. The not-so-glamourous part of showbiz.

In a physical business like ours, it can be olfactorily catastrophic if one forgets a sweaty costume balled up in the corner of the suitcase. It’s even worse if one throws it in a plasitc bag while damp. Ever put a costume away thinking “I didn’t really perspire that much” only to take it out for the next gig and be overwhelmed by putrid vapors? Worse still, ever had to put on a costume with someone else’s pungent sweatiness oozing from the fabric? Well, I have. And I’m here to save you from these unpleasant experiences.

TIPS FOR FRESH COSTUMES AND A FRESH YOU
PREVENTION
1. Shower before the gig
You might think this one is no-brainer. Sadly, it’s not.

2. Wear Anti-Perspirant
Enough said.

3. Freshen up
Freshen up the armpits between rigging and warming up and putting on your costume. Wet Ones aren’t just for baby bottoms. And, there are lots of fun naturally fragranced wipes now available. Pomegranate, Lavendar, Green Tea – oh my! Visit a pharmacy or health food store near you, and keep a stash in your bag.

4. Febreeze
Bring a spray bottle of Frebreeze and spritz the pits and crotch of the costume before you put it your bag to bring home. This gesture is especially appreciated if you’re been lent a costume and you’re giving it back to someone, like me, else to launder.

5. Unpack right away
Unpack your bag as soon as you get home. Air your costume out to dry RIGHT AWAY. Time is of the essence. Or should I say “Es-scents”. Don’t give the bacteria a nice moist home to thrive in. Once the smell gets in, it’s super hard to get out.

6. Launder ASAP.
Add some Woolite to cold water. Gently handwash your costume, giving extra attention to the pits and crotch. Roll delicate costumes up in a towel to squeeze out as much water as you can. Then lay flat to dry or hang on clothesline.

7. Put clean dry costume away for next time
We store our costumes in see-through Ziplocs for ease of identification. Get a system. Use it.

That’s today’s lesson on bringing you fresh entertainment, in super fresh costumes, one amazing event at a time.

Top 10 Tips for Becoming a Professional Aerialist, or Professional Anything for That Matter

Dear Silkies,

Mama Silk is pleased to launch a new feature of her blog “Ask Mama Silk”. Send in your performance and training-related questions, and Mama Silk will do her best to give you the answers you seek.

To start us off, Mama Silk will answer a common question: “How do I become a professional aerialist?”. Here are the top ten answers.

1. Have a strong skill set
You’d think this goes without saying, but it needs emphasis. Have a good strong act. Ready. Now.

Your transitions should be smooth, your legs straight and your toes pointed, and you should not be visibly struggling to get through your act or any particular trick. If you can’t run your routine to perfection three times in an hour or so, you are not ready to perform it. Only include tricks you can execute 100% of the time. Trust me on this one.

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