I can now breathe a sigh of relief: The show is over. The entire production itself was great — Rina, the musicians, and all of the other dancers did a fantastic job, and I heard nothing but great things from family, friends, and even a few strangers in the audience (our guajiras especially was a hit!). I’m am happy for all of this and grateful to have been a part of it.
Yet in the spirit of keeping it real, I have to admit I am immensely disappointed in myself and am having a hard time shaking it.
In the days following the meltdown, I thought I had regained my bearings enough to pull off a solid solo. I rehearsed my ass off, first watching the video from the musician rehearsal to see what went wrong, then going through the entire choreography beginning to end many times and even performing it for a my classmates a few times. I woke up the day of the performance feeling steady and calm. I thought I’d be OK. I should have been OK. Then my moment to shine came and I fell apart.
I’m not kidding. I got up to take my place center stage and my legs were already shaking. From the “1” on which I began my llamada, my steps were completely wrong. All I had to do was start with a simple rolling golpe and my feet refused. I’m not sure what I did for those first two compas, to be honest. Again, I had that feeling of doom jolt through me and for a moment it was as if my head was disconnected from my body. Somehow I managed to close the llamada, despite being completely off beat. Thank God for the musicians supporting me. All I could think was, “Oh God, I still have at least another 4 minutes to go.”
Got through the first letra a little wobbly, but OK. Llamada for the second letra came and I freaked out before I even started it because it’s where I messed up during the meltdown. Mind you, the steps are not difficult, but again, I got nervous, lost focus, and fell out of compas. The second letra is a complete blur. I have no idea what I did.
And now the escobilla, the other problem section during the meltdown. First compas was fine, then I forgot what came next so repeated what I had just done. After that I’m not sure what happened. I think I finished the footwork OK, although it wasn’t steady, and the buleria is also a blur. I haven’t a clue what I did.
I do remember dancing myself off the stage because I felt like I couldn’t get there fast enough. I just wanted it to be over. This was the first time in my 5-year flamenco performance career that I did not enjoy performing solo. Usually I’m nervous at first — a healthy nervous — and then I get out there and put on the attitude, shake my booty and enjoy every minute of it. This time it wasn’t like that. This time the thought off having all eyes on me for those 4+ minutes absolutely terrified me. And I’m certain it showed on my face at times, especially in the first 20 seconds.
It’s so frustrating. I’ve done this several times before, and at least two of those times I did solea por buleria. And that was 4 years ago when I wasn’t even as good as I am now! How could I keep it together then, but couldn’t do it now? And one by one I watched my fellow flamencas go out to do solos, big or small, and one by one they did so confidently. What the hell was wrong with ME??
A few minutes later, I had the opportunity to redeem myself with a group solea. I felt good out there. Confident, even. I knew what I was doing and did all the steps. I felt the safety in numbers and in knowing that the audience was looking at me maybe only 20 percent of the time. Same with the guajiras — I felt safe with the group and I genuinely had fun. At least I could somewhat end on a high note.
When it came time for fin de fiesta, I chose to sit that one out for the first time ever. Usually I’m out there doing something silly at the end of every show, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it — even though I wanted to push myself to, just as another means of redemption. But no, my racing heart wasn’t having any of it. I didn’t want any more attention.
After the show, I was complimented and congratulated by people I knew and a few I didn’t on the great job I did out there. I graciously accepted their words and flowers with a smile but it wasn’t easy. My family and friends, of course, told me how great my solo was — to which I was like, “Um, thanks for your support, but it was actually pretty bad.” I went to dinner with my people and talked and smiled, but I was exhausted and utterly bummed out and trying not to show it.
Just another example of where my head was that night: After the show I left without my dresses. Yep, just left them at the venue and didn’t realize it until I got to dinner. So either I was very stressed or it was a weird subconscious way of leaving this whole experience behind. (Luckily a friend picked them up and got them to me the next day).
The following afternoon, a classmate who had to bow out of performing with us for health reasons threw a party to honor Rina and her 10 years of teaching and showcasing flamenco, and to celebrate us all in our flamenca sisterhood. A lovely time in a breathtaking setting — this is what it’s all about, right? It was nice to relax with all my friends, but I still felt so dazed from the events of the previous evening.
I’m not writing this to get advice or sympathy (although your words of wisdom and support are always welcome), or, God forbid, kill the buzz of my fellow flamencas who did well and had nothing but fun on Saturday (again, it was really a great show!). I just need to get all of my personal angst off my chest, plus it’s just part of my journey. I realize I need to move past all of this and keep working on my dancing, but it is SO HARD to not take all of this SO HARD. I’m super sensitive and I genuinely care about delivering a great performance. And you know what? I know I’m a strong dancer. I hate feeling like I failed, even if others don’t see it.
That said, I’ll be back.