Sell What You Sing (or Dance)

Tonight in chorale rehearsal we spent a lot of time on the Irving Berlin medley we’re performing for our spring concert. Now I’m feeling all jazzy. No one makes me want to put on a top hat and do a time step more than good ol’ Irv.

Lots of things I learn in chorale can be applied to the dance, which is why I appreciate it so much and won’t give it up. For example, our director often tells us to “sell what you sing” — meaning sing with conviction, energy; don’t just sing the words. Because if you sing a bright, syncopated tune like “Puttin’ on the Ritz” with a straight face and zero bounce, it just doesn’t fly. In fact, it just sucks all the fun right out of it. No, no, no. You have to sell what you sing. Make the audience want to join in or wish they knew the words. Make them want to get up and dance. Leaving them humming a tune all the way home.

So after two hours of selling what I sing tonight, I sang that song all the way home. Then I went looking for the clip of Fred Astaire performing it. I LOVE this. The clip doesn’t include his singing; just the last part of the awesome dance. The bulerias portion, if you will. That last minute or so when he’s picked up the pace, giving it his all, throwing down that contratiempo and finishing with a bang.

Singing, dancing, tap, flamenco, whatever. It’s all about selling it. A song is just a melody, just like a bunch of steps is just a dance. But a performance is an experience. That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout.

Time to take out the trash

It’s been more than a week since the show and I’m just now getting around to writing about it. I got sick immediately after the show, which isn’t surprising, since I was incredibly run down from the worry and extra practices. Then I had to quickly shift into last-minute Christmas shopping and wrapping mode. Now that I’m done with that, I can share a few thoughts.

I think it’s probably good that I didn’t have time to blog right after our performances or I might have over shared. Now that I’ve had time to think about it before putting my thoughts into print, I’m going to take a different approach to the post-show review.

The conductor of the chorale with which I sing tells us never to show our “learning curve” or reveal our mistakes to the audience after a performance; it’s not professional, and we’re supposed to be a professional group. So I generally don’t. But then, it’s more difficult to recognize mistakes in a chorale performance, unless maybe you’ve got a highly trained ear. In a student dance recital, that’s not quite the case. If one dancer in the group is off or if a soloist stumbles a bit, the audience will surely notice.

Still, there are probably things I/we did that the audience did not notice. So I’m going to leave those things alone. Why draw attention to things that the audience might not have been aware of?

One of my compaƱeras says she has a knack for forgetting her mistakes. I think this is a gift. On the flip side, what I have learned about myself in this process of learning and performing is that I have a knack for remembering EVERY misstep in EVERY choreography I EVER performed. EVER. This, I’m certain, is a curse.

So what I’ll say is, I made mistakes. Some big, some small, some really stupid that left me thinking, “WTF happened?!” and were hard to shake off. But I’m not going into detail here.

One of my New Year’s resolutions is get out of my head and quit obsessing over mistakes made in the past, both with the dance and in other areas of my life. If I don’t, I’ll never be able to move on and up. I just have to recognize them, learn from them and then let them go. Having years worth of crumpled up mistakes cluttering up my brain is not helping my progress. It’s time to take out the trash.

I’m looking forward to putting on my shoes and starting fresh in January. Happy New Year, everyone.

Do a little dance, find a bigger voice

Can you find me in this picture?

After taking eight months off from singing with the chorale to focus on the dance, I thought it would take me awhile to clear the cobwebs from my throat, be able squeak out some sounds and manage to hold a note. But last night at rehearsal, it dawned on me that singing was just a little easier than I remember. I already knew that having a music background helps in my learning the dance, but could it also be that the dance has helped improve my vocal technique?

I remember I used to come home from chorale practices exhausted and headachy, like someone had squeezed all the air out of me to a sad tune. Gone are my days of feeling and sounding like a deflating bagpipe. Last night I wasn’t looking ahead in my music to find the long notes and figure out where I could sneak in a few breaths to be able to make it to the end. No, one breath was all I needed. I left rehearsal feeling strong and energized, like I could have sung another three hours. And it makes sense: If your body is in better shape and your stamina is increased, of course you’ll have a stronger core and increased lung capacity, which make singing with the choir all that much easier.

Don’t you love when all the little random pieces of your life seem to come together?