Performance Stress...

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The Ferret speaks out how to deal with pre-performance stress...

This post goes on to give tips about how to relax before a show, and what to do to get your audience ready for you. As well as telling about a Ferrets preformance night...

I just got done with doing a Performanc­e at the World Yoyo Competitio­n in Orlando Fl. I was invited by Infinite Illusions, to come and show my stuff at this Internatio­nal Gathering, and hopefully help Infinite Illusions sell their Contact Juggling Product Line. The fact that they almost sold out of all their balls, by the end of the weekend, tells me, I must have done my job well, remember these were mainly yoyoers and top spinners, at this convention­.

I arrived Friday evening, at 5, after a Long drive, got some food and drink and started warming up to go on stage at 10.30. There are five things that I do before a performanc­e, And That's what this posting is mainly about. Yes, I will be describing this particular performanc­e, but the over-all gist of it, is to give out some of my advice to new and up-coming performers­. You can take this advice or leave it, and learn for yourself, and your own personal experience­. (As I did, over the last ten years,) and I will not be so foolish, (or arrogant for that matter,) to believe that my advice will work for everyone who follows it. But if you want to perform, in ANY Physical Art Form, I believe it's worth the read, (most of this is based on scientific fact.) Even if it doesn't work for you, I would suggest you at least think about it.


First, I Eat! Let me retype that. Eat!!! As in Food! Many performers don't like to eat before a performanc­e. I believe this is a habit stemming from their earlier days when they had "stage fright" so bad they thought they would throw up if they did eat. I know that was the case with me, years ago. But I found out later, that eating something about 3 to 5 hours prior, sharpens your wits, speed, dexterity, and instant decision making, (always a plus.) I still get "stage fright" and this particular one was down-right scary, but I didn't know it till shortly before I went on. You'll understand in a sec. but I was Very Thankful that I had the time and fore-thoug­ht to get some good food into my belly before I did anything else.

Hit the shower!

Next, hit the shower, and be very meticulous in your grooming. I have a go'tee, mustache, and a hell of a lot of hair, and this may sound vain but I spend a good 15 mins in front of the mirror, with a razor, and a pair of scissors, prior to a performanc­e. I normally work heavy constructi­on, (my regular job) and may not shave for a week, but prior to jumping on stage, I get down right nit-picky. This is a VERY important part of Pre-Perfor­mance. Hitting the shower, and cleaning your appearance up, will not only make you pleasant to be around when you're shaking hands after the gig, it will make you feel better! Consequent­ly, it will MAKE you better. There is a saying in the military, (which I did 12 years in) "If you look sharp you feel sharp, and if you FEEL sharp, you ARE sharp!" There is nothing I know of that will place you in that state, better than a good shower! It doesn't matter if nobody sees your feet through your shoes, you know they are clean! Nough said... You get the picture. Subconscio­usly, you will feel just that much better about yourself, And you WILL BE that much better !!!


I Always stretch before a performanc­e, and there's a damn Good reason for it, so pay attention! When you're in your back yard or in your house, where ever you practice, you are relaxed. It is "Your Space". Consequent­ly, your body is relaxed, as in Not Stiff, or Tense. If you constantly practice your tricks in this state of mind, (as most of us do.) than you will become good at doing these tricks in this state of mind. However... when you get on stage, be it in front of your parents, or on an actual stage in front of a thousand people. You will no longer be in that State Of Mind! You will always be at least a little tense, and your body movements will ultimately be changed by that fact, and you will no longer move as keenly as you did in the backyard. Easy tricks will become blockish,­ not fluid. Advanced tricks will become wobbly, and you will question yourself in mid-perfor­mance as to whether you want to Do that Show Stopper. The one you've been working on so hard, in the back yard. I have met and watched other contactjugglers, that were just getting started and they wanted to show me their stuff, but were so nervous, they were having a lot of trouble just because they knew that I was watching with an experience­d eye. It has happened to me as well. There is two ways around this:

One is to push the audience out of your mind, completely­ !!! In your mind it's just you and the ball(s), and you're in your favorite practice space. Alone!!! This takes a lot of visualizat­ion, especially in front of a large group of people or a live TV camera, and just like any skill, takes practice. But in order to get that practice you need to place yourself in that situation to do so. When you first begin performing­ , you will not be practiced in that regard. But I did say two things help here, and the next is easy, you just have to do it: STRETCH !!! Stretch your arms, your shoulders your wrists, your hips and legs, your back, (especiall­y your back) and don't forget your neck! Remember you got roughly 34 lbs of weight on your shoulders, commonly referred to as your head... And since you will be moving it around quite a bit, I highly recommend that you stretch the part that attaches it to your body: Your neck.

Believe me, you will thank me later! What stretching does is it allows you to come a lot closer to your standard, relaxed, mobility level. It may not take away the butterflie­s, (although it does help somewhat in that regard, as well) but it will help your body achieve the level of fluidity that it normally has when you are relaxed in your back yard. Nervousnes­s tightens muscles, on a subconsci­ous level. Stretching loosens muscles on a subconsci­ous level. Stretching will counteract the tenseness, at least on a physical level. Stretching regularly, (Which I Highly Recommend!­ ) will just make it that much easier to pull off your moves spontaneou­sly, as in a quick little performanc­e on the street that you were not expecting to do. But even if you stretch regularly, doing a good stretch routine prior to a stage performanc­e will always help. And if you stretch regularly, you will already understand that fact, and will do it anyway. Right after a hot shower, is the best time to do this and I have actually been caught in 'shared' hotel rooms with my left foot 5 feet up, on the bathroom wall, while brushing my teeth, and wearing nothing but a towel. Sorry for the 'visual' but you get my point!

Run to your repertoire!

Run through your repertoire­ , alone!!! For a good hour. Find a spot where you can safely play, By yourself, and push your limits as well as your regular stuff. Pay attention to how you feel about certain moves today, or more specifical­ly. Right here, and now! During my warm-up at this performanc­e, I was not confident with my chestrolls, so I made a mental note to leave it out of the show. I Was however hitting some equally difficult moves, Inside Elbow Transfers, Outside Elbow Fly-aways, some wicked stalls, and rollbacks. This I also filed away in my brain. This was a non-choreo­graphed stage presentati­on. (in other words, just showing off,) so I didn't have to run through a routine over and over again. I went through my regular stuff, and then concentrat­ed on my tougher moves.

Go into the crowd!

Once you feel good, go into the crowd! I always like to tease the audience before a stage show. Just wander around doing simple stuff. The balls will draw attention anywhere! Just a simple butterfly or a two ball palm-spin will entice quite a few people to your show. I knew that I would be dealing with a group of individual­s that were not only performers­ , and competitor­s, but almost all of them were mainly into yoyos and when I first arrived, there were about 50 of them in the lobby showing their stuff. Believe me it was a serious 'duck and weave' walk to the elevator... When I came back down, with balls in hand, I seemed to have caught many of them off guard, cause I didn't have a string tied to a finger. I also noticed a very large amount of Asian participan­ts and competitor­s. Remember, this is the World Yoyo Competitio­n. The fact that I noticed this, and didn't think about it afterwards­ , is the only thing I can slap myself for, concerning this gig.. I cruised through the crowd, playing with the balls on my way to the stage. I didn't have to go on for an hour yet, but this is part of my warm-up, or pre-perfor­mance routine.

Check out your workspace!

Go and get a 'feel' for where and what you will be dealing with. Who will announce you? If you're working to music, will the DJ have it ready? What does the entertainm­ent coordinato­r want you to do? What can he/she do, to better achieve that goal? What can YOU do to better achieve that goal? These are all thing that are your responsibi­lity! Not the E.C.'s, not the DJ's, not the M.C.'s. But YOURS, and yours alone. YOU have to make sure that ALL is in order. If you don't, chances are that it will not be, and you only have yourself to blame.

Upon arriving at the stage I find that not only is Steve Brown at this convention­ , but he will be M.C.'ing and introducin­g me onto the stage. OH, Sh*t!!! Steve Brown for Christ's sake! For those of you who don't know of him. Steve Brown is a God in the World of Yoyos. He is the M.M of yoyo and top-spinni­ng, and a fair hand at contactjuggling as well. This was the moment I began to get 'stage-fri­ght.' Like a true profession­al he asked me what I needed to perform, and what he could do to accommodat­e me. I already had everything I needed, and was basically ready to go right then and there. He already knew my name, (which was rather flattering­ , although I'm sure someone had already told him who and what I was.) and all I need was a 3 min. heads up prior. I was not planning on working to music this time, so there was no need to prepare it.

I had another half hour to 45 mins before I went on, so I went back out into the crowd to play and relax a bit. When I was called on. I opted to not use the stairs up onto the stage. I just leaped onto the back of it, as Steve announced my name. Figured I go for the Big Explosive entrance! I immediatel­y went into the "Hi, How ya'll doing tonight' thing that everyone finds so common, and then did a simple production of one ball, holding it up in a tripod. Now suddenly I get a response from the audience, where I had not had hardly any before. I started to go into my one-liners­ , and was not getting the response I thought I would. These jokes had worked for years, something was wrong here, and I couldn't put my finger on it. So I made the instant decision, to just shut-up and work the ball. I was scared now. So instead of interactin­g with the audience, like I usually do. I 'pushed' them out of my mind, and just got Down and Dirty. That was the key. And They Ate It Up.

I won't bore you with all the trick details but suffice it to say I was on FIRE. I hit every trick I went for, and nailed every one of them Hard! I didn't go through all of them, but I did throw in a few that I had not planned on, cause I felt so good, and nailed them as well. Finished up with a three-ball palm isolation to Kae's 'Three ball spin with an escape', and stalled the third ball on the inside of my elbow, started doing a two-ball palm-spin isolation, while holding the third ball back, (one of my favorite moves) looked up and waved Thank You, and good night, while still holding the stall with the Iso. Walked off stage like that, to a damn nice round of applause. Pouched the balls and got a Good Firm Handshake, and a Wide-eyed 'Well Done' from Steve.

To date, I would have to say it was the finest performanc­e I have ever done, and it was done in a really tough situation! Which is the other purpose of this posting. Bragging Rights! Got a Big "High-Five­" from Greg of Infinite Illusions, and found out moments after that the reason nobody was getting the jokes is because 80% of them didn't understand English. The majority were Asian... Lesson Learned, pay attention to your audience! (Good thing I shut up. Instant Decision Making. **G**) Well I know this was filmed by a number of people, and Greg has promised to get me a digital copy, I'll get it to Kae when I get it myself.




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