When I decided to do four street performances in four different European capitals, it was mainly because it seemed like a cool idea.
Even though an uncomfortable one.
It meant packing two costumes, equipment, pointe shoes, and some supplies to keep the pointe shoes alive (concrete wears them like nothing else). In addition to stuff for 11 days, my son and his wheelchair.
But mainly, uncomfortable because it makes a regular vacation trip more stressful, way ahead of the performance. Usually, when you travel: You arrive, you unpack, you start taking in the atmosphere, maybe a little Prosecco, some food, enjoy some famous sights…all low-pressure experiences and emotional states. When you know you are going to perform, though, this changes. You think of timing, look for potential locations, figure out the logistics of costume change, doing your hair, putting make-up on, take your kid along and get him to video the whole thing, although he doesn’t really feel like it….it’s all a bit nerve-wrecking, when actually, you just want the Prosecco. Many times, I asked myself if it was really worth it.
And then, on top of the discomfort, there were also blunt, location-dependent fears:
In Paris, I was intimidated by all the cultural sophistication and beauty, and felt that my dancing was so inferior to it. People would surely think my performance was embarrassing!
In Brussels, the sight I wanted to perform at (Atomium) was a long ride away from downtown, and I did not know what to expect in terms of potential spots and type of ground. And there was a Rammstein concert just around the corner, so not necessarily my target audience, hehe.
In Tallinn, I was afraid I would get in trouble with security or police, for performing in front of the Estonian parliament.
In Helsinki, I worried I would feel completely marginalized by the reserved Finnish mentality and indifference. When you know Finnish people, you know Finnish people. Toughest crowd. (EDIT: Just kiddin’. I lived in Finland before and I love the Fins. As a die-hard introvert, my mentality is actually quite close!)
But by now, after more than 10 street performances within about a year, I know there is a simple trick to get me going despite anxiety and worries: Once I put my costume on and get ready, there is no turning back. It really is that simple.
So in all discomfort, I did all four planned performances.
While this may sound and look spectacular, it wasn’t always a firework! In fact, these four performances were probably my least successful in terms of number of spectators and money collected. In Paris, my music-playing set-up failed and the music was barely audible. While on an amazing spot, in front of the Eiffel tower, almost no one stopped, and it was the first time I didn’t collect ANY money at all. In Brussels, it started raining while I was performing. In Tallinn, my son accidentally stopped the music around the midpoint of my performance. In Helsinki, I am convinced that people avoided the otherwise quite crowded pedestrian zone when they saw me dancing from afar. (Yes, when you know, you know. Just kiddin’ again. I still love the Fins. And, to their defense: When I spontaneously did one of my pieces with a live violinist right after my performance, we gathered quite the crowd!)
And despite all this, these four were probably the most epic performances for me so far.
The locations were breathtaking, and I could feel how the beauty and gravity of the historical environments infused my dancing. How the courage to perform in front of all this architectural grandeur made me more resilient and less intimidated by anything. The people who did stop and watch were so appreciative, and we all knew how lucky we were to spend some time together. I could feel my dancing getting better from the first to the fourth performance. And it was such an amazing experience to dance in the rain, and see it stop just in time for my shoes to not be affected. And, the best, I got to dance in front of a PINK building!! (the Estonian Parliament, and I wasn’t stopped by any Security or police!). I spontaneously danced with two live street musicians (violinists), in Tallinn and in Helsinki, who graciously jumped on the opportunity to do one piece together (probably one of the best moments of my whole life so far). I have now figured out such a minimal costume/equipment set-up, that I can easily fit it in a small backpack and do sightseeing with it before and/or after the performance.
So, in conclusion: Under all the fears, the logistic challenges, a few mishaps – there is a highly fulfilling sense of accomplishment. This was so much fun, and such once-in-a-lifetime experience. It reminded me how creating is not so much about “success” - but mainly about doing it, and enjoying it while you’re at it. And if I could do THIS - was there anything I couldn’t?
Note to self: Most often, it starts with a cool, and highly uncomfortable idea.