Saturday, 13 December 2014

Diva inspiration - performance lessons from drag queens

Those who know me will be aware that I am quite an enormous fan of the art of drag. Bellydancers and drag queens have a lot in common, we suffer from glitter dandruff and are among the few professions where gluing gems to your face it not only acceptable but considered very positively. If I want to share the joy of my new wig storage system, then I'll talk to a queen.

I am a huge fan of RuPaul's Drag Race, and its various spin offs, and I have found so much inspiration in terms of make up, costuming and performance skills. Being inspired by our dance idols is great, but sometimes the elements that turn us into great entertainers and unique performers, come from quite different places. So I have decided to start a series of blog posts to share the love.

Part 1 - Nerve

When I decided I wanted to put together a workshop to help shy dancers find their stage mojo, I realised I had to turn to the greatest divas for inspiration, and Fierce and Fearless started to fall into place.

Never let a b**** see you sweat - Bianca Del Rio

Ru often says that when a man puts on a wig and a dress and leaves the house, he's already a hero. It takes nerve. Are you scared to get up on stage and dance your first solo? How about a dose of whatever tonic it takes to do that when simply stepping outside the door in costume is a scary prospect?

What happens when you a criticised? It's really hard to hear someone telling you that your performance, something you are passionate about and worked hard to achieve, isn't hitting the mark - no matter how well intended or gently presented.

I know that for me, the wrong kind of feedback has knocked me for six, left me unmotivated to keep working and even made me consider giving up performing altogether.

Water off a duck's back - Jinkx Monsoon

Everyone has their own way of dealing with this. Ultimately I think it comes back to you. Decide whose opinion matters to you, work on the constructive feedback, but everything else, toss it aside. Use your passion for your performance to drive you on. Not everyone will "get" you. Do your best, train, find out about the roots of the dance you love and do it justice as best you can, but work to your own aspirations and expectations with the support of people who care about your goals more than their egos. Be true to yourself, in fact, let Ru say it (this is marginally sweary):

It's worth remembering here that your critic might not even be someone else. Is it ever? How you respond to criticism, whether it is genuine shade, tactless criticism, a backhanded compliment ("that was brave") or a standoffish audience, is your choice. But our worst critics are usually ourselves. We see an audience member with a sour face, and we assume we aren't good enough. Don't forget you are fabulous. You put in the work, you give your best performance, keep striving, but do that because you are passionate and dedicated and want to give your best, not because you need someone else's approval. Don't forget to appreciate how awesome you are, because if you don't believe it, how are you going to persuade an audience?

Sometimes a comment or a slip up really throws you. You forget your choreography, or your music messes up, or your costume malfunctions. It is very easy to stew on that, and make it very hard to get back up on stage again. When I get into a funk like that I watch this video. This is Alyssa Edwards. She is a FIERCE queen. In her season of Drag Race she had the misfortune to be competing alongside her arch nemesis (because clearly, if you are that fierce, you have a nemesis). Oh the shade of it all! Alyssa's competition was blighted by arguments, backbiting and humiliating criticism. In the first episode she was cruelly called out by another queen for her figure and costume choice, she snarks back, but you can see that it cut her. So what did she do when she was invited back as a warm up to a later season finale? She dances to music mixed with soundbites from her on-screen altercations. And she nails it.

So there it is. Know that you are fabulous. Be fabulous. But if the sound tech puts on the wrong music, or your hairpiece falls off, or your act is poorly received, don't get down, get drop dead gorgeous.

No comments:

Post a Comment