Written by: Erin O’brien
I am a perfectionist.
The above sentence is probably more true when it comes to pole than anything else, because if you were to drop in unannounced to my humble abode after 3pm on any given day you would most certainly call me a liar.
2 children, 2 cats, and a husband who thinks the end of the bed is a wardrobe adds up to constant cleaning and tidying and very little perfection – but on the pole is where I am finally able to exert some control and where I strive for the perfection that will forever evade me.
While this, dare I say compulsion, does not become too much of a problem in the studio during class and practice sessions – I am not completely off my rocker, I do know that moves take time to learn and master – it can become extremely intense while working on a performance since I tend to be hard on myself at the best of times.
This year has been one of ups and downs, and following a big disappointment earlier in the year, I decided to put my name down to perform in a showcase the next month (it is important for me to highlight the fact that I NEVER leave it that late to choreograph a routine, NEVER! 4 weeks is not nearly long enough for me and once I realised that I started to panic).
The 4 weeks were a bit all over the place for me, especially since training time was extremely limited – being a mom to an 8 month old and a 4 year old is busy enough without throwing everything else into the mix. By no means am I making excuses, 4 weeks is plenty of time for many other dancers and in fact, I know of a few performers who freestyled their entire routine, but I am a planner and not having a near-to-perfect plan was keeping me up at night.
However, as the day of the performance loomed, I had done 3 full run-throughs and was actually, shock horror, feeling pretty good about my piece. True, I had not put in any moves that were crazy scary or difficult for me, but I was fine with that because I really just wanted to enjoy my performance. I felt confident that I could pull it off without falling or vomiting and that was a win in my book.
On the day of the showcase we were each given time to rehearse, and as usual, I opted not to spend too much time going over my routine since all it seemed to do was make me even more nervous than I already was – and usually, this was not problem, but that day it turned out to be an error in judgment on my part that put into motion what would ultimately cause me to falter. During my rehearsal time I chose to go over a select few of my combos just to get the feel of the X-Stage; I was in the middle of my first combo when I felt myself slip out of a trick that, before that day, I could do in my sleep. I remember thinking “well, that was weird”, but instead of doing it again I left it. Why? I am still not sure, perhaps I shrugged it off as a one-off freak thing that would not happen again. Whatever the reason, I made the wrong decision and paid for it later.
It was not until I had to warm up for my routine that the doubts began – what if I slipped again? What if I fell? Would I be able to keep going? – and as they grew so did my nerves. Under normal circumstances, nerves can be a good thing – the adrenalin pumping through and fueling me for the performance, carrying me through – I love every second – but that night there was something else in there and I found myself slightly uncertain as I walked onstage and faced the lights: I got into position, took a deep breath, and my music began, it was time.
At this point, I would love to be able to write that all my worry was for nothing and that the performance went perfectly… but it did not. I made the same mistake that I had made in rehearsal, and I am convinced that I literally thought myself into doing it. Once it happened, I found myself unable to relax enough to enjoy the rest – but I am proud that I carried on, I honestly had not been sure beforehand what I would do if the slip occurred and surprised myself by staying the course, finishing my routine, bowing, and walking as gracefully as possible off stage.
My best friend/instructor was waiting for me as I walked off and immediately assured me that no one noticed my mess up, that I should waste no time thinking about it, but as she looked at me she knew that that would not be the case – I would not be able to think of that performance without obsessing over what went wrong, and you know what? That is exactly what ended up being the bigger tragedy, the fact that I was not able to let go of something that could happen to anyone, something that did not and would not define me as a dancer and as a performer.
Every single person I spoke to about the night was both supportive and encouraging and yet I still obsessed. I deleted my video and swore I would never perform again – and yes, I am aware of how utterly immature and ridiculous this reaction is, but at the time I was just so incredibly disappointed in myself that I could not see the reality of the situation – but I am extremely lucky to have amazing people in my life who were more than willing to give me a virtual slap and a very real talking to.
Mistakes happen, things do not always go to plan, such is life – but when you love what you do, you get up and brush off the dust and keep moving. There is a saying in one of the Disney movies my oldest daughter loves: “Keep Moving Forward”. This is so true; one often learns more from your losses than from your wins and the trick is to keep going, never give up, and remember that perfection is a myth, we are human and we err – don’t ever stop dancing, the music must go on.
About Erin: Originally from South Africa, lives in Ireland with her husband and two daughters. She is a fitness instructor who teaches spinning part time while using all available other time to immerse herself in her one true passion: everything pole