My First Stage Experience

Oct 07, 2021

By Gina McFadden

My teacher was concerned that I would be a dud on stage. I was shy in the studio and did not plaster a giant smile while all the dancers with solos practiced in front of each other. There was massive encouragement to really gooshe it up (gooshe it up? I think you know what I mean ;-). If you had a lyrical solo, my teacher wanted you almost crying. If you had a jazz solo, you had better be tipping your head to the side and open-mouth-smiling from time to time. I didn’t feel like smiling. All of their frown-faced gazes were watching me, hoping I would fall out of a turn or forget my next step. Struggling to get a passing grade for showmanship, I lifted the corners of my mouth into the smallest smile.

And then it finally arrived: my first time on stage.

La Fille Mal Gardée: my first solo at competition. As I took my first legs-turned-out, feet-pointed steps onto the stage, my entire visage lit up. The audience sat somewhere in darkness – this took me by surprise. I was expecting to see them seeing me. Gobbling up any awareness of the audience or my newness at performing, was the fact that I falling in love with the stage.

The warmth of the stage lights felt as if it were drawing out a light that emanated from inside my ribcage. My costume made me feel as if I had stepped into a character that I – a socially awkward 11-year-old – could vicariously and gloriously come alive through. My stage make-up made me feel beautiful, despite my ears that so painfully stuck out. The music that I had practiced to a thousand times was like a close friend, showing me the way through my dance, just as it always had.

And then it was over. After my final pose, I took my first stage-bow. And then they clapped. They clapped for the hours and hours of practice I had put in. They clapped for the uncountable blisters and bruises my feet had undergone. They clapped for me – for this shy, short, ballet student who got a late start, but showed some promise. I was hooked.

Thanks for reading, Dancer. What was your first stage experience like? Let me know in the comments!




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