I AM…present not perfect.
I take a breath, close my eyes, and feel grateful to be right there in that instant - the exhilarating juncture just before magic happens…
The unfurling moment before a performance is when I feel most alive— most present. Through accumulated experiences, I have learned how to cultivate this presence by releasing control at the time right before the proverbial curtain is lifted; surrendering just at that edge of unpredictability. Through an inspired abandonment of expectation/certainty/pursuit of perfection, presence readily materializes and spills out into the performance space. If I’m very fortunate, my presence resonates with those I am sharing the space with, impacting both other performers and audience members alike, and manifesting as a deep feeling of connection and co-creation. True presence is an elusive slice of timelessness; of spaceless-ness; and of placeless-ness. It transcends context, identity, ego, circumstance, and any other strictures distracting us from the power of the here and now.
Feeling this transformational force during a live performance is like being swept up by the wind and carried to new unimaginable heights. Some schools of thought describe it as flow. Some cultures describe it as duende. Some athletes may link it to adrenaline. Perhaps it is simply a surge of inspiration that comes from our most authentic selves. Others can recognize it as something indescribable — a ‘je ne sais quoi’ quality which can’t really be defined. Whatever it is, wherever it comes from, it serves as a channel liberating creativity and joy. This ethereal and, quite often, inexplicable presence bonds audience, performer, time, space, place, and the universe into a profoundly moving memory — a dynamic testament to the beauty of the tumultuous human experience.
In an artistic and personal quest to champion the inevitable inconsistencies and fluctuating complexities of not only live performance, but also of life as a whole, I have become totally devoted to the realization of presence. In my line of work, one becomes acutely aware of how powerfully affecting genuine presence can be both in self and witnessed in others. One also observes, however, it isn’t just an isolated phenomenon only found in the realm of dance and theatre. Presence can be found everywhere: in the dining room of a restaurant, a conversation with a stranger, walking along the water’s edge, a dialogue with a friend, kissing a significant other, cooking a meal from scratch, piloting an airplane, or responding to a crisis. Moments of sincere presence and, in particular, a shared awareness of presence provide sensorial gateways to buried treasures like raw emotion, expression, purpose, and ingenuity.
No matter how much we rehearse or try to perfect our techniques, life will always serve up the unforeseen. Accordingly, I always tell performers before a show: do not strive for perfection, strive for presence. Inevitably, to do this requires trust in serendipity, spontaneity, gut instincts, and intuition. Look beyond attaining the ideal, fixed expectations, desired outcomes, curtain calls, or good reviews; strip away the fear of failure or uncertainty… and, what remains is something much more robust and meaningful: freedom — guised as a readied imagination.