The Opening Night

Yesterday I felt like I was performing on the opening night. How wrong could I be? Tonight the audience seemed to fill the venue, and the atmosphere had cranked up another notch.

I was reminded of my interest in invisible disability as my own personal plague of mental health problems started to play up. Despite arriving early, I felt panicked, anxious and simultaneously ‘out of it’. As I dressed, my self confidence dropped to the bottom of my (admittedly excellent) gold high top trainers, and my mood began to follow suit. My head tried shouting “this is not a convenient time!! CAN’T WE DO THIS NEXT WEEK???” although I’m not entirely sure why it bothered, that tactic has never worked before.

Last year I performed in the show Red Line, directed by Caroline Bowditch, and comparing that performance to this one it is astonishing the difference in my movement. Then, I was between medications and felt totally disconnected from the world around me. I tried to engage in rehearsals, but my energy dipped constantly, meaning that any movement I created showed a minimal amount of the movement I am really capable of. I am now on a new gang of medications that seem to be doing a good job, and the development in my movement has been significant. People who had worked on Red Line with me for 15 weeks were genuinely surprised to see me perform in Glory… I can’t pretend I wasn’t chuffed.

The links between mood and movement are inextricable for anyone in my experience. Someone who is terrified moves very differently to someone experiencing joy or anger or grief. In this sense, mental illness can be very visible on the body. However, it is worth remembering that like light or air we can only see the effects, not the force itself.

This show went well, although I felt much more shaky as I entered the stage. My balance felt off, and my limbs felt as much in control as if I was operating them with complex pulley systems. I did OK, and only the ‘solo groove’ proved challenging. I had previously sent his phrase as a chance to really indulge in movement your body loves. It is this, but I underestimated how vulnerable this can be. To offer my authentically moving body up to the eyes of the audience felt for a split second impossible, but I managed to combat this fear with two things; eye line and breath. Eye line – I don’t need to stare at the audience if I don’t want to! I can keep them directed in to the world of the movement I was creating. Breath – this feels like the source of authenticity for this movement, and it also allowed me to remain calm and grounded. I found that after experimenting with breath yesterday I gained a lot by brining it into this performance. I managed to find my breath and the soles of my feet a various times throughout the performance, which not only kept me calm but allowed me to really be in the moment.

I feel slightly bizarre having performed with the company in front of a paying audience, it seems so recently that we were meeting for the first time in Govan! What a journey it has been for everyone involved. I hope that we can continue to raise the focus and energy of the piece over the coming nights, and continue to find joy in sharing our movement with others.


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