Last week I received a message from a singer I have been coaching:
Hi Katja, I just wanted to let you know that my last rehearsal went much better. “Being a diva in my own garden” helped me a lot.
In our session, we had been working on how to deal with nerves and staying centered.
This singer is soon going to perform as a solist with a big choir and band, and one of her problems was that she did not get along with the conductor very well. She felt he was rushing her, and the negative, impatient vibes made her feel it was difficult to stay centered while singing. Her solo included some technically challenging passages, that we had been working on in the sessions. After two sessions focusing completely on technique things were going smoother, but in her rehearsal the situation with the conductor made her became nervous again and she couldn’t perform optimally. So what we worked on was:
Learning how to become a Diva in your Own Garden
This is what it’s all about:
We talked about how to feel grounded, and put some extra attention to balance.
Imagine there are magnets under your feet pulling you towards the ground, keeping you attached to the ground no matter how you change your balance, sway from side to side, and so on.
Another image that works for some singers is imagining having roots under your feet. Mind you, however, that ‘having magnets or roots under your feet’ does not mean you have to stand in a rigid position while singing.
We tried out the effect our knees have on our balance, and experimented with the difference between the knees being locked and unlocked. Locked knees will also lock your energy and will get you off balance faster.
It is also not important what picture or mental image you use, what is important is that it helps you achieve the desired thing: being balanced and centered. Other grounding and balancing exercises I like to do with singers are the yoga mountain pose (tadasana) and tree pose (vrksasana).
2. Not letting yourself be influenced by external factors
For singers, in order to be able to deliver a performance, it is important to learn how to create your ‘own space’ that allows you to block out external factors, such as negative vibes and stressful energy from other band members, conductors you work with, and so on. Here’s something you can try out:
Visualise yourself being surrounded by a protective shield or being wrapped up in a protective bubble, from your head to toes. This shield bounces off any negative or stressful energy that you might feel coming from people around you.
I asked the singer if this image made any sense to her. If she would have answered no, we would have set out looking for another way. The shield did make sense to her, however, and she remembered having done a similar exercise before. In the lesson, she literally drew this shield around herself.
After this, we tried out another variation of the ‘protective shield’ exercise.
In order to be able to communicate with band members and conductors, we cannot block out all energy but do have to stay partly open. Also, I believe all people working together in a music performance share the same positive wish of making the performance as good as possible. Most of the time people transmit negative energy and stress not because they intentionally want to sabotage your performance, but because they are nervous or insecure themselves. If we can connect to the positive wish and focus on the positive energy, instead of the negative, we are far better off. If the shield exercise feels like you are blocking out all energy, you might want to try out the following:
Imagine yourself standing in a little garden. Into this garden, you want to invite good friends (the good and positive energy coming from people you work with). You want to keep out all that is not good for your garden (the negative and stressful energy). When you feel bad energy around yourself, instead of blocking all incoming ‘energy streams’ completely, imagine yourself surrounded by a big bunch of flowers. In this way, you don’t allow the negative energy to come to you, but you do send positive energy to the outside. That positive energy will invite the positive energy in others to enter ‘your garden’.
The singer I worked with liked this idea a lot. She said it felt good to think “You can look at these flowers, but as long as you behave like an ***hole you’re not allowed inside my garden.” 🙂
If imagining flowers and gardens don’t make any sense to you, you’re welcome to invent a variation that suits you better. Please do share your suggestions and experiences by commenting on this blog, I’d love to hear from you!
3. Connect to your inner Diva or Divo
It might help to imagine protective shields and bunches of flowers, but let’s face it – we are human and if we feel frustrated about something that frustration can sabotage all our attempts in being all ‘zen’ about the situation. The last thing we talked about with the singer was how to turn the frustration she felt into power she could use in her interpretation, and even physically for singing the technically demanding phrases. This requires something I like to refer to as ‘Diva Behavior’.
Sometimes I hear singers say “I want people to feel comfortable when they work together with me. I definitely don’t want them to think of me as some kind of a diva.” Actually, I used to think like that myself. But making yourself small doesn’t serve anyone, you’re actually making it harder for yourself AND for the people you work with. So at some point I started thinking about how all things come with a positive and a negative meaning. I realized that I had been focusing on the negative meaning of the word ‘diva’. I associated this word with behavior such as taking up all the space, being ‘sharp-elbowed’, making a big scene about minor issues, ‘being difficult’, and so on.
But when I looked at the positive characters of the word ‘diva’, I found out that it included aspects like:
- knowing what you want
- being clear about your boundaries and what you don’t want
- taking the space or time you need in order to feel comfortable
By the way, did you know that the basic sense of the term ‘diva’ is goddess? There’s nothing negative about that, I’d say!
The ‘diva behavior’ also means you look for solutions instead of surrendering to things that don’t feel good to you. Does ‘making people feel comfortable around you’ mean you allow them to treat you without respect or push your boundaries? Sometimes a good ‘I’ll show you what I’ve got’ attitude can help us a long way. Don’t be afraid to show some ‘diva behavior’, take your space, and speak out if you have to. Think about the origin of the term ‘diva’ and become a god(dess) who knows what s/he wants, is clear about his/her boundaries, and spreads only positive energy around yourself. Then, go out there and shine!
What are your favorite practices for centering yourself and dealing with nerves in performance situations? I’d love to hear from you!