Learning to be Elegant by Performing
In many ways, learning how to sing and performance has taught me many lessons on how to be elegant. I think I now
understand why so many performers are so elegant in their ways.
A few days ago, I had a nerve-wrecking experience. I had to sing in front of a live audience! I blame my singing teacher, he made me do it. I have had only six months of training, and any proper training before that was rather done haphazardly over many years.
I learned many things from that experience – some of the lessons which could be applied to learning to be an elegant woman.
#1 You can still communicate something beautiful, no matter where you’re at
I kicked and screamed (eloquently with words) and protested violently around April this year, when he first suggested I participated in his Student recital for classical singing (think opera type), that he planned for some of his students.
He pushed me hard, nit-picked on my breathing, sound, mouth shapes, images in my mind, posture etc etc.
After a couple of live rehearsals with a grand pianist, he told me, “Singing is communicating. You can still communicate something beautiful without technique. But you have some technique, so just think about what you want to say to your audience.”
I thought about how beautiful that concept is and how it relates to elegance. No matter where you’re at, you may think you’re too tall, short, large, thin, too uneducated, not eloquent enough, you can STILL communicate something beautiful. You can still show some of your beauty and elegance to others by the way you dress, your thoughtful words, kindness, your calm presence, the way you move, sit or stand.
#2 Use pressure and performance to accelerate your learning
I complained endlessly that I was not ready, that I had very little technique, my body was not strong enough, my breathing technique still not completely secure and dependable etc etc.
However, through that experience and the thought of having to perform in front of a live audience accelerated my growth in ways I cannot imagine I would if I didn’t have to perform.
In many ways, learning to be elegant is a performance.
Performing is a mode of communication.
You in being and trying to portray an elegant look is in a way performing for others to see. For some of you who may struggle to establish an elegant look, due to shyness or lack of confidence, you can choose a date to ‘perform’, such as a wedding, or a company or school’s dinner and dance. If you feel totally shy, just choose a date night by yourself, where you could watch a ballet by yourself and get a glass of champagne during its intermission. You’ll then dress in an elegant way that you may be shy to normally. The more you do this, the better you’ll get.
Similarly, I didn’t expect my first performance to be ground-breaking. The more times you’ll do it, the more comfortable you’ll be. Thus, the more opportunities you give yourself to ‘perform’ – be it learning to be elegant or anything else. You’ll accelerate your growth.
#3 Posture is important – for breathing, communication and technique
Maybe it has been a while since I mentioned this, but an elegant posture is essential!
I mean, it is possible to be elegant without good posture, although your other qualities have to probably overcompensate this area.
My posture has improved due to the amount of dancing. I’ve been doing the past couple of years. Posture is very important too in singing. On top of that, I was singing 2 Italian songs, V’adoro, pupille and Caro Mio Ben and you can’t sing them with a sunken chest and your eyes to the floor.
I had no idea how I was doing until my teacher told me, “Eunice look up higher, otherwise the audience will think you are ignoring them.” “Stand up straighter.” And finally he gave me a spot to look at in the recital area, which I had more or less made myself look in that general direction.
As I walked along the glass corridors unto the stage, my reflection was an additional reminder of walking on stage and off stage with good posture and maintaining it throughout the performance.
Later on, when I had the courage to look at the raw footage of the performance, I’ve noticed that with good posture and looking at an upwards direction, I’ve managed to look confident, despite the fact that my knees were shaking.
#4 Learning to pretend while coping with nerves
This, I didn’t do that well. There will ALWAYS be situations in life that cause you to feel nervous. I think everyone could tell I was nervous, just perhaps they didn’t know exactly HOW NERVOUS. My voice was shaking not because of vocal vibrato but of nerves.
In any performing arts, you’ve got to learn to go on and pretend nothing’s happened despite of mistakes.
In dancing ballet, whenever I made a mistake, or my balance was off, I had to learn to sweep into the next move and keeping my face calm and self-assured without making a sheepish grin. When I was singing, there was this really tricky part where it was hard to be in tempo with the pianist and I had to learn to fake it if I couldn’t make it. Or when I forgot to breathe and had to quickly cut short another note to take a breath.
In life, whether you made a big boo boo in etiquette or you’re caught in a wildly embarrassing situation, you just have to hold your head high, project an aura of calm and self-assurance and make nothing of it.
Of course, you are pretending. You are feel all the raw emotions and your face is red with embarrassment. But keep calm and carry on. In a moment, or after a while you’ll feel better, and you’re actually putting other people around you at ease too.
# 5 Small movements make a huge difference!
I thought I was pretty calm (or rather, acting pretty calm) but after viewing the footage of my performance, I’ve realized that I made some irritating movements like using my fingers to brush my hair across my face, an occasional touch to my nose (WHY DID I DO THAT?!?), a little jiggle in the upper shoulders that came from the waist, small little steps to adjust my standing position before the performance.
It wasn’t really that bad, but I just noticed it and was hard on myself.
Of course, most people probably wouldn’t notice in normal days but during performance, every thing is magnified.
No one dared to comment on my posture and my family said I was fine, BUT STILL. I noticed it.
I’ve realized I need practice to be still. I need to learn to not to fidget. I walk on stage, root myself to the floor and then in a calm way, greet my audience, arrange my scores, and nod calmly to the pianist.
It is all about poise.
This applies to every area of your life when you’re speaking to anyone or eating. There is some sense of ‘being still’ if you want to be elegant.