By Andrea Hansen
To say that performance days are our favorite days would be the most obvious statement of the century. There is nothing like getting dolled up, striking out on the stage, and delivering a fantastic performance to an appreciative audience. At the same time, getting to that stage takes a ton of work and preparation, so it’s understandable the pressure of producing a finished piece of art can wear you down before you even get in front of an audience. For many singers, the saving grace from the stress is their pre-show ritual: a small moment, or series of moments, that allow you to rid yourself of outside influences and focus on the important task at hand, that is, your performance. We asked a few of our fellow singers what their favorite rituals are so you can benefit from those or similar practices.
"I eat really clean on show days. I avoid acidic things, since nerves, dairy, and caffeine can cause my reflux to flare. I try not to eat three hours before curtain, I drink a ton of water, and then invariably after the show I'm starving and I let myself indulge a little bit, maybe in dessert, maybe in a delicious cocktail, if I don't have to sing tomorrow.”
The old saying “your body is a temple” has special importance on performance days. Singing and deep breathing moves our interior organs, and if you are eating poorly, that movement will put your “temple” under some serious strain. Pay attention to your body’s signals in the days leading up to your performance and try to consume food and beverages that will have little impact on your digestive system.
"In grad school, my voice teacher told me to take the day of my recital to myself. Go get my nails done, pamper myself; be a diva for the day. Sometimes it's just an at-home manicure, but I do try to find a little way to indulge in something that makes me feel beautiful!”
If you’re working right up to the moment of performance, it’s unlikely you feel your normal, gorgeous self. Take a day, or even just a couple of hours on the day of your performance to treat yourself to something luxurious. Whether it’s a manicure, a massage chair, or a steam facial you can’t go wrong! If you’re short on luxurious items, a solid seven hours of sleep is always a good idea. Hit the hay early the night before and recharge those batteries so you can wake up refreshed and ready for the big time!
"It really depends on the rep, but I try to warm up in stages throughout the day. Luckily, my voice really likes singing at 9:00 pm, but maintenance can be a challenge. I have learned how to walk that line between sufficiently warm and over-sung."
A balanced, well-warmed voice on performance days is imperative, but warming up too early can be risky, particularly if the backstage area is drafty or dusty. Conversely, warming up too late can be dangerous, too. Do sirens or a few simple scales throughout the day to keep the folds moving fluidly.
"I work a day job and sometimes have to head straight from the office to the theater. This is good for me because I don't have time to psych myself out. I try to take a minute right before or after getting to the theater for some silent, mind-clearing time. Some people might call it meditation. I just focus on my breath, try to let the day melt away, and think about the task ahead of me."
That pesky day job isn’t going anywhere, so shape your pre-show rituals around your schedule. Try imagining you are in a room with soft, white walls; a clean slate devoid of the day’s distractions and issues. Use your “moment of zen” to focus on your goals in the upcoming performance – try not to stress about those high notes or if you'll catch that entrance. Focus on how you want to feel while singing or how you want to grow during the performance. Pay attention to your breathing. Imagine that with every inhale you are filling yourself with intent and with every exhale eliminating discouragement.
There are numerous rituals to calm and center you and everyone’s pre-show ritual is different, but they all aim to prepare you for the inhuman task of performing glorious music for the world. Try to pinpoint what calms and focuses you and channel that energy into a ritual before you step out into those bright lights. This will help you feel prepared for any and every performance!