"Do I dare disturb the universe?"
~T.S. Eliot

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Thinking like an Olympian

Ever since the Olympics, I have been feeling more inspired to give what I do everything I have in that moment in time.  In particular, Evan Lysacek's performance had me absolutely floored.  I'm not usually as interested in the men's figure skating; but the finale of his free skate, when he knew he had nailed all his jumps so well, was so incredibly exciting to watch.  I was hooked by his power and command of the ice.  I became so emotionally invested in his performance, because his passion, the freedom and grace of his movement, and his pure happiness and joy was so beautifully evident.  Personally, that is what I love watching in the Olympics--when the athletes know they have done well, and they are just riding it out, milking the performance for all its worth--not in an arrogant way, but in radiating way that is giving the audience as much joy as he or she is experiencing (or ironic grief and amazing will, such as Canadian skater Jeanne Rochette, who performed so beautifully after the sudden death of her mom).

I watched some interviews with Lysacek about his regimen, and similarly to most Olympians, it is slightly insane.  Practice and working out takes up 7 or often more hours of his day, and he rarely had time to go out with friends, attend a birthday party, or go to the movies.  It's a shame that such seemingly great people have to be so isolated, but I suppose that is the sacrifice they make for their craft.

I am inspired to hone my craft and focus my work ethic. Right before college I bought The Inner Game of Music by Barry Green with Timothy Gallwey, recommended to me by my high school band director.  In the middle of college, I bought Fight Your Fear and Win by Don Greene, another motivational performance book recommended by a music major friend.  I admit, I have only scimmed and leafed through these books.  Right now I am finding myself in preparation for audition season round number two, and I am revisiting these books in hopes I can quell my audition nerves which sometimes leave me nearly a wreck.  The first thing that The Inner Game of Music teaches is that we all have a criticizing voice in our head that gets in the way, distracts us, and inhibits us during performance.  We all can remember that voice loudly and clearly during those moments where we crashed and burned.  However, during an amazing performance, we don't really remember anything but the joy and trill of our performance.  The key is to hush that voice in our head so that we can allow our bodies to take over and and enjoy what it does best--the craft at which we have worked so hard.

Of course, it starts with a dedicated and healthy lifestyle, which is what Olympic Gold Medal speed skater Apolo Ohno advocated when he was in Chicago this week.  (He spoke to fifth and sixth graders about making positive choices.)  At the age of professionals or semi-professionals, however, the issues are much deeper at hand.  I have learned that even all the right and healthy choices might not add up to self-confidence and focus in an audition setting.  I'm sure I'll be writing more about these books as I delve further into them.  For now, I can reflect on my handlful of great performance moments in my past, and on the nearly physics-defying performances at the Olympics, as inspiration.

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