The Very First play

True, it wasn’t the Very First One.

The Very First One was in the South of France when I was 8 – and with a dozen of cousins we’d prepared a succession of acts, walking the adults from the swimming pool (choreographed jumps and dives!) to the living room (dancing-worm rendition by my 5-year-old little sister and her cushion) to the stairs (singing by the girls).

A first dabble at entertaining & seducing an audience.

How easy it was, back then….

And then, 20 years later, came the real one. The one with a real performance space, where you spend the money, invite all of your friends… and sit in front of a blank page for hours on end.

The one where you have no idea what you’re doing but this is what you really want to do right now.

I thought – smart ass – that I’d make it easier on myself by rewriting something already written. So I adapted a beautiful Japanese Kabuki tale from the 18th century – the Love Suicides at Sonezaki – and to London post-WWII. (The audience knew! Nothing shady :))

It became not only a play but a musical – with a cast of 10 actors, 12 dancers, and a live band. All this on the enormous budget of £800.

Yes, I don’t do things by half when I get started….

These were probably the hardest, most tense months of my life. I wish I’d known what I know now about mindset and not letting yourself be controlled by fear back then.

I was consumed with worry. It was sitting on my shoulder, walking around with me as I went through my day, voraciously eating away at my sanity. 

Worry.

Not only about how to direct and manage such a huge crew, where to find the money, and how to get an audience, but especially – especially:

What if they don’t like it?

Can I ever survive an audience not liking it?

What if they don’t like it, don’t like it, don’t like it, don’t like it…?

And guess what.

They didn’t like it.

Truth is, it wasn’t good. It was a First Play.

They were kind, and smiled, and congratulated me. Until the drunken guy at the pub took me to the side and said “Did you too come see that play? I left after 20 minutes… It was so boring.”

Probably not his best pick-up line.

I left the pub drunk & in tears and sobbed through the night.

But hey.

It wasn’t very good.

But it was a first start.

It is what allows me to write today. And I’m grateful for that.

Feel The Fear… and Do It Anyway

There’s this famous book by Susan Jeffers called Feel The Fear… and Do It Anyway….

…that I haven’t read yet but everyone keeps raving about.

And the title can’t help but resonate.

I have mixed feelings about valiantly working through fear because I’ve learned in the past few years that feeling uncomfortable, un-aligned, plain stressed or in “cognitive dissonance” is not necessarily the quick self-help path to happiness that it’s promoted to be.

Instead, self-compassion probably works better.

Still, there are things in life that scare the s… out of you but you know you got to do it anyway.

Starting your own business, taking that dance class, having a baby…

It’s that or staying stuck in indecision limbo and that sucks.

For me, it was singing.

Singing – it’d been nagging me for years, the little voice in my head saying ‘You’ve got to go and share your voice now’ that I’d been trying hard not to listen to.

On the 1st of January 2017, almost a year ago I picked up an old dusty ukulele in my parent’s garage. I gave myself a month to learn a song and go sing at an open mic (which at that time I called ‘a professional environment…’)

It became Plan Of The Month.

I picked an easy song (for those of you who ever want to learn how to play the uk’, Adele’s Hello is a good one to start with)

I religiously went through all the youtube tutorials.

I practiced at the very least one hour a day (and got extremely grumpy when I couldn’t)

Booked in additional private singing lessons.

Early on, I located an open mic with a reputation for being easy on beginners… and went to check it out twice quietly staying, wallflower-like, against the wall.

Still, despite all that, I just couldn’t smooth out the transition between the chords, kept losing the rhythm mid-song, and hitting flat on the high pitched notes…

At the time we were flat-sharing with an Actual Musician, one who was touring the US, was in a real band, and had a much liked famous page (and, incidentally, good music too…)… I’d go practice on the rooftop – in London, in January – to spare him my practice and my eternal shame…

It was all a fun side project, yet as we got closer to the finals days of January tension was eating me away constantly.

On the morning of that fateful Friday the 29th of February, I checked if, maybe, I could push back by a day or two and find another opportunity to perform over the weekend.

But no.  – the ‘nice’ open mic suitable for my level was on that day… like waxing, waiting would only make it worse.

I took my bike and rode through the cold, dark London roads with my ukulele on my back on my heart in my heart 

Who am I to do this?

Who do I think I am to do this?

Who the F*** DO I THINK I AM TO DO THIS?

Yet there I was, in that little corner pizzeria whose flight of stairs and blackboard sign dryly invited me to come down and join the herd of musicians who flock there every Friday night.

How nice it’d have been to simply sit on one of the tables, pick up a menu, order a wedge and a glass of wine and safely stay on the ground floor…

I stopped breathing on those stairs.

Numbing myself not to hear the crazy drunk monkey steering the wheel of my mind and its galloping thoughts crying Danger, Danger, I saw myself put my name down on the list, take out my ukulele, avoid anyone’s gaze and wait.

And then you get called. And your palms sweat like they never did before. And your heart beats so fast you can’t hear anything.

And you sing.

There is something wonderful that happens when you create music.

It’s like praying.

Everything becomes silent, even the two drunk comedians exchanging banter at the bar and the couple loudly flirting at the front.

You vibrate.

And the humming of your body forces to be present to the beauty of what you’re creating.

It was the end of the song. There’d been tempo mistakes, flat notes, wrong chords.

It’s true that they were a kind bunch…

And it didn’t matter. I’d been singing.

And was ready to do it again.

When 2 people show up at your party

Recently I received a text message from my sister.

“The reason mum can’t find a date to celebrate her birthday is not that she can’t find a date. It’s that she’s scared of organising a party”.

which in a way is cute given that she’s about to turn 60, has 50 people in her close family (which, if you offer a Sunday of free booze/free delicious food has a tendency to Show Up and raid your home…), and has no reason to believe people wouldn’t come.

But anyway, it looks like the frightening thought of Noone Showing Up at your birthday can linger on for years…

Thankfully I’ve just had my own version of Noone At Your DoorStep, so that fear is gone now…

I’ve recently invited creatives (theatre practitioners, film-makers, script-writers…) for a discussion around what I’ve discovered about the creative process from writing 4 plays & 3 short films, & performing in over 15 productions in the past 5 years.

It was all set up with tea, biscuits, and even a ppt presentation with everything I thought would be helpful to the person I was 5 years ago.

Of the 11 people who said they’d come, 2 showed up.

I could have felt disappointed. Instead, I decided to embrace the fact that 2 talented people that I admire came to see me! In my home! And one brought a gift! <3

It was a lovely evening. I shared what I had planned to share, then we had an interesting chat over a glass of wine.

So, yeah, not everything is insta-worthy sometimes. I wanted to share the story so that next time 4 people show up to your event/play/concert, you can consider it a success…

That evening was really nice.

So nice, in fact, that I’m organising it again next month.

And if you’re in London, you’re invited.

Much love,

Anne

The dress I’ve always dreamt of

Some girls start planning their wedding very early on.

Others, much later, when their partner is on one knee and they say yes but what they’re really thinking about is the year ahead and the enormous project that’s just been added to their to-do list.

But when you’re a woman there always comes a point when you think about The Dress.

What’s your style?

Will it be simple?

Chiffon dress or organza? Silk?

Will you wear a veil?

Thoughts that always felt more oppressive to me than exciting. For some reason – maybe because I know that White is definitely not my color – I’ve never dreamt of a wedding dress.

it’s another kind of dress that turns me on.

A gorgeous one too, though.

yes, it’s a long gown, yes I’ll be smiling on the pictures, yes it’s by a wedding dress designer and yes it will be the most beautiful day of my life…

I’ve found it 6 years ago and it’s been on my Pinterest board since then.

My Oscar dress.

The dress I want to wear when I’m receiving an Oscar.

It’s by Cortana, and I don’t want it beige, but red.

I found it years ago when I was doing research for a film and my heart melted.

All set, then.

Now I just need the movie part.

Daily routines

Meditate

Exercise

Journal

Read one book a day

Affirmations

Gratitude list

 

In the past years, I feel that I’ve been bombarded by so much advice on what to do every day to lead a fulfilled life…

Not conflicting advice, but rather… advice that adds up.

 

So like a good little soldier, every time I’d read a new article praising the scientifically-proven incredible benefits of Daily Routine X I’d try and cram it into my day.

Adding morning meditation and gratitude list on top of chakra meditation, making sure I’d started the day with 10 minutes of yoga and affirmations…

By 8.30AM I was already exhausted and frustrated by how I’d dragged myself out of bed at 6AM just to still have nothing to show for myself by then.

I kept telling myself that it was just the right way to start my Most Productive Day Ever but still…I was in my pajamas repeating affirmations to my mirror. How about sending out emails?

So I changed my approach.

After reading yet another enlightening article assuring me that the only way to make something a habit was to do that one thing for 21-day in a row, I decided to tackle my daily routine 3-weeks at a time.

Yawn.

How Boring.

One day I’d want to do affirmations, the next feel a strong urge to meditate, but it was my 21-Days Of Journalling, so I couldn’t.

Fast-forward to 2 years and none of this has stuck (apart from exercise by it’s my work). I’ve been dabbling at meditation, at the most, and never got the benefit of any of this… (only the stress of falling short at having a great morning routine like successful people do)

Until recently, when I did some personal development work.

It’s so simple actually.

Here’s the real trick.

You sit down with a cup of coffee (or a glass of wine if it’s the first time you’ve ever done some introspection work). You spend some time defining your personal needs.

Personal needs?

What you need in your life to feel good.

What is it that if you don’t have it regularly you get cranky, or drained, or sad?

What gives you energy and makes you feel powerful?

What makes you feel loved?

They can be a need for physical touch. Or exercise. Or spiritual conection. Or compliments. Or signigficance…

We all have them, and yes, they can feel a bit… ridiculous, or shameful sometimes (cue my need for compliments).. but they’re just needs and the thing to remember about them is that once they are met (a little hug here and there, a word of affirmation, some time alone…), they get out of our system, and we’re a better version of ourselves.

(So, the ratio of work-in/ impact-on-the-world is huge :-))

Right. Once you find them, you can organise your daily or weekly routine around them.

Need for spiritual connection? Maybe meditate for 20 minutes in the morning

Need for laughter? Finish the day with youtube videos of your favorite comedian

Need for physical touch? Get a massage weekly, or go to a tango class… or use your imagination??

Life – and daily routines – are much simpler that way, and much nicer than frantically following the latest Fast Company article on productivity.

Don’t you think?

Off to my yoga class now…

Much love,

Anne

Finding love

Love’s been big on my list, big on my mind recently.

I’m looking for it and would like 2018 to be the year of love.

Not the love that comes from someone else (I’ve got that already).

Rather, love for myself by myself.

Living in Love. Creating from a place of love. Loving what I do and doing what I love.

I’ve spent many years trying to find it outside of myself – in the feeling of significance being on stage gives to me, the recognition of being a successful business owner, in my relationships….

And it seems that right now the need for Inner Love is catching-up with me.

It is showing up everywhere. In the talks I’m invited to (hello Elena), the books I read, the personal development work I do, the yoga studios I start working with….

It seems that everything is urging me to fill the void that’s in my heart from the inside, not from the outside.

As if the universe were whispering in my ears: “Time to get serious Anne, you know what you really have to do”. I guess the problem with outside love is that it dries out at some point?

But I have no idea where to start.

The truth is, I’m using vocabulary and dwelling on themes – universe, love, chakras, Source… – that are completely new to me.

I just sense that this is my next big project: Self Love – who would have thought? And it both puzzles and scares me… How do you prioritize self love when you’re actually lacking in it? Everything seems so much more important.

I wonder, writing these words, if I sound like I’m having a pity party. Poor little dancer, she is surrounded by friends, has a loving family and wonderful partner, and she doesn’t love herself… I’m not though, and maybe that’s a sign of how dry my heart is.

Recently in Siem Reap, Cambodia, I did a chakra restoring session – which is as crazy and wonderful as it sounds.

Adele, the woman who ‘helped me’ (I’m not sure how to call her… a healer? a spiritual teacher?) was so loving. Definitely made me realise the importance of love.

She suggested that each of our many many many lives is a lesson for our souls.

And that maybe the lesson for my life right now is to love myself.

Hopefully, it takes less than a lifetime though. I’d like to enjoy some of that. 

Actually, i’m strong

So, something wonderful happened during my holidays.

It was the first holiday in a year, and I’d decided to backpack on my own, which I’d never really done.

And a sign of change… For the first time in years, I didn’t take my computer with me – which was scary (How did I put myself in a situation where going away for 10 days without a computer is scary?!?)

So I left, computer- & travel-mate-free.

I wanted to get away from everything, change sceneries, forget about my life and recharge…

Cambodia is a wonderful country, with both a grandiose and terrible past. Much to learn, much to see, combined with incredible islands to relax and enjoy life (and let’s not get started about the food…) I couldn’t have chosen a better country.

But I was nervous.

When I’m alone, I love it for a day: Yay! I’m free! Now it’s all about me!!

Then my mind starts going round in circles and I can feel really sad, depressed.

I’d done a lot of introspection in 2017, and I didn’t want that anymore. Bring on the Fun, please…

At first, though, it dangerously verged on being a disaster…

On the first two days, running around to try and find accommodation (Note for self, next time you travel for New Year’s Eve, pre-book…), feeling lonely and “off” – it takes time to go from Stressful London Life to Relaxed Holiday Flow…

… and I kept thinking about the time I spent in Asia 10 years ago, idealizing it as a time of friendship and possibilities.

About all the opportunities I’d missed, the things I hadn’t done, the promises I hadn’t kept.

I was on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and I could feel myself sink deeper and deeper into sadness.

But then something switched.

I changed islands – as you do – and got energized by the trip. I relaxed into the holiday flow and started meeting loads of people. Like… Loads.

Young, Old, Families, Solo-travellers, groups of friends, Brazilians, Kiwis…

Everyone with a story, and everyone willing to share a bit of their trip with me.

My mind stopped being so self-centered and turned towards the outside world again. Drinking, Travelling, visiting together… I had fun.

And when the time would come to move, grabbing my backpack and hopping into a boat or bus, saying bye to my new friends and getting ready to meet the people who’d come next into my life, I felt so strong. I could do this.

My heart was telling me – See?! Told you we’d be ok.

Finding Joy When Your Art Feels Like A Drag

Have you ever embarked on a project with all your heart just to feel completely lost a few months or years down the line?

Ever gone through a phase when you said to yourself “Hang on a minute, I don’t even know what I AM anymore…”?

I have.

And thought these moments are notoriously uncomfortable, they can lead to incredible breakthroughs.

Thing is, most of us don’t want to talk about them. Or even, we prefer to stay the course and ‘Not Be A Quitter’ instead of recognizing that something is not fulfilling us right now.

That’s why I was so happy that Imogen, who combines the kindest, gentlest soul I know with the hardcore body of a Fitness pro, agreed to share her story.

She transitioned from dancer-creator to business owner. And in this interview she shares:

  • How she decided to let joy drive her decisions
  • How she took a step back and gave herself permission to Not Know
  • How she found her new passion by following her curiosity
  • & the fulfillment that comes with helping people lead healthier, happier lives

… and because she’s funny and kind, she’s shared her three favorite books with us..

I have a tendency to Stay the Course and Never Quit… and the few times I have actually called it quits on something it has taken me time, and cost everyone involved way more drama than necessary… So I always love hearing about people taking a gentler route for themselves…

I hope she inspires you as much as she does to me.

Thank you for reading and being here 😉

Much love,

Anne

Why you never finished  that book

Last night I had dinner with a dear friend of mine who told me I was so driven, and asked me how I do it.

She also told me I have a specific ability to work hard.

And that she is not like that. She added that she started a book a few years ago, and never finished it.

I was flattered… and not sure what to say.

We have this image of the driven individual, destined for success and different from other people. So I loved that she saw that in me.

But hahahaha

Let’s face it. That’s not really me 🙂

I’m so prone to Shiny Object Syndrom. Plus, I get scared a lot, which doesn’t help with drive, and getting things done.

(Also, I’m not a mum yet, and she is. Let’s face it I have no excuse!

No tiny individual depends on me for survival and dictates my every move… so if I get sweet FA done, that’s not really fair to my space in the world right now)

That said, I’ve been working independently for years now. And as an artist, if I don’t kick my own butt nothing happens… so the subject of obsession and getting stuff done is definitely top of mind.

Here’s what I learned about obsession my Caro d’amour, and maybe the reason why you never got round to finishing your book (which by the way was a beautiful project, and please don’t beat yourself up for not crossing the finish line, everyone has been there)

I’ve realized that you can’t make big progress, take massive action, stay the course if you’re not obsessed.

Just Obsessed? Yes, just obsessed. Wanna hear what the lovely Conor Mcgregor has to say about that?

“I’m not talented. I am obsessed”

It’s what Tony Robbins and all of the other coaches speak about when they say “Start With Why”.

The truth is, I never fully understood what it meant until last year when I decided to go full-on with my tango school, and be a full-time dancer and artist.

Back then, we worked out that if we could invite people to try out our tango classes, then a fraction would stay and keep learning with us. As simple as that.

And at that point, I became obsessed with the number of people registered to attend our free workshops.

It was the first thing I thought about when I woke up in the morning.

It was (almost) the only thing I spoke about with Pablo.

I actually found it very hard to focus on anything else: I was writing a show at the time, and could feel that it didn’t receive the attention it deserved.

And because I was so obsessed, I made it happen. I improved my skills, advertised, went out there in a bigger way. I was checking that number all the time and racing my brain to find new ways to reach more people and invite them to share a tango with us.

It worked. And now, I can start obsessing about something else, which is great 🙂

One thing I learned is that if it’s the first thing you think about in the morning when you wake up, you’ll find a way to make it happen. That’s the test: is it your first thought of the day?

Problem is, what is probably in your head every morning – as has been the case for me for many years – is somebody else’s obsession.

Your baby’s needs.

Your current client assignment.

The article you’re writing for that newspaper.

Your partner’s career problem.

Or maybe some negative thoughts about yourself, and how you never get anything done, or the fact that you’re waking up late again, etc…

Basically, you obsess about anything else but your book. Am I right? 

 

But the other great thing I have learned is that you can change that. Consciously. It takes commitment, effort, imagination, but you can become obsessed with your own success again.

My coach, Fabienne Fredrickson, recommends creating a Mind Movie. It’s basically a short clip, set on music that moves you (and makes you want to kick ass), with the images of your dream life – or what you want to achieve.

An example?

I’m not sharing mine because there are some dirty images that might shock the beautiful You – but hers is milder, and here it is. She made it over 10 years ago and she says that only 2 more things in it have yet to come true.

The trick is to play it to yourself over and over again, especially first thing in the morning, and last thing before going to bed at night.

So far, mine helps – See, I’m writing this post after all!

Hope this helps. If it’s not that book, it will be another one and I can’t wait to read it!

Much love,

Anne

How to become very good at what you do?

Recently, I have realised that my dream life has come true.

The life I had fantasized about years ago when I was still a consultant and felt trapped.

Now I have absolute freedom. I am paid to dance, perform, write. I have my own company – with absolute creative freedom and an amazing team. I have the time to develop as an artist.

Just writing that, even though I know of all the tears and hard work that have gone into building this – I can’t believe my luck.

It is so good.

Dancing is so good.

Being Free is so good.

Making a positive difference in people’s lives is so good.

And I don’t want to screw it all  – all the gifts I’ve received – out of laziness and not working enough.

I have to deal with fear already, which tends to make me play small. I don’t want to add to that “not working enough”. Move Your Ass, as Pablo says.

 

Up until now, my main “enemy” hasn’t been Laziness, though (I feel like I have been working non-stop, every day of the week and with no holidays for the past 7 years)… but rather, ‘Multidirectional Action’.

I’ve known for years that I wasn’t focusing enough to get to the results I wanted at the pace I wanted – in my skills, in my income, in my work-life balance – but working on one thing only is incredibly difficult for me.

Just the thought of it makes me go into panic mode.

 

But now I’ve finally understood that skills do build onto each other and that by truly mastering something you open doors for more exciting opportunities. Also, I can feel that my soul and my ego need to NOT feel like beginners anymore – at least for a while.

They are both crying out for a sense of direction – Just Make A Decision and stick to it, Lady, please.

 

All that to say that now I have a Tango school and it’s really kicking my butt to become an outstanding dancer and a fierce artist. For the first time, I am finding focus in my art.

So I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what it takes to become very good at a craft.

In my case, it is all about taming the small yet mighty voices inside that relentlessly whisper in my ear; ‘why don’t you try out pole dancing? It looks like so much fun’, ‘When are you writing your next book?’, ‘Didn’t you want to be an actress?’, ‘You’ll give up anyway so why bother?’….   

I’ve lived with them for years…. but it turns out that all I needed was 100+ students, a busy Facebook page and loads of people asking for inspiration for me to go…. ‘oh…. I guess this is serious now’….:)

Right.

And now back to practice…