Perfection is a Feeling

“Better to already feel bad about myself, I decided. Then critical comments won’t feel as devastating.”

Recently I read NYCB principal Abi Stafford’s recount of she used to be the worst of her critics.

And after years of embracing self-doubt  she “realized that being hard on (her)self after a rehearsal or performance does not make (her) dance any better the next day.

It’s so true.

And I’d argue that self-doubt actually makes you a worse dancer. Or actor. Or performer.

With practice, I have realised that my job as an artist is to actually LOVE what I create. However it feels.

To give it – my words, my movements, my research… – space and time to Be. In the knowledge that they are safe: they will not be destroyed, dismissed, forgotten, erased in the next few minutes, hours or days.

I want them to know that they are free to be there, become better, become worse, and keep changing I reach a point where I feel that they are Perfect.

Perfect for me.

Awkward, maybe, incomplete probably, but at some point I feel that they are saying, or showing, or sharing what I wanted to say, and that this piece, at least, is done and will not be touched by me ever again.

In my last play, there are many moments that I love. Some are funny, some are touching, some – I believe – heartbreaking.

There is this one moment, though, that always made me cringe when I performed it. It is the opening monologue of my character, Camille.

These lines have been there from the start. They have been edited and rewritten many times without me aver managing to make them exactly what I wanted them to be. They lack depth. They do not bring the audience rapidly towards the parallelism between our 2 characters.

I’ve sat down to rewrite them many times, until I realised that changing them would lead me to change the whole piece. Creating one small change here, in the opening, would escalate into edits at every page, which would in turn create a different play.

But the play is done.

It might not be everyone’s tastes but to me it is Perfect. It says what I want to say.

It gives me the same feeling that my banker friends who describe why they like excel and modelling so much (??!!?): there is a right answer, and they love finding it. At some point, everything makes sense.

With this play, even if contrarily to an excel model, it could always change, I feel that I have my ‘Right Answer’ moment.

The play is ready, and now I have to let it go.

However many flaws it might have.

 

Creating a Magical World With Thomas Dixon

I’ve been a fan of Thomas since I first saw him perform one Friday night last Winter. It was in a dark basement and he completely lit up the evening for me. With his understated stage person and awesome tricks he rekindled my love for magic. I’d forgotten how awesome magic can be!

Every time I see him perform, it is a new trick, and his shows are always impeccable: natural but precise and rehearsed to the latest detail, which is the kind of show that I dig.

Another thing that I love about Thomas is the kindness that emanates from him. He’s arrived from Chile to London a year ago, has lived in Canada & Spain, and is just a great person to have around.

That’s why I am so happy to introduce him here. He has a lot to say about creativity, performance, and, well… magic… Here is Thomas Dixon, on creating a magical world:

Isn’t he awesome!?

I’ve also asked Thomas to share his favorite books on creativity and life, and have received a long list of 20-ish names! Avid reader… So he’s selected his top 3 books for you, and here they are:

  • The War of Art – Steven Pressfield: ‘Amazing book about artists and getting things done’
  • The Taoh of Pooh – Benjamin Hoff : ‘Letting go, and go with the flow’
  • The Art of Loving – Eric Fromm : ‘Importance of love, and of course loving yourself’

See you in the next video,

Anne

We are performing, this Tuesday, a the Press Night of the film Our Last Tango in the London.

It is a movie that has made a big splash in the tango world but has not really reached a mainstream audience. It tells the story of Maria Nieves and Juan Carloes Copes, who truly are tango legends and did much to share tango with an international audience in the 80s and 90s.

It is funny, because even though my story is nothing like that of Maria Nieves’ I feel that I can completely understand her passion for dancing. And, as is revealed in the film, her ‘tumultuous’ love life. Working and dancing every day with the same partner can be both super rewarding and challenging.

Sometimes, when we invite tango teachers from Argentina, who come as a couple, we can see the strain that their tour across the world is taking over their relationship. It is quite sad to see… but of course! How patient you have to be to work, travel, dance, sleep, teach, perform & spend most of your days with the same person for up to 6 months in a row.

Still, working and dancing with your partner has its advantages, especially when he is as nice, patient, and talented as mine

Well, he chose a fiery dance and life partner…. there must be a reason 😉

Who’s never been worried about money?

Yeah, me too…

Really sucks doesn’t it?

Recently I interviewed Antonios Valindras. He is a talented greek Film director I had the pleasure to work with a few years ago in London.

When we were discussing he opened up about the dark period he had gone through after a full year of working as Assistand Director on the sets of award-winning films in Greece.

There is more to his story than money but it was an important part.

In most countries today the pay for creative jobs is minimal. Not only are the wages low, but the money comes in irregularly, which can create a lot of stress.

In France, we have a special status for the people working in the Performing Arts. We call them ‘Intermittent Du Spectacle’: if you can show that you are an ‘artist’ (not only for Fine Arts, any type of Art) by proving that you have been working X amount of hours in X amounts of days, you get social benefits. And it is French benefits, so it is relatively generous.

It amounts for a tiny part of the government’s budget but it is often criticised (‘We are giving too much money away to people doing nothing….’ etc…). And this is a shame because, like Antonios, I believe that you truly need some time off and a certain level of financial security to create.

Making a living as an artist often means accepting that there will be Ups and Downs in your income stream, which can be draining. It also sometimes mean that you can’t ‘move forward’ or experience life the way you would you like to. I know, for example, that I have been pushing back on having a family until I can feel financially secure. I am happy with my decision, but this is one of the little regrets of my life. I can not wait to have a baby, and I want to raise them in a space that is free of financial worries as much as possible.

Other artists have preferred not waiting, and have changed directions. Not because they are ‘not good enough’ or ‘you can’t make any money as an artist’, but rather because life is made of many joys.

Creation definitely is one, but having children, travelling, taking cooking lessons, meeting friends for brunch…matter too. Especially, maybe, when you have a sensitive soul.

Because you can’t create if you are not ‘fed’. In the literal sense, but also in the emotional sense. Creativity stems from our happiness, which in turns comes from experiencing everything that our soul wants to experience.

If that is not possible because of lack of money,  how can we create? We do not have a well of happiness to draw from.

So many artistic souls decide to focus on other joys. Sometimes, when I look at the ‘support system’ for artists in the UK, which is much ‘harsher’ than the French, I feel sad for all the lost talent.

What a loss for society that this talented singer works as a barista, that this charismatic actress is a call-center manager, that that director became an accountant…. true, some people make it to the very top, but even they have to go through the instability of the creative life.

Whereas with systems in place to give the artists’ mind a rest (‘you will have money to pay the bills’) so much could be created.

So much could be shared.

You can see my interview with Antonios Vallindras by clicking here:

 

Immigrant

Immigrant.

It is a trendy word.

It is also a topic that is very close to my heart because it has brought me incredible joy and some terrible pain.

I am part of the immigration that is easy.

In the past 10 years, I have lived in 5 different countries. In Spanin, India, The Phillipines, HK or the UK, I’ve always found it easy to get myself a job… and a working permit.

I’m a product of the Shengen zone, of the job transfer, of the extended student visa… The immigration we tend to take for granted, and rarely hear about in the media. Even Brexit, for all the talk on the Freedom of Movement, is not about me. We, the European-hearted, make it about us, but it is about the other immigration: the hard one.

The one that is not chosen. The one that doesn’t have a return ticket attached to it. The one that is not a dream come true.

Having been welcomed, sometimes with suspicion and not always with a smile but always welcomed, by so many different societies has made me super sensitive to the issue of assimilation.

What it my ‘duty’, or my responsibility as an immigrant, to the country that is welcoming me? Don’t I owe it to them to learn the language as much as I can, learn about the culture, drink what they drink and mingle the way they mingle?

Is it my eternal guilt speaking? Or the gratefulness I feel when I think all of the opportunities I have had in all those new countries?

I’ve found that other foreigners don’t necessarily see it that way, and it always leaves me puzzled.

Don’t we like it when a foreigner wants to understand us? Don’t we hate it when they complain that we ‘Don’t Speak English’? If they are looked at with suspicion when they dress differently, follow different customs, speak their own language, how come we aren’t?

Especially if our cultures are not so different?

Or has the longstanding debate about immigration in France made me too sensitive about assimilation?

That’s what I wanted to speak about in my last show, Behind Our Skin.

I don’t have a strong political point of view, except for the fact that we should all try to be decent to each other, and that, let’s face it, being able to move countries like that is pretty awesome.

So I wrote 2 parallel stories. One of a Moroccan woman in Paris, one of a French woman in London. There is racism, and even terrorism, but a lot more happens: there is a baby, a distant husband, a broken friendship, loneliness….

Critics saw it as a denunciation of the rising racism in France. But all I wanted to do was sit with a pen and a paper and reflect on how lucky I am, and what my role as an immigrant is.

Even if this word is never used to describe me.

50 ways to get the creative juices flowing…

Have you ever thought of the ’50 ways you could afford something right now’?

It’s a mind-stretching exercise entrepreneurs often do in order to change their mindset about money, and get into a space of abundance. You are given a sheet of paper with 50 blocks, and you’re supposed to write down 50 ways, or untapped opportunities, youc an make money right now. It can range from ‘selling my running shoes’ to ‘starting a youtube channel’. Nothing’s too small,nothing’s too far fetched.

I am about to embark onto a new creative project, and I have been feeling blocked. I can’t see how I will bring it to life, and that has stopped me from taking action. I keep reminding myself to ‘just start then course correct’, but what is holding me back is that it is a long-term project and I am not sure about how long I’ll want to commit to it.

That’s where the entrepreuneur exercise comes into play.

I have learnt about it during a mindset seminar. Today I use it regularly for creative work – with my spin on it.

When I feel blocked, for acting, singing, dancing…. I create my own ’50 ways to….’

Instead of ’50 ways you could afford something right now’, I challenge myself to find ’50 interesting scenarios for a screenplay’, or ’50 ways to connect with other artists right now’, or ’50 songs I would like to sing’…

I always go through blocks when doing these exercises (and usually give up in the middle…) But still, the more I have done these exercises, the more I have realised that my mind becomes more agile and imaginative. It is a slow process, but a great one to get your creative juices flowing.

What about you? Could you do your own ’50 ways to…’ and feel your brain stretch? About what??!

Warm hugs

Anne

Feeling confident on screen

Itching to do videos but scared?

If you are an artist or an entrepreneur today, you need to be comfortable making videos: you need to speak to the camera, demonstrate your skills, give advice…. There is no way around it.

Yes, video is daunting:

‘What if people don’t like what I have to say?’

‘What if some people comment that I am not good enough?’

‘What if my competition sees it and think I am lame?’

Recently, we did a day of shooting for my Tango Dancing School: we prepared mini videos to demonstrate tango movements on facebook. I am so glad we did. First, because it is bringing a lot of new people to our school. Most importantly, because it helps our students feel that they have a personal relationship with us. Video is such a great tool for that, and it is important for us that our students feel supported in many ways when they learn with us.

We were nervous about being on camera (always :)) but it was actually a lot of fun (as you can see in the backstage video below)…

And, I learnt quite a bit, including 3 tips about feeling more comfortable on video.

Here they are:

-The look of love:

I know a lot of advice out there is about finding the best team to work with, but I am not sure it is really what matters at that stage. We were filmed by 2 videographer friends who were super supportive. Knowing that the people behind the camera were rooting for me, setting things up and giving me honest feedback so that I would look my best was so important. Not that they were not super professional (they are!), but their support was definitely an added bonus.

-Invest in You:

For this shooting, we had called in a professional make-up artist. It felt good to know that I was looking my best, and I didn’t have to worry about doing my make-up when I arrived or throughout the day. There is a lot of pressure for women to look good, so giving myself that extra little push – professional help – meant I didn’t have to go through the day with the uneasy feeling that maybe my hair was not quite right, or my skin too white for the camera, etc… Plus, she was just an awesome person to have around. Double trouble 🙂

-But Don’t Worry Too Much Either:

My coach said that to me, and now that I am doing video regularly I couldn’t agree more: people want to see You.

If we are super ‘polished’, sounding very smart, set in luxurious surroundings on our videos, and that when the students arrive they see the real us, which is laid-back, bubbly, with strong French & Argentinian accents (and let’s face it, my hair is always a bit messy…)…. then there is a discrepancy between what they came for and what they are getting…. That is not really smart marketing….

So we are better off simply being as we are, and focusing on making sure that what we are demonstrating and the advice that we are giving is helpful to the viewer.

At least that’s what I believe so far anyway 🙂

I hope that helps:)

Anne

PS: here’s the backstage video of that day of shooting

Follow-Through Strategy for kick starters who tend to quit

Are you too a kick-starter who finds it hard to follow through? Need help implementing your brilliant ideas? 4 more months till the end of the year….

Very soon will come the time to look back at 2017 and contemplate how quick time has passed, and everything we have done. 

I used to hate those moments… 

I hated looking back at my year and feeling disapointed about all of the projects I’d started but not completed. I am a kick-starter with loads of brilliant ideas… who finds it difficult to follow through. 

But the final moments of creation… when everything comes together and we are adding the additional touches to create special magic…. I love those moments so much that I had to come up with a strategy to make sure that I finish what I started. 

It’s a risky one. 

But it pays off….

If you need help following up on your special projects, click on the video to hear about a Follow-Through Strategy for kick starters who tend to quit

Capturing connection

I know…

When we watch tango dancers, usually we look at the legs. They hook, and twist, and wrap smoothly, and it is the most ‘impressive’ part of a tango show.

But for this short film we wanted to show the connection between the dancers.

You see, Tango, in a social setting, is an improvised dance. None of the dancers know what the next movement will be, there is no ‘routine’, no choreography. We adapt our dancing to our partner, the space available, the music & our mood…

Because of that the dancers need to listen to each other intently. And it gives a completely different quality to the dancing.

To me, it is that focus, that connection, that makes tango beautiful to watch and magical to dance.

This video aims at capturing a bit of that connection. I hope you enjoy it.