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Stage Fright - New Yorker article

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The August 28 issue of The New Yorker has an excellent article by John Lahr, "Petrified: the horrors of stagefright." Unfortunately, this is not one of the articles that the magazine includes in its free online edition.

Lahr discusses a number of extreme examples, including Stephen Fry (who fled the country to avoid returning to his starring role in a London play), Ian Holm (who gave up the stage for almost 15 years), and the pianist Glenn Gould (who stopped performing in front of live audiences and once said, "To me the ideal artist-to-audience relationship is one to zero.")

Lahr includes no dancers in his discussion. I wonder what role stagefright plays in the careers of some dancers, and whether any significant careers have been seriously impacted or even terminanted due to it. Or, is there something different about ballet, as compared to theater and musical performance, that reduces the incidence of stagefright?

(To protect the privacy of individuals, we should stick to published or official examples --or those which the dancers themselves have acknowledged.)

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There is a book-- and I know this is unhelpful, but I cannot for the life of me remember either the title or author--about a dancer with severe stage fright. Actually, it's more like an autobiography, and if I recall correctly, the author/main character did not have very nice things to say about the ballet world.

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I can’t think of any celebrated cases of stage fright among dancers offhand, but I’m sure it exists in some form or another. An obvious difference for dancers is that if they don’t get out on the stage, for most that means they don’t work, period, whereas actors and concert performers, especially if they are well known, have other options.

It seems as if it happens to almost everyone at one time or another. A celebrated example, that I would think Lahr would cite although I have not seen his article is that of Laurence Olivier, who was assaulted by such a bad case of it in the Sixties that when he was playing Othello his Iago, Frank Finlay, had to stay in the wings in Olivier’s eyeline at all times.

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A celebrated example, that I would think Lahr would cite although I have not seen his article is that of Laurence Olivier, who was assaulted by such a bad case of it in the Sixties that when he was playing Othello his Iago, Frank Finlay, had to stay in the wings in Olivier’s eyeline at all times.
Lahr includes the "Othello" experience, which Olivier discussed in his book "Confessions of an Actor."

By way of attempting an explanation, Lahr quotes Charles Rosen, "The Aesthetic of Stage Fright,"

The silence of the audience is not that of a public that listens but one that watches, like the dead hush that accompanies the unsteady movement of the tightrope walker poised over his perilous space."

Lahr himself writes:

All the cenetral traumas of childhood -- being alone, abandoned, unsupported, emotionally abused -- are revived for an actor when he appears before the paying customers, who have the ower to either starve him of affection or reward him with approval.
I would think that this could apply equally to dancers. However, most dancers I've known or read about seem to express a strong love of being onstage. Many seem to have been aware of somehow "needing" this experience rather early in childhood. Attacks of nerves seem to involve the fear of being judged by the company director or the teacher, not by the audience itself.

If stage fright is rare among serious dancers, it raises a number of questions. For example: Is there a fundamental difference between dancing and acting, as far as expressing oneself goes? Or, are people who are attracted to dancing somehow emotionally different from those attracted by acting?

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However, most dancers I've known or read about seem to express a strong love of being onstage. Many seem to have been aware of somehow "needing" this experience rather early in childhood.

I think some performers in all fields have expressed similar sentiments.

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I think the BT for dancers board is a better place for this thread. How many promising students chose to forgo a professional career due to stage fright?

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A thread on this topic on BT4D would risk becoming a group therapy session. I think it's a valid topic for this board. We've all seen dancers who look wooden on stage and heard how glorious they are in class and rehearsal. No names, though. :shhh:

editing to add: But I'm sure there are legitimate angles for us to take. We do have dancers on this board.

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