Last week, I went to my first couple of Bikram yoga classes, persuaded by YL, one of our pianist-coaches. For those unfamiliar, Bikram-style yoga is practiced in a heated room, usually about 105º F; it is very aerobic, and suffice to say you sweat like crazy. It’s very Westernized yoga, to my way of thinking, in that just about every spiritual element is removed, and it is very goal-oriented. The instructor stands at the front of the room, like an aerobics instructor, urging class members to push and go and do.
It was interesting, and I’m glad I went. If nothing else, it kick-started me back into my own practice – the only way to get over those sore muscles is to stretch them out again!
The classes also gave me an insight into performing, believe it or not, or, at least, into the type of performer I enjoy watching and working with. As I looked around the room in the Bikram class (easy to do, since there is a mirror along the front wall, another thing you’d never see in a more Eastern tradition), I could quickly pick out the people who were eager to show what they can do. They had looks of determination on their faces, striving to achieve the most, the best, the hardest; looking to prove they can do it, and hoping to get a word of praise from the instructor. They were Doing.
Then there were those who were only there for themselves, working with their bodies. Some were struggling, some were not, but all of these people had a more gentle and peaceful air. Calm. Being. I enjoyed being class with them. I had to work harder to keep my focus off of the Doing people, which distracted me from my own attempts at Being (while literally dripping with sweat and willing my low blood pressure not to get any lower!).
When I talked to YL about this on the way home, she knew just what I meant and immediately understood the parallel to performing. Some singers get out there and Do whatever they can to make an impression, whereas others just Be. (I know that’s the wrong conjugation, but bear with me…)
Saturday night we had our first WTOC performance, the Steve Blier-led Berlin Night Life recital. (Pictures and a sound-clip over at Kim’s WTOC blog.) Seeing my colleagues on the stage, as well as observing them in our Volpone rehearsals, I realized joyfully that everyone here falls into the Being category! These singers love their work, and when they walk out onstage you can see them just opening themselves to the audience. They seem to do nothing differently in front of an audience of 400 than they would for an audience of 5. It was as if each one of them said:
“Here I Am. Here is the music, the story; I hope you enjoy yourself, because I sure am…”