Why I Still Perform: Video + Essay

The above video is of an act I performed this past weekend. By the way, the aerial apparatus you’ll see me performing on is one that I recently invented, and for lack of any existing term, I’m calling it the “teardrop.”

Why I Still Perform

Quite honestly, there are many aspects to performing that I find completely un-Yogic. One has to become incredibly self-absorbed leading up to a performance because 100% of a good performance is in the audience’s perception of how the performer looks (and sounds). Therefore, before a performance, its necessary for me to make sure my appearance is as top notch as possible, which is a never-ending battle because in the circus entertainment industry, one can never be too young, too pretty, too flexible, too strong. In addition, many of the shows that I perform in require me to do my own publicity and advertising, which from the perspective of a Yogini feels completely wrong – like bragging, or being a pushy salesperson. In addition, performing can be quite terrifying. Sure, some performances are more nerve-racking than others, but all of them merit some amount of nervousness. After all, people ARE watching you, and they ARE judging you. Even in a “friendly” audience, people are comparing you to other things they’ve seen or things they’ve imagined, and EVERYONE has an opinion. On some level, a performer can never forget that.

So, as my ever-deepening Yoga practice continues to push me in a direction of self-improvement, health and egolessness, I frequently wonder if it’s time for me to “let go” of performing. Being an aerialist is physically quite challenging, I’m sure my body would feel much better not to be pushed so hard. I’m sure my mind would feel less conflicted at not trying to always “stand-out” from the ocean of performers and entertainment choices in New York City. I’m sure my heart would love not feeling judged all the time.

With all that being said, this past weekend’s performance was a reminder to me of why I keep going, and why I still perform. Granted, it was one of those low-stress shows, but since I’m not a natural performer (I’m not a “life of the party” kind of person), this is what performing has become for me: a chance to tap into the Yogini Warrior.

With every performance, I muster up the bravery to:

  • be okay with “what is,” whatever goes wrong or right during the performance
  • be completely focused in the moment, because in live performance, its never exactly the same from performance to performance, and the performer has to be ready to make instant decisions when i.e. the costume gets caught/rips, the soundtrack suddenly stops, an injury occurs, the apparatus moves differently than expected, I hit a wrong note… (all of which have happened at one time or another)
  • breathe deeply during times of stress
  • give up the fruits of my labor to a higher power (sometimes I spend more money in rehearsal space and other necessary expenses than I make, and there’s no fame to be had, either)

Thank you for listening,


4 comments on “Why I Still Perform: Video + Essay

  1. Michelle—good essay. Clear thoughts on the contradictions of living in the world and all its glorious maya and being not of it. To love deeply but be unattached to the results. Almost impossible but the only way to go.

  2. Hi
    Being a performer is not about making money, or just being in a competition. it is to let go of fears, and to challenge self confidence and above all, to feel free. We all want to experience freedom, no matter what we do, we are always looking for peace in the mind and soul.
    You are a very good performer, but you are right, sometimes, the feelings of being the best, with a perfect body, looking good, etc. has not the same effect anymore.
    Only you know when is time to let it go. (hopefully not before I have a chance to see you performing live.)


  3. Yoga came before performing for me. Often times I had wished I started younger but without my starting point I wouldn’t be on the path I am on right now. Your essay speaks to me because I have wondered similar points. Why do I want this? I consider it making art in a way. It has been very empowering to me.

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