Ballerina Teresa Reichlen - Gives Performance Lessons To Students, Athletes and Artists

Published: 03rd July 2008
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Teresa Reichlen of the New York City Ballet is a premier dancer in the competitive and demanding world of ballet but, as a person, she remains centered and inspired by her art. Her poised, serene face, long legs and elegant jumps have made her a soloist at age 23 in one of the world's greatest ballet companies.

Her journey from the Russell School of Ballet in Chantilly, Va to the School of American Ballet at age 15 and onto the City Ballet has taught her lessons about expressing herself as an artist and person. The following are three important lessons Reichlen has learned to help her grow as a ballerina and person. These same lessons can help performers in school, sports and the arts advance their talents and more fully express themselves in their field.

Performance Lesson 1: Don't over try on stage

As the NY Times explains, "Since being named a soloist in 2005, Reichlen has preserved her poise and attained a new rigor in her technique. 'It took me a long time to realize that you can try too hard onstage,' she said after a company class one day last month at the New York State Theater. 'Sometimes you just have to settle down. I would always have good shows when I was really tired, and I think it's because I just did what I had to do.'"

Focusing her thoughts and actions only on what is most essential during performances has helped Reichlen stay focused and relaxed in executing the precision needed in ballet.

This same technique can be used by other performers in school, sports and the arts. Before any project, practice, game, performance, or test, you need to ask yourself "What are the most basic things I need to do very well to be successful? What things will I see myself doing if I try too hard and over-react? How can I assure that I stay focused only on the things in my performance that are the most essential for success and not over try?"

Performance Lesson 2: Have a point of view when you perform

Beginning last summer Reichlen performed with Christopher Wheeldon's company, Morphoses. "I got a lot from that experience," she said. "He is very passionate about his ballets and getting the best out of his dancers, so he was pushing me a lot."

Wheeldon explained that she needed to have a point of view when she danced. "Honestly, that was a very hard correction for me to take," she said to the NY Times. "It's not something you can just fix. Some dancers appear to have a whole story behind a ballet - it's just the way they dance - and I'm not like that." But she realized that having a point of view when she dances can move her beyond executing flawless movements to embodying her character and the story.

Every performer in school, sports and the arts needs to have a point of view about their performance. A point of view is an opinion and understanding about why you are performing, studying, and training, and how you want to express yourself to others as an artist, athlete or student.

To get started, you need to first select an upcoming performance, project, test, or game for which you must prepare. Then, answer a series of questions to get outside yourself and imagine the type of idealized, fictional character you must portray during that performance: "What type of character do I need to play during the performance? What is most important to that character and motivates him or her to be successful? What is important to people around the character? How do I act to portray the character and give a masterful performance?"

These questions will help you journey into a fictionalize, ideal world to give yourself a different perspective about the role you must play to be successful during a key performance in school, sports or the arts.

Performance Lesson 3: Be calm on the outside to stay calm on the inside

While on stage Reichlen appears calm and serene. On the inside, however, she has a different experience. "It's funny because people tell me I look calm," she said. "But I don't always feel calm. When I'm the most stressed or angry I become really quiet. Maybe it's my way of dealing. I don't know if I hold it all in, but it's just the way I am - in life and on the stage."

Reichlen is explaining one aspect of the creative tension many performers experience. It is the tension between remaining calm on the outside while working hard on the inside. Some performers feel uncomfortable doing this and want to express their inner intensity openly. However, remaining physically calm on the outside can help your body relax and send messages to your mind that everything is going OK. Your outward calm can keep your inner drive and intensity in check and focused.

Performers in school, sports and the arts should practice this technique while studying, during practices and training. By doing so, you will find that your inner intensity remains more centered and relaxed, and your actions more precise and expressive.

While Reichlen is only 23 years old, she has lived a lifetime in ballet starting at age 3 in a ballet school behind a grocery store in Clifton, Va. Because of her love and dedication to dance, she has naturally developed mental techniques that helped her rise to the top of the ballet world and grow as a person. With her techniques in hand, you can also grow as a student, athlete and artist.

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