Dance with the one who brung ya (Snappa, accessed July 7, 2022)

As I’ve been teaching these past few weeks at Opera Nuova here in Edmonton, a few themes have emerged that I know are universal for singers. I know this primarily because I have experienced them myself, and continue to do so from time to time, especially when I feel vulnerable and exposed. It’s the reason I started writing this blog in the first place. There’s one theme in particular that has been highlighted of late, and that’s the all-too-familiar dissociation from self that can become habitual. In this scenario, we separate ourselves from the voice we have (and thus from our selves in our most authentic, present state), and find ourselves longing for an imagined “perfect” self/voice that exists in the idealized past or the anticipated future (when we will allegedly have it all figured out). The outcome of this is that we are unable to connect with breath, support and intention because we refuse to acknowledge, own and embody this imperfect self/voice. Disengaged and uninteresting, uninvested singing that is devoid of any communicative impulse results. Unsurprisingly, this is deeply unsatisfying for the singer and their audience in equal measure. Much self-flagellation ensues. It’s not a happy time.

What I’ve offered up to the singers I have encountered during this time is the notion that we can ONLY sing authentically with the voice (and self) we have and are RIGHT IN THIS MOMENT. All efforts to conjure a past or future self are destined for catastrophic failure. We literally have to dance with the one who brung us, because there’s no one else. No excuse, no deflection, no wish, no prayer can create anything different than who we are right in this moment. So we might as well show up and start to sing from that person. It sounds so easy and obvious, but it is not. To accept ourselves, warts and all (not enough sleep! allergies! my partner dumped me! I had COVID!!!) and put our feet on the ground, take a breath and sally forth in spite of it all is one of the greatest acts of courage one can summon. It is also one of the greatest acts of love. Instead of waiting for the day in which we will be perfect (which will be exactly NEVER), we can accept and honour who we are, all we have learned to this point and therefore know, and just endeavour to, at the very least, communicate the meaning of the song.

Nobody ever asked us to be perfect. All anyone really asks is to see us connect to something real and sing perfectly IMPERFECTLY with our whole heart.