People are always surprised when I tell them about my past career. In the sense, they find it hard to see the similarities between dancing and communication. But the skills I drilled in the dance studio and performed with on stage are actually very powerful disciplines that can be used in those moments when your communication needs to count. In moments where you feel the pressure to perform, when you have the eyes of an audience on you. Be that in the board room, a job interview or giving a proposal. Just like I did in the studio, at an audition or on the stage. These disciplines helped me control my nerves and find my flow and, in the end, lead me to my present career as a Director of In Flow. For me, the most important thing I learned as a dancer was the discipline of warming up and it’s something that I still use now for every important task in my life.
A dancer would never dream of stepping a foot on stage without a warm-up. A warm-up is not just for your body but for your mind too. You need to feel ready for the task at hand, be it a two-and-a-half-hour musical or a five-minute live recording as a backing dancer. A warm-up gives you that secure feeling that you are ready to do your best. No matter what happens, you have prepared.
I remember a few years ago sitting in the passenger seat of my driving instructor’s car, waiting for him to pay for petrol at a petrol station. We were on our way to my driving test. All of a sudden, I started doing a vocal warm-up, with tongue twisters and scales, just like I used to do before going on stage. It didn’t matter where the musical was, the West end, regional theatre or a studio theatre in Soho, you always did your physical and vocal warm-up in preparation for your performance. I had been so used to preparing that way that it gave me comfort from the nerves I was feeling for my driving test. Ridiculous I know! But it worked. Although warming up to sing has nothing to do with a driving test my brain felt alive, alert and ready to go. Again, the security of a warm-up calmed my nerves. From that day on I realised that the ritual I used in my past career could work for any future challenge. It calmed me and gave me a sense of control. Those feelings of calmness and control are priceless and if it means I belt out a few top notes and touch my toes before jumping on the phone to a client so be it!
What could you do as a warm-up to get that feeling of readiness? It could be as simple as a few shoulder rolls and a few slow, deep breathes. Do something that will create a feeling of security, so that you are prepared physically and mentally for whatever is being asked of you.
Find your warm-up, your ritual, your trigger and watch your performance in whatever you do soar.
Laura Colenso is co-founder and Director of Buy One Give One at In Flow Training Ltd