Yup. Yes, I have. Luckily, this doesn’t occur often, but we are human, like everyone else. For me, I fell victim to exhaustion, and my brain lost focus, for less than a second, but still leaving me in a state of panic. I forgot my steps while I was performing in Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Side note- This ballet is absolutely fantastic!). The company did 21 shows in 3 weeks! No small feat. It’s a huge, magical production.
I was very fortunate to have been cast as the role of Alice and as the role of the Queen of Hearts. It was amazing to play such different characters. It also came along with a big responsibility.
The character of Alice is on stage for almost the entire ballet. She is only off stage for one quick costume change. She has many steps. SO MANY steps! The Queen of Hearts is often on stage at the same time as Alice. It was crucial to remember who I was playing everyday. I constantly switched back and forth. Everyday before the show, I would go through the scenes that the characters shared as the character, I was on that day.
Usually, if you dance as Alice then the next day you have off. For me, due to scheduling, I did four shows as Alice or the Queen, twice in a row! The first time I had four in a row, I alternated each show between the characters. The second time I did four in a row, they were the final four shows of the run. I played Alice for three of them and then switched to Queen for the very last show. In that last show, while I was dancing the Queen’s variation, is where I had my blank out.
It was minor. If you didn’t know her correct steps you wouldn’t have seen it. Luckily, I was dancing by myself, so a ripple effect wasn’t created for any of the other dancers. I knew right away that something was off. I did a step that didn’t feel quite right or normal. Thank goodness dancers have such good muscle memory. A tool that we use everyday. Before my brain knew something was off my body did. My body kept dancing through. Once my brain caught up, I remember feeling a moment of panic, and then a realization of, “Well, I’m still going.” The song that Dori sings from, Finding Nemo, would be a great theme song for anyone who suffers from a black out. “Just keep swimming… Just keep dancing…”.
When I got back into the wings, I was fully aware that I definitely needed to catch up on some sleep. My brain was tired from constantly switching and trying to stay on top of such a big, and complicated ballet for two characters ( I was also rehearsing up to 6 hours for our upcoming production of Cinderella as Cinderella and the step sister. Again switching between two characters.). To say my head was fully loaded would have been an understatement. As busy as I was, I loved every second of it!