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Where's Front? Tips for Not Getting Turned Around Onstage

I'm terrified of performing choreography that changes directions. I messed up last year when the stage lights caused me to become disoriented. What can I do to prevent this from happening again? I can perform the combination just fine in the studio with the mirror.

—Scared, San Francisco, CA


It's never too late to learn from your experience. Last year, you were taken by surprise, but now you know what to expect and can prepare ahead of time. Practice the choreography in the studio by facing away from the mirror so you feel self-assured without using your reflection to guide you.

Then, try to get into the theater early to rehearse. Focus on something tangible (like the red exit sign at the back of the house) to center you. The point is to orient yourself despite the blinding stage lights, so you can become immersed in the performance. The most magical dancers stay in the moment instead of getting distracted by worrisome questions like "What if I can't perform that step?"

Send your questions to Dr. Linda Hamilton at advicefordancers@dancemedia.com.

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In Memoriam: Joffrey Dancer Charlene Gehm MacDougal, 69

Former lead dancer with The Joffrey Ballet, Charlene Gehm MacDougal died of ovarian cancer on January 10 at her home in New York City, age 69.

Gehm illuminated the inner life of each of the varied characters in her extensive repertoire. Whether she was the gracious hostess in George Balanchine's Cotillon, the riveting Lady Capulet in John Cranko's Romeo and Juliet, or in the tumult of William Forsythe's Love Songs, she drew the viewer's eye and heart to the essence of the role.

As Forsythe puts it: "Charlene was certainly one of the most elegant dancers I have had the privilege to work with. Her striking countenance flowed into her work and, joined with her wicked sense of humor and intelligence, created thoughtful, mesmerizing and memorable art."

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