I Am a Performer: Recital Prep with Davis King

On Season 6 of Rupaul’s Drag Race, Adore Delano faced an obstacle she thought she could not overcome. While she excelled in acting and dancing challenges, design challenges that required sewing seemed beyond her. *  Luckily for her, she was saved from elimination multiple times due to her raw charisma and star-power.  Eventually, however, she could not be saved again. She faced a choice in the final challenges – either rise to the occasion and design a couture garment, or go home.

Frustrated, Adore did not see how she could overcome with such little experience. Rupaul, however, offered advice that completely changed her outlook. Rupaul relayed that while she may not be a seamstress, she is certainly an artist seeping with talent. Because she was not allowing herself to channel her heaps of creativity into design, she could not create an outfit.  Adore believed that she could not create a dress, and therefore, she could not. However, if she could change her own perception of her abilities, she would be able to design something. Adore would go on to win that challenge and become one of the most successful drag queens on the planet (today, two years later, she’s a Billboard chart-topping pop star).

In the weeks before my recital, I felt like Adore Delano.  I faced some sort of artistic block. I could play the notes, but I felt disconnected from the music. In practice performances, my mind wandered. I dreaded the day the recital would come. It was going to be a disaster.  I will never do this again. As the days went by, I wondered what was in my way. The week before my recital, I cut the amount I practiced to an hour a day and spent far more time reflecting on the last two years, trying to get over this hump.

What I realized is that over my time as a fellow with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, I have established myself as a teacher in the city of Chicago, joining the faculties at the Music Institute of Chicago and the Merit School of Music, in addition to responsibilities as a teaching assistant to renowned pedagogue Almita Vamos.  Those around me know that teaching is my greatest passion and that I spend most of my time thinking about my students’ development.  Performing is not among my priorities.  However, just because performing is not my top priority, does mean that I am not a performer.

I am a performer. These words got the wheels turning again. Over the past two years, I had put the performer part of my soul on the back burner, focusing more on my dreams. I realized, however, that I do have the effervescence of a performer inside of me. I just needed to channel the energy I put towards teaching onto the stage.

The day of my recital, I treated myself like a star. I slept in, went to the gym, had a great breakfast, and then enjoyed the afternoon at the Van Gogh exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago.  In the minutes before my recital, I listened to my favorite tracks by Rupaul and AB Soto to focus my performer-power as I prepared to unleash it upon the audience. Finally, when the time came to perform, I enjoyed my time on stage and left wishing I could do it again.

Rupaul often says, “A miracle is a change in perception.” In the days before my recital, I experienced a miracle. Much like Adore Delano, I changed my outlook and slayed as a result.  Even more importantly, I unlocked a desire within me to seek out more opportunities to perform and bare that part of my soul to the world.

*Pun unintended but noticed


By Davis King

Photograph © Todd Rosenberg