KEEPING IT REAL. Having the courage to keep it ‘you’ in a world that calls for us to watch others.
This industry of ours is aspirational. We are forever seeing breath-taking examples of what we'd like to aspire to, what we’re inspired by and - let's be honest - sometimes what blows us away and then just intimidates us. Being an audience A.K.A. watching others, it just goes hand in hand with how we learn and what we do. It’s part of who we are as a dance community and how we connect with each other. It’s magic.
Reality check: A focus on seeing and BEING SEEN can sometimes make us hyper-aware of what audiences seem to appreciate. We notice pretty quickly what gets applause and what doesn’t. We translate that into what we think ‘works’ and what doesn’t… We’re not always right by the way.
Actually the trouble starts right about here - when a suspicion sneaks in that what YOU are doing is not as valid as what someone else is up to. They’re getting more compliments, applause, likes… It’s surprisingly easy to let your confidence slip away or give way to noticing other people who seem shinier, more in-demand, more skilled, especially in this Insta-world. It’s a slippery slope. This can turn into dressing the way you think you ‘should’, trying to dance, take class, show up, fit in and BE more like the people who, to you, seem shiny.
In a dance world that encourages us to see, appreciate and learn from others - how do we stop ourselves from thinking we have to BE just like them?
The thing is - and this is a big thing - the shiny stuff is what you see, it’s a perception, it’s not permanent. It doesn’t make one dancer worth more than another. There’s a ton of work going on for these dancers that you don’t see AND, it’s their job to shine. But it’s also yours. Let’s bring it back to the dance path you DO get to influence. The part of the dance world that you’re responsible for? You.
By the way… DANCE ALREADY HAS ONE OF THEM, IT DOESN’T HAVE ANOTHER YOU.
Each of us are a unique combination of stuff, energy, tendus, interpretations etc that makes it flat out impossible to be anybody else. Claiming your PLACE in this dance world relies on you being, well, YOU. You can’t fake, falsify or copy & paste the ‘shiny’ - we can tell. We’ve been learning to be an aware audience since we started to dance remember? And for goodness’ sake - what would the dance world start to look like if we all want to be the same?
The dancers you’re watching and following? You can’t stand in their place, you know it’s taken but you CAN follow their footsteps… I happen to believe in mentors and people to look up to. There’s a difference here - the end game is to learn and not to trade out who you are. There’s nothing wrong with:
- Learning from the creative choices others make. So you can try making some new ones.
- Asking questions about or of those you aspire to. So you can get some good information.
- Researching new ideas, ways of training or other options. So you have more to play with.
You don’t have to INVENT a new dance world. You just want to be you IN it.
When you feel yourself sliding down the comparison slope:
- Make note of your strengths (at least 3!!) - and look at it when you forget or get sidetracked. Keep it in your wallet if you have to.
- Add to that list a reminder of where you want to get to - so the REASON for all of this work is something you see often too.
- Be honest about where you’re at. Rather than working on what you see somebody else doing just because they’re doing it – seek out the stuff that’s going to add to your strengths or speak to the areas that need improving.
- When you catch your shoulders dropping as you get intimidated - remind yourself that we’re all humans, working on this dance thing. Everybody has something different to work on - letting the air out of your ‘self-balloon’ doesn’t get you there any faster.
- When you meet dance world people let them get to know YOU. The real one. Take that risk. Because they’ve already met the person next to you and don’t need the repeat.
The applause, the likes, all of this stuff from the outside… it’s just information. It comes and it goes. The applause doesn’t define you as a dancer, you do. And let’s be honest again - what really gets us on the edge of our seat is that something different and you can’t BE that if you’re too busy trying to be just like someone else.
We’re all a little something different, and you know what that is when you own it? It’s more than shiny, it’s memorable.