Again another great question from one of my students in the Online Temple Space Membership!
Performing is an honour and can trigger a huge range of emotions, from excitement, fear, vulnerability, empowerment to feelings of bliss and euphoria! The first question i would ask yourself is ‘why do i want to perform?’. Your core underlying reason will often dictate your experience and personal satisfaction as a dancer.
Someone who wants to perform to spread joy and give to others, will have a different intention (therefore experience) to someone who is desiring to seek recognition or approval. Perhaps you would love to express your soul and performing feel like a healing thing to do? maybe you dont even know why you want to but there is this burning yearnign to get up there and dance for others. Often the true underying reasons why we want to perform unfold sin time and can be a huge learning curve! We are often attracted to and feel an intense pull towards where our soul will gorw the most- so enjoy the ride!
I thought i would first start with sharing some of my own story of how i personally started performing. My first ever performances were with other bellydance students at a few haflas. This provided a safe and relaxed way to gain some confidence with while dancing in a group. Soon enough I felt the desire to expand my performing experience, which also aligned with meeting my soon to be dance partner Kylea.
Kylea was just as inspired as i was to get out there and perform, as tribal style was such a new thing back then and we were excited to share it! We started out busking, which was heaps of fun and gave us some experience that was a little more demanding and exciting than the casual hafla vibe.
Kylea then organised for us to regularly dance at a Greek restaurant (our first official ‘professional gig’) which definitely put me outside of my comfort zone, as we were required to come up with a set of about 4 or so songs. When i look back at some of the footage i totally cringe at my technique and sometimes wonder what the hell was i thinking haha! And if someone honestly asked me i thought they were ready to perform professionally at the level i was at, i would probably say no! However I’m also aware that every one has a unique performance journey that doesn’t necessary need to fit into a box.
My whole experience dancing at the Greek restaurant was so much fun (we always ended the night smashing plates with all of the patrons outside- Greek style!) The buzz was amazing and this energy is what fueled my desire to keep expanding my performance experience.
So for a while i was in the comfort zone of performing as a duet and slowly started dancing solo at various events which gradually became more demanding, as the expectations were higher. I won’t go on about the rest of my performance journey (over 10 years worth of stories!), but will share a few things to consider if you have the strong desire to perform (even if you haven’t been dancing for long).
Kylea and I when we first started perfoming
There are SO many different opportunities to perform in a variety of settings. It’s important to choose the space/event that is right for your level of experience. To start with, you will not be paid, so volunteering your time to spread some joy at places like aged care homes, or a hafla at your local bellydance school is a great way to start.
As you become more experienced you can gradually choose events that are a little more demanding. If you are looking to charge a fee to perform, it’s important that you are at a professional level (and that the client has seen some video of you dancing). Performing in different situations can be very unpredictable and sometimes stressful. It is not just about the dance but about the people you deal with and the issues that can arise (music system failure, rude inappropriate comments, space restrictions etc). Being mentally prepared for this possibility is very important.
Feeling empowered within yourself needs to be a top priority. If you are feeling insecure it will affect your performance experience one way or another. Whether it is through your interaction with the clients/guests or your actual performance itself.
My first solo performance at the restaurant Quiet Waters
Here are 7 ways to feel more empowered when it comes to performing:
- Feel really strong in your dance! Be clear about the style you are dancing amd make sure you have rehearsed a lot! Also make sure you practice improvising, for the times when you forget your choreo!
- Perform at an event that is right for your level of experience. The less expectations you have on yourself at the early stages, the better.
- Ensure your expectation of yourself does not exceed your skill level. Sometimes we can have this idea of how we desire a performance to be, but the reality is that we just don’t have the skills to pull it off. Make sure you are being realistic with yourself.
- If you feel more safe having someone with you that you trust, bring them along for support.
- Be prepared! Have plenty of time to chill out before you are due to perform. Practice whatever helps you to become totally present in your body. I recommend breath work, going for a walk in nature, Qi gong or even cuddling your pets (they are perfect at helping us regulate our nervous system!)
- Once you have performed congratulate yourself! DO NOT focus on everything that went wrong, this will just start a pattern of self abuse and criticism which will quickly erode your confidence and development. If you recorded the performance, acknowledge your strengths and also acknowledge where you would like to develop, and be mindful what you say to yourself.. again NO self abuse!
- And finally and most importantly tune into what makes you feel empowered. You know yourself best! Do you enjoy creating little rituals for yourself? Or creatively visualising yourself on stage? or spending time alone on the day of the performance? What ever taps you into your “superpower” do it!
And finally, just remember that your early experiences plant the seed for your future performances. Try to ensure that you set yourself up for it to be an enjoyable one that you can learn from and continue to embrace the process of your personal evolution as a dancer.
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