Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Star Quality? (Part Two)

Ok, so continuing on from Star Quality? (Part I), I want to focus on the 3 major factors I listed: Ability, Promotion, and Personality.  Someone who is an Established Star has worked hard on all of these factors (and most likely continue to). Out of these 3 things, I would say two of them can always be improved upon over time, with some hard work, dedication, and focus:

Ability: This refers to the individual's technique - not only in how well-versed they are in the dance and what they do, but how able they are as a teacher, as a performer.  Let's face it, no matter how naturally dance may come to some, there is always room for improvement and growth.  Some dancers let early praise get to their heads, and stop taking classes, workshops - and often start teaching themselves at the same time.  If you don't get a realistic picture of where you are at, nor do you ever get any more information in, you're going to plateau very quickly.  For those who it doesn't come so easily, or are more critical-thinkers, they're going to work harder, longer, and get farther in the big picture. (Hare vs. Tortoise if you will).  Those who rise fast, but don't grow nor continue to get accolades often vanish as quick as they came. Especially if they came on the scene with just one trick or gimmick in their bag. These would make up a fair amount of Shooting Stars. (Not all, because for some, life gets in the way - a major family change, career, move, health issues, etc - may quickly end the career of a Rising Star, making them appear to be short-lived.)

It is also important to note that someone who is a great dancer may not be a great teacher, and vice versa.  In the current economy, one really needs to be relatively strong at both to do it professionally.  And again, some people are natural teachers or performers, but most are not, and it takes time to acquire those skills and hone them.  And live experience makes a difference.  Heck, for example, it just makes sense that I would be a better teacher now in 2010, then I was in 2005, 200+ workshops later...and if I wasn't, then I wouldn't be getting the gigs and huge amount of return/repeat students that I am blessed with. 

So, when it comes to attaining "star quality" in regards to Ability - you need to be prepared to learn, study, practice, be critiqued, analyze, and share both in the classroom and on the stage.

Promotion: The individual's outlying presence - the image presented online via websites, videos, magazines, business cards, through events and other offerings. Ok, so you've got Ability down - what is your public presence in the world? How easily can potential customers/students/sponsors find out about you? Do you have a website? Business cards? Online video?  Back in the day, word of mouth and perhaps a good business card was all you needed, but this is the Information Age.  If someone can't google you, see you dance a timezone away, or take home a card, you can easily be forgotten. 

And I'm not saying you have to have a ton of money or graphic design talent to do it either, especially not in this day and age, where there's website builders a plenty, super-cheap hosting, and full color business cards for next to nothing.  And it doesn't have to be super fancy either - just clean and to the point.  Honestly, I built my first website back in the late 90's, and I really can't say my web skills have progressed greatly since the first part of this past decade, but I know good design, and I can do it all myself and update it.  So while I don't have the fanciest whistles and bells, I have an easy to navigate website that's updated regularly.  Where folks can read about you, where you've been, where you'll be at, how to contact you. That's all you really need.  Ok that and some good photos.  Which aren't that hard to come by for a small investment of time and/or money, no matter where you are located - and then can be used for all of your promo materials.

Also, don't be fooled into thinking that spending a lot of money on photoshoots and web design will get you there faster either (or expensive costumes), and it's got to be brand-new every 6 months.  I remember back-in-the-day snark from people who said I only got where I was because I had a pretty website and costuming.  Well, both the website and costuming I made from scratch, which was a major investment of my time, on top of everything else I was doing (college, dance classes, being married, working, and sleep somewhere in there..) - so really even if I had bought those things for a lot of money, it wouldn't change the fact that I'm still going strong many years later. So if you have the talent use it - if you don't, find some reliable friends/contacts who do.

It also helps to have an online presence in other ways too, via networking sites:, facebook, blogs, online forums, twitter, etc.  People nowadays have a shorter attention span, so you can't just expect to just sit back and be discovered. You have to be pro-active.

So, this would include the two factors that I think you can always be improving on.  The last one probably could too, but I'd argue otherwise, I think you either have it/get it, or you don't - and this factor plays the most important role of being an Established Star:

Personality: How they come across as a person - as a performer, as a teacher, as a community member. When I think about all of my dance heroes (and they all have been dancing for nearly as long as I have been alive, or longer), there are some incredibly similar traits that they all share.  They're all sincere, honest, grounded, minimal-drama people. They're also all relatively easy to work with - as performers, teachers, and as people. They have staying quality because they have proven themselves to be consistent and reliable over a long period of time. They're not afraid to express their opinion, but they also recognize when it is the best time to do so.  They are respected in their local communities as well as across the globe.  They have a serious work ethic, but also know how to have fun and don't take themselves too seriously either. And they're always open to learning something new.  And most importantly, they don't do it for fame, they do it because they truly love what they do and love sharing it.  

And I really stress that these things are proven again and again over time.  I can think of several Shooting Stars who had amazing charisma, but little real substance, and most people do catch on eventually that they really aren't all that and a bag of pita chips.  People also grow weary of Drama Queens who make too many demands but offer little else in return.  And it's important to be a part of your local community - even though I travel a lot, I still make time for local events, haflas, benefits, because it's important and I care about my community and growing opportunities for my students. 

So if you'd like to be a Rising Star (or are one already!), and would like to see yourself one day as an Established Star - carefully consider all of these factors, and take a good step back and look at yourself.  Don't be afraid to grow, to change, and to expand, and be sure you know you're doing it for the right reasons.

And for the record, I would consider myself Rising to Aspiring Established Star.  Maybe in another 10 years, ok?

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