Monday, May 2, 2011

No Fear Bellydance!

You probably don't know this about me, but I grew up surfing at the (real) Jersey shore.  My older brothers were surfers, and so by the age of 6, I was up and standing on a real full-size fiberglass surfboard (single fin, with a beautiful star with a rainbow tail, Rainbow Brite - eat your heart out), riding waves.  I actively surfed and also had a small collection of Morey Boogie boards that I saved up for well through my late teens.  The older I got though, the more my widening hip bones did not care for the bruising contact of the board as the surf banged it against them, and the more I was aware that this was a very dangerous activity.  So you could say fear and self-preservation entered the equation, but the connection I really wanted to make here is the surfer-brand of "No Fear" because that's the first thing I think of when I hear that phrase.

But I still like to connect it with bellydance when I can, because it's also a phrase I like to tell my students.  "No fear!" when it comes to performing!  "No fear!" when it comes to trying something new!  "No fear!" when it comes to trying something again.  "No fear!" that there WILL be another time.

And so I got to thinking, when IS fear appropriate with dance, and when does it really show up when we least expect it?  When is fear the root of our issues and what can we do about it?  When is it controlling us more than we are controlling it?

There are two kinds of fear and how they affect us.  I mentioned in my blog post about bullying that fear of losing control, popularity, etc, is a big factor behind why most people bully.  In fact, I think fear has a lot to do with most negative behavior that can be found within our community.  There's our fears that can harm ourselves internally/personally (and not directly affect anyone else) - we'll call this Interior Fear, and then there's our fears that can cause other people harm - Exterior Fear

Some examples of Interior Fears:
-Stage Fright (any of the fears related to performing in front of other people)
-Class/Workshop Fear (fear of looking like you don't know what you're doing in a classroom setting)
-Poser Fear (fear of being shown you don't know what you're doing/talking about)
-Live Music Fear (fear that the musicians will unleash something random and horrible upon you, making you look like a moron)
-Improv Fear (fear of doing anything improvised)
-Choreography Fear (fear of failing to remember choreography)
-Fangirl Fear (fear of being rejected/sneered at by your idol)

How to overcome Interior Fears: 
Well, every situation is different, but really the best antidote is doing.  You'll never know unless you try, and the more you do something, the more comfortable you will become with it.  Often, we make a situation far worse in our head than it can ever be in real life, and life is all about experiences.  Some will be good, some will be bad, but they're all worth it, because we can learn from them.  No one has it all together right off the bat, it takes time to develop skill and nurture talent.  The irony is, the more accepting that you are of that you may indeed look like a moron, the less likely the chances you will actually become one.

Some examples of Exterior Fears:
-Losing students to other teachers
-Losing fans to other performers
-Losing status/popularity

How to overcome Exterior Fears:  A lot of things I see in the community make me scratch my head - especially when actions extremely defy logic and sense, and I've come to the conclusion that logical reasoning is clearly absent and has been pushed out by fear, especially when the excuses that coming pouring out don't make any sense.  I'm going to tackle each of these fears separately:

-Losing students to other teachers.  I've heard all sorts of interesting reasons why people don't host workshops with other teachers or tell their students about them.  There's the logical ones: no budget, too busy, honestly didn't know about an event, or they want to check out a teacher first before they expose their students to them so they can make a solid recommendation.  The ones that generate the more "interesting" reasons usually have the same thing though at heart - the teacher is afraid that she may lose students to other teachers - which not only shows a great amount of personal insecurity, but also may prevent the students from becoming better, more rounded dancers.  We become better dancers through being exposed to more instructors and performers - sometimes it's a lesson of what to do, or how to do it differently, and sometimes it's a lesson of what NOT to do.  If a student is meant to move on, then let her/him move on.  If they want to try something different, let them have their own experience.  If you're doing a good job, they will still be there for you.  There will always be more students for good teachers.  If it comes down to doubting oneself and your own ability, then it's time to brush up on your own skills and expand your education.

-Losing fans to other performers.  I don't understand snubbing other performers when they're offering to dance at/partake of your event.  I think the most common fear some producers have is having someone do better than themselves or that people will like those other performers more.  But variety is the spice of life!  And a little healthy competition makes us all more on our game. Everyone has their strengths and weakness. There's also the concept of creating a show and letting everyone know the terms, limits, and expectations, and then there's bullshitting (for lack of a more elegant term.) Make terms clear and standard for everyone, or don't make it sound like you're open to all and then not be.  Treat everyone with respect and be direct.  Also, consider good business sense.  If a well-known or high quality dancer wants to participate in my show, I will make the room for them - because they will help increase the draw and the level of the show, plus it's damn good karma - and chances are, even if the schedule appears tight, something always happens, so it's not a bad thing to budget for another 5-7 more minutes.  Also, I'm always up for giving a new performer a new opportunity - you just never know!  I'm also aware of supporting other local teachers/performers when possible to help strengthen the community and show mutual respect. It really is a win-win. And lastly, so what if someone is a better performer than you?  This is just how things are, and you can only truly compete against yourself. 

-Losing status/popularity.  I also don't get the popularity game. I don't understand stunts, rumors, and other perceptions involved with this game. You never know what will make people happy or turn them off, because you can't please all of the people all of the time. Some people will go fangirl over anything, and other people are finicky.  You can't let it get to you. The key thing is to do the best job YOU can, do what YOU believe in, and act with respect with others.  That's the best way to not only be yourself (and a true original), but also build momentum the most positive way.  Everything ebbs and flows. Today you're riding the wave, tomorrow you're getting wiped out.  But there will always be more waves and other day.  But if you're true to yourself, you'll be in for the long ride no matter what.

No Fear!

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