Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Yes Dance.

When you dance, whose approval are you looking for?

Is it the accolades of the general audience?

Is it confirmation from your teacher or peers?

Is it acceptance from the culture the dance originates from?

As a performer, it's important to address the audience and connect with them. As an active learner, it's important to both give and especially receive constructive feedback to advance your journey. When you take on an art form, you acknowledge its cultural roots, so it's vital to do the research and present your work respectfully.

Yet while these are all good places to desire feedback from, they offer little in the way of supporting and sustaining the one person's approval you need the most: your own.

Over the years, I've seen a lot of dancers perform with the main focus to get the high off of feeling special and shiny. It seems to work great when the audiences are large and appreciative, but when the crowd is small, or more interested in their dinner, the pay doesn't balance the effort, or other dancers seem to get more applause, it creates an internal chasm and the dance loses its magic.  The satisfaction of good dance can't come only from likes, zaghareets, tips, and clapping.  It doesn't sustain or allow for growth.

Then there are the teachers who get off on power, recognition, and control, and others who only teach because they see it as the only way to make money off of dance and get stage time. The former wants you to crave their approval, for you to idolize and obey them in order to sanction your dancing. They don't want you to advance, unless it serves them well. The latter will give you lip service, but don't really care who you are or what you do. Narcissism abounds and never fosters.

The cultural perspective is significant and a worthy goal, but it's impossible to get universal approval and acceptance. Opinions and baggage vary from group to group, region to region, class to class, and of course personal experience.You can make yourself batty contemplating cultural appropriation and the place and status of the dance in various cultures.  It can lead into a downward spiral of "why even bother?"

And what hurts me is that as I'm writing this, I know that as many of you read this now,  you can think of one example from above (or all/multiple ones) of people you have encountered in your journey. People who have stolen the joy of the dance from you or those you know, who have left a sea of doubt, pain, and sadness in their wake.  Sometimes that person is you, yourself.

Which is why I'm saying to you, when you dance, you need to dance first and foremost for YOU.  You need to give YOURSELF approval and validation for dance. Regardless of your age, race, class, shape, size, or gender, the only person you need permission and acceptance from is yourself. Stop comparing yourself to the newest, hottest thing out there. Stop trying to be someone else on stage or in class. Don't gauge success by the amount of applause or likes. Don't judge yourself harshly because you don't fit someone else's paradigm. Don't play into the hands of cliques, clubs, and personality cults.  You won't find validation anywhere else.

The message I'm trying to get across is NOT "go do whatever you want with the dance and screw everyone else."  Also, while I do believe in "the only dancer you're competing against is the one you were" - which is meant to mean "eyes on yourself, stop comparing yourself to others" - the thing is, it's not a competition at all. We're all aging, and life is constantly throwing curveballs in the forms of illness, injury, family, work, etc - so that self-comparison can start to get quite cruel and create more guilt than good. It creates another kind of downward spiral that can kill dance dead.

Dance because it means something first and foremost to YOU. Dance because it makes you feel good in your body, in your soul.  Dance in the bathroom, dance in the kitchen, and in your yard. Dance in front of thousands and dance in front of no one.  Dance because you wish to, not because you feel obligated. Dance to lose yourself and dance to connect to others. Dance because you want to, when you want to. Dance to find yourself.

When you say yes to yourself, yes to your own dance, you will find the power comes from within you and grows outward, inspiring not only others, but yourself.

Blessings on your dance.