Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The 3 groups in the crowd

As most of you who read this regularly know (or if you know me), you know that I used to have stage fright. It's really an irrational fear of looking like a fool on stage. But who's taking notice, right? The audience is. That's who I was afraid of. As I mentioned in the past, really, the audience wants to be entertained and just wants you to do your best. They're really on your side. Logically, that sounds true but I had a hard time believe it...

Until I had a dream. The dream itself wasn't important but it revealed to me the 3 groups in the crowd who will always be there, pretty much wherever you go.

The Fans
These are the audience members who love you whatever you do. Bless their hearts, they make you feel good about yourself. These can be your students if you're a teacher, your teacher if you're the student, people who have seen you progress and grow, your spouse, your family, etc. As you progress in this dance, this group will become larger.

You don't need to worry about these folks when you perform because they will love it, no matter what. You can actually use their positive energy to fuel your dance! I most certainly do that! Finding one of those friendly faces in a crowd is a blessing! Use them to your advantage.

The Haters
Those people will hate what you do, whatever it is. So, yes, the total opposite of The Fans. Now, why they hate what you do may be different depending on the source of their hate. It could be that your style is one that they abhor. It could be because they don't like belly dance in general (that'd be the case when I'm dancing at the restaurant, for example, and I find someone (or a group) who seems to give me dirty looks). It could be because they only like < insert narrow definition of belly dance > and that's not what you're doing.

You also don't need to worry about these folks! There is absolutely no point in spending time and energy worrying about them or trying to convince them that they're wrong. They have passed judgment on you already... oftentimes even before you're hitting the stage. Don't let their attitude bring you down. They will generally not tell you anything anyway so you won't even know much that they're there. But, again, no point in worrying about them.

Interestingly, as you progress in dance, this group can become smaller or bigger! It all depends on so many things.

The Rest aka The Jury
The rest of the folks have no idea who you are, what you do, what you are about, and they're just willing to go along for the ride. So, I called them "the jury" because, simply put, the jury is still out on you. Quite frankly, for all that you may try to bucket folks into each of the categories, the truth is that the bulk of your audience will be in this category. I don't quite like the term "jury" because it's not like they're really passing judgment on you... though they are certainly entitled to have an opinion about your piece, just like everyone else.

Now, should you worry about them? No, actually, you don't even need to worry about them whatsoever! With them, you are actually starting with a completely clean slate and, well, they are taking you in as you're dancing and all.

General Population versus Belly Dancers
So, whether you're doing a show for belly dancers or for the general population, the 3 groups will be there... the proportions may be different, though.

General population
Generally speaking, in a show for the general population, nearly everyone will be in "the jury" category: few people will really have seen belly dance before and, unless they have some misconception of what belly dance is, they will be quite open to the experience. Now, there's a possibility that you will have some "haters" because of said misconceptions. But it's actually a much smaller proportion of people than you'd think. And, quite frankly, I've had a number of folks who have told me that they started with a misconception and I dispelled it. (Happens a lot when I dance at the restaurant.) So they were not full on "haters" but more like "biased jury". :p

Belly dancers
We often feel sooooooooo self-conscious dancing in front of other dancers. You think that they'll figure out where you went wrong and all that. Truth is that, actually, the bulk of the audience will still be in "the jury" category, unless it's a toxic crowd, which happens every now and then... but I think that I can count on one hand the number of times that this happened to me. Really, we're not there to pass judgment on you. Just like the general population, we want you to do your thing. Now, you may find a bit more "haters" in a show for belly dancers but, again, they'll generally be silent so you won't even notice them too much. You will have a whole lot more fans there, though.

Bottom Line
Really, bottom line, for all that these 3 groups are in the audience, there's really no point in worrying about any of them. You can use the fans to your advantage, pulling their positive energy to keep you going. The rest is up to you. Simply put, you need to do the best that you can under the circumstances and the crowd will react whichever way it will react. Some audiences are very supportive; others are not. It's unfortunately part of the performance experience. Learning to deal with each type of support is an important part of learning how to perform. But it's also important to realize that what each group in the audience is thinking about you is totally out of your control.

The only thing that you have control over is what you are actually doing on stage. That's why you prepare these things ahead of time. The day of the performance is the time to execute to the best of your abilities. Be present, in the moment. And don't spend time worrying about what the audience thinks.

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