Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Advice received

I actually meant to post this before the Holidays but, hey, right at the start of the new year is not a bad idea. ;) This post will contain some of the very valuable advice that I have received over the years. I have received many more pieces of advice but I'll just focus on a few pieces.

Fake it until you feel it! - Lala Hakim
This takes me back to my early days in belly dancing... all the way back to Quebec City. My first workshop was with Lala Hakim, an Egyptian dancer who lived in Montreal. Anyway. I know that this is an old saying but that was the first time that I heard it. And, well, it's so true! It will hide a world of issues/insecurities.

The only failed performance is one from which you haven't learned anything - Mira Betz
We all have times when you are afraid of performing. If you have stage fright as I used to, it's even more acute of a feeling. But we all go through times when we're afraid. Mira's point here is that, even if the performance failed (and that definition is up to you), as long as you can learn something from it, it was worth it. Learning what didn't go so well is about as important as learning what went well.

Knowledge over trinkets - Asharah
Okay, that's not exactly how she had phrased it. I don't remember the exact words but that's me paraphrasing. Asharah had posted a blog many years ago about her not having the latest fashion in costuming or spending a ton of money on costuming but, instead, choosing to spend her money on workshops. I have spent money on both myself but, now that I have a dance studio, money is tighter... so I've cut back a lot on my costume spending... but I didn't cut much on my workshop spending. For all that I spent a lot of money on costuming items in the past, I spent way more on workshops. Knowledge sticks. Fashion comes and goes. While, yes, you do need to look polished enough in your costuming for a performance, if you don't have the skills and knowledge, you'll just be wearing a pretty costume. You need to keep honing your skills. Branch out and explore new styles, new things. You may decide that it's not for you. Or you may find something of interest. But you won't know until you do it.

Just Dance! - Ariellah
I am an habitual overthinker. So, after a lot of e-mails back and forth in which I was asking Ariellah a ton of philosophical questions, she told me to stop thinking and just dance! Sometimes we spend too much time in our heads, contemplating, pondering, imagining... but, at some point, you have to actually dance if you want to dance and be a dancer. Alternately, I had a student who read the blog post entry where I had written about that advice originally and, to her, that meant forgetting about other stuff that weren't dance-related... and just focusing on dance. There are many ways that this could be interpreted. Whatever works for you.

A performance isn't complete until it is performed. - Tempest
This was in a private session where I was lamenting about how I have great ideas for what to do on stage and practice and I even used to choreograph... but then sometimes it just wouldn't come out as planned. Tempest was encouraging to relinquish control when that happens and let whatever will flow out of my body happen. In taking that advice to heart, I ended up looking less hesitant on stage because what would happen is that something else would start flowing out of my body but my brain suddenly remembered what I was supposed to do and stop the motion... so the moment was gone and I ended up looking indeed like I had started the "wrong" thing. She also explained it that it's like telling a story: even if you tell the same story over and over again, every single time, there will be slightly different nuances, different words used, etc. It's near impossible to replicate the same story identically each time. No worries. It's still a good story. Her point also was that you can rehear in your living room (or dance studio) as much as you want but it's not a performance until it's performed.

Focus on yourself. - Belladonna
This was in answer to me complaining that I should be further in my dance and Bella told me "Really, the only thing that you can do is focus on yourself, hone your skills, work on your technique and your artistry. Forget about everyone else." It is SO easy to get caught up/wrapped up in comparing yourself with others. The tricky part with belly dance (and it may be true with other art as well but can't vouch for it firsthand) is that there really isn't anything that says that you have been dancing for XX time so you should be at XX level. No two people develop in the same fashion. So you may have been dancing for 10 years and see this youngling who has been dancing for 2 years and is quite successful... and maybe even more talented than you! Art and dance aren't fair. It doesn't work that way. I unfortunately spent some time myself comparing myself to others... that time that you spend doing that is totally pointless. And, worst of all, it brings you down. Instead, if you re-focus your attention on yourself, what you've accomplished, the progress you have made, where you want to go with your dance, etc., it's a much more sane way of spending your time and energy. And, well, obviously, THAT is what will bring you the results that you are striving for.

It will happen whether you're ready or not... so you may as well be ready.
This one's from me. This was my lesson of 2011. There have been a number of events in 2011 for which I've dug my heels. I didn't want to go. So many reasons and excuses for why not. Timing wasn't right. Money was tight. Performance piece wasn't as ready as I'd like it to be. I don't want to leave work. I don't want to leave the house. If only I had more time... If only... Well, you know what? The events happened. They were fun. It all worked out. I'm damn glad that I went to them all. The truth is that time will not stand still. It keeps moving. So the time that you spend worrying or, worse still, being in denial that an event is going to happen on XX day, time will move on and the event will still happen. So, instead, spend the time getting ready. You need a performance? Prepare it, work at it. Money is tight? Assess options to do the event on a budget. Work is crazy? Try to get as much done as you can and, well, you know what?, they CAN live without you. Of course, you can also choose not to go to an event. But, believe me, you'll regret it afterwards.

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