Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Performance Blues

When I started dance classes I never intended to perform. When my classes began I'd already been doing fire dancing for almost a year; some of that involved performing in very low key situations. The last time I'd stood up in front of a bunch of people was in high school during my theatre geek days. I didn't think that as an adult I'd be performing on a regular basis, though.

Belly dance has a tendency to take you down the road of performance. First it's dancing for your classmates, perhaps in an end of class session "show". Then it's on to informal haflas, where you cobble together an outfit and get up in front of friends and family. Many more haflas, studio shows, and other informal events follow. Then suddenly it's gala shows (the ones that happen during a workshop weekend, are yearly events sponsored by local teachers, or something of the sort). Dancing at fundraisers, or showcase nights at local venues. Before you know it you're involved in the whole, "What should I/we set as a pay rate" debate and BAM . . . you're performing.

Now note, not all dancers do this. A lot of people never get on stage or stop with the the informal performances. They don't want to get on a big stage or commit the time to performing or deal with the stress, and that is great! I think it is awesome to do something because you love it for yourself.

I'm one of those people, though, who likes to have something pushing me forward, and beyond my own perfectionist streak I've found that the deadline of an upcoming performance works rather well. What I've also found is that the looming deadline pushes my stress level up to new heights.

Sometimes that can stress can be good. In November I danced at the DCTribal sponsored Tribal:PURA show with my troupe mates Brooke and Nora. We had two weeks to pick music, brush up the new moves we'd been working on, and get costumes together. It was two weeks of intense rehearsals, evenings in my living room going over and over the music, and last minute sewing. We were practically delirious on the ride to the venue, nervous as hell through the run through, nauseous while waiting our turn backstage. There were minor flubs on stage, but it went over well, we got a great response and we felt good about what we'd done. The show left us is on a high (thank goodness, as it was the start to a long weekend of workshops).

This past weekend the same trio danced at a local hafla. Again there was the rushed lead up, though intentionally more relaxed this time. There was nervousness before the show (even worse in a way because we were the last to perform). Despite minor problems (such as my belt getting up close and personal with Brooke's belt, locking us together until I spun around and released us) it went well. Afterwards, though, I crashed. Like literally as SOON as we stopped dancing I felt like I could have laid down on the floor and slept for a million years. It was like the pre-show stress and recent troupe goings on had all crashed down on my head and left me completely drained. We left, I schlumped home with my SO, peeled off the layers of my costume and swapped them for my pajamas, and spent the evening staring at the computer.

When dancing leaves me energized it is fantastic. When it leaves me drained it is awful. I have to learn that all of my dance experiences will not be great ones, that I can't beat myself up over it and I have to keep moving forward. I can't let the bad times sour my opinion, because performing can be great and I know I'm going to do it again - an invitation to dance will pop up, we'll all decide to go for it, and the cycle begins again. I just have to hold onto all of the good times and remember that the tough ones are the situations that usually lead to a period of change, growth and progression. I have to keep reaching for the next goal, raising the bar for myself and finding out what I am really capable of achieving.

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