I remember what it was like to be a new dancer learning tribal bellydance. It was such a switch for me from other dance and movement styles I had studied. In the other forms I either performed solo, or if I danced as part of a choreography, I was only responsible for myself–what moves I needed to be doing, when and where I needed to be on the stage. If I made a mistake, it certainly had an effect on the overall presentation, but ultimately I couldn’t single-handedly derail the entire group with a little flub.
When I came to tribal bellydance, suddenly I wasn’t just responsible for me. I was responsible for other people! As a leader, what I did was directly connected to, and immediately to be emulated by, those following me. I loved following, that felt easy. It was a lot like choreography in that if I didn’t catch it quite, no biggie, it was just me “messing up”. But as a leader…whoooooeee! The pressure I put on myself was so great that I would leave the classroom before we got to the group work we would invariably do at the end. I just felt too self-conscious to lead other people in the dance, and felt it better to sneak out the back door (literally!) than to push through my insecurity. ME?! One of the least self-conscious, most gregarious people I know. Me. Out the back door. *shaking head at my past self*
Well my friends, I am on the other side of that seemingly impenetrable wall now. I have been to the other side, and I can say this with all confidence and sincerity:
Get over yourself.
When you dance with others, be it in class or workshops, they are going through the same gamut of feelings you are. And all we want (all they want, too) is to feel supported through whatever it is they do. I think that in life in general, a lot of us imagine that everyone else in the room is somehow more equipped to successfully take on the task in front of them than we are. We are so in our own heads, telling ourselves all the ways we might “mess up”, that we forget that so is everybody else!
For every single one of us, in a tribal bellydance class or workshop where we are learning something new, our brains are all filled with new information that our mind-body connection is trying to sort out, we are eager to try out our new skills, nervous we will trip up, excited to get out there and dance, worry we will look foolish, our hearts are racing, we’re taking in all the sounds and sights of our fellow dancers, trying to follow, trying to lead (or not lead! ;), time stretches strangely…before you know it the song is over.
But the one very important thing we have a hard time remembering is that just as you are sending out your support and encouragement to your fellow dancers, willing for them to be successful (nay, already believing they will be successful!), and being entirely forgiving of their little flubs, so too are the other dancers doing that for you. Think about that a minute. Think about all the people in that room who already think you’re awesome and successful, and are sending that positive energy every time you dance together. And when you do “mess up”, they fully sympathize and understand and just roll with it. Because that is what it means to improvise with others. It’s not about whether everything we do is executed perfectly, it’s how confidently we carry ourselves through the dance regardless of the little curveballs. It’s how we laugh together in those “whoops!” moments, and how gracefully we push through the little flubs. It’s how we pull this out of our ass, right here right now, and make it look like we had the best time doing it (because we did). Hell, isn’t that what makes it such a fun adventure to dance with others in this way?
There is no room to judge others when we are dancing together. Frankly there is just too much going on to bother to think a negative thought. So the next time you get down on yourself as you step up to dance with others–be it in class, or in a social jam, or on a stage–think about all that good juju flowing into you from all around, from your sisters. They believe in you, and so should you!
This is so true! It’s a daunting experience finding yourself in the lead position. It takes hours of practice and only the time “up front” can give you that. Everyone gets the blank-out in the beginning. We’ve all been there and we will be rooting for you until you find your moves and we can all move together 🙂