I may have borrowed the title of this article – from another article I shared on Joana Saahirah of Cairo Fan Page – but the contents are mine. I´m not just a dancer; I´m an Oriental Dancer and that, my friends, makes all the difference.
An Oriental Dancer doesn´t deal (only) with the regular pressure of regular dancers; she/he also has to rise above an annoying array of prejudices, myths and
moronic peculiar expectations that have followed Oriental Dance around throughout the centuries.
The problem about self-confidence is that it´s erroneously taken as VANITY when it´s exactly its opposite. A woman – dancer or not – who claims to have confidence in herself is instantaneously labeled as a bitch. No wonder most women are afraid to embrace self-love and acceptance. No wonder so many dancers – Oriental and others – choose to hide behind movements instead of shining their UNIQUE star.
- Work, work, work. Nothing is more relaxing than the assurance of having done our homework. It sounds dull and it probably is. I wish a fairy came knocking on my door, every night, to deliver talent, skills and accomplished homework. It never happened – so far. Although I keep – sort of – waiting, I believe SERIOUS, PERSISTENT, CONSCIOUS and NEVER ENDING work makes miracles. The job of a dancer – any artist – is mostly achieved on the background, doing things the public never gets to see. They watch your performance but they´ll probably never know how much work you put into it before you hit the stage. What people see is the tip of the iceberg and that´s how it´s supposed to be. When you PREPARE your work – shows, workshops, classes, lectures -, you´re in peace with yourself. You know that´s the best you can do – for the moment. That sense of respected duty offers a good base for self-confidence. Nothing makes a dancer more nervous than the awareness of having been lazy or careless.
- Learn how to feel compassionate towards ignorance. Oriental Dance is a highly misunderstood art form. You can divide mainstream – and even dance community – people in two groups: the ones who don´t know about the subject and the ones who think they know and don´t know. In both cases, ignorance and twisted expectations are the norm. Don´t twist people´s neck when they show you their ignorance towards the dance. Take the high road, smile and wave like the queen of England. Then walk the talk: teach them what is Oriental Dance by DOING IT GREATLY. No word can substitute the power of an ACTION. No speech is more powerful than a piece of quality dance. Show them what you mean by Oriental Dance ART FORM – they will catch up.
- Remember we are all HUMAN and that is what makes US (you) special. Don´t try to fit the mold. There´s no mold. Every person expects something different from a dancer and it´s impossible to keep up with it, even if you want to. And you don´t have to want it. EXPOSE yourself with courage; embrace VULNERABILITY and audiences will relate to you as an artist and human being. Share you heart and you´ll receive your audiences´heart in return. Don´t be afraid to be a PERSON – that´s the Magic of Oriental Dance; that´s YOUR gift to the world.
- Own your booty. If you´re worried about extra pounds, the hips you dislike or the fat arms, your FOCUS is in the wrong place. You´ll not feel free to move beyond appearances – the goal of Oriental Dance. This is something Egyptian Dancers do magnificently: they own their bodies; they inhabit their physical selves without criticism or negative thoughts. They feel so good in their own skin that their audiences end up feeling the same about them. Remember: the audience is a mirror of the dancer – not the opposite. If you love your body – and what´s inside it -, people will love it too. Sure enough: there will be haters. But who cares about haters (aka frustrated folks who throw their demons on other people´s faces)? Blow them a kiss and suggest they get a life. Then move on, rocking your curves and everything else that makes you UNIQUE.
- Quit the concept of PERFECTION. It´s a mirage – it doesn´t exist – and it´s so damn boring. Excellence – yes. Totality – yes. Quality – yes. Perfection – what is it? Each person, society and time has its own conception of perfection. Chasing something that doesn´t exist doesn´t sound smart to me. Shine your ORIGINAL SELF. Work your gorgeous ass off before, during and after each performance. Do your best. Work from your heart. Train seriously and search for “out of the box” creative solutions. DARE to do what makes your heart sing. And quit the idea of PERFECTION. That´s just another word for procrastination or, simply, frustration.
- Don´t compare yourself with other dancers. Each person is UNIQUE – I repeat. If you look at other dancers, do so with respect and support. If someone has something to teach you, learn it and move forward, respecting the work of others and aiming at creating your ORIGINAL work. Comparisons are the daughters of mediocrity.
- Greatness is an attitude, not a circumstance. There´s no excuse to feel less than your fabulous self. You´re a Goddess – a human goddess. Act accordingly. Always.
- Gratitude. I always take the stage by storm because I feel it´s the first time I step on it and it may be the last time. We never know. Being able to do what I love and being appreciated for it is a GIFT I never take for granted. Being aware of this gift is an efficient antidote to stage fright and insecurity. CELEBRATE that opportunity; share the happiness you feel for being on that stage, a stage so many people desire and will never step on.
- Embrace BEING NAKED, figuratively speaking. An Oriental Dancer exposes her soul – raw, naked, honest – on the stage. It´s like opening the door of our intimacy to perfect strangers; it´s the FEMININE principle par excellence: RECEPTIVITY, VULNERABILITY taken to the extreme. At the end of that line, you discover POWER. Not male, impositive, exterior power but feminine, interior power. When you hold your heart in your hands and share it with your audiences, they will caress it. Have no doubt about it.
- Trust LIFE. Trusting yourself is one thing; trusting life is another. I´ve met people who presume they have to be in charge of everything; they even believe they can control life. They can´t. We play – dance – with life, never quite knowing which part of the dance belongs to whom. Trusting life means you deliver a part of your performance to The UNKNOWN. You allow things to happen – impredictable, sometimes unpleasant things. I´ve lost the count of stage accidents I´ve been through. Losing bras and skirts, falling on my “derrière”, having the music failing when I´m dancing, you name it. I could manage to make something special out of every mishap. I had to. The show must go on – that we know; make sure it goes on brilliantly. Mistakes, as Perfection, are nothing but concepts. What you consider a mistake can be a genius pearl at the eyes of another person. Prepare as much as possible; then, when the lights are on, make the best of whatever comes your way.
- Breathe deeply and consciously. Breathing is the easiest and fastest way to relax and re-center yourself. It´s so simple we forget about it.
- Look ahead – not down. Own the stage you step on and inhabit yourself – body, mind, heart and soul. Believe in what you´re doing. If you don´t, you shouldn´t be on that stage.
- Define your PURPOSE – what makes you go on that stage. Knowing why you´re there – what you have to offer – builds confidence and clarity. Are you there to beg for applauses or to share a gift? Define it and then share it; don´t hold back. There´s no time to rehearse – it´s now or never. Always.
- Use the Music as your companion, a guideline and a source of inspiration, instead of a difficulty you have to manage. Most dancers deal with music as if it was an enemy to domesticate. It´s not. Music is our best friend – it´s the trapeze artist line and safety net. Learn how to use the music in your favour; how to be INSIDE IT (TARAB) and get security from it. If you befriend it, it will never disappoint you.
- EnJOY your dance. Don´t take it so seriously it becomes a punishment (for you and your audience). Seriousness is something you practice on the background, sweating in the gym or in your dance studio. Audiences don´t have to bear your heavy “seriousness”, concern and pain. They´re there to enJOY but they won´t EnJOY unless you ENJOY it first. Once you dig into JOY, you tend to forget about insecurities. Your mind cannot focus, simultaneously, on celebrating the pleasure of dance and worrying about all the things you presume you could be doing better. It´s either one or the other. Always choose JOY – the opposite of fear.
- Bring “El Duende” into your dancing space. Trust there is a Spirit – your spirit – that shines through you. Oriental Dance is not about how many fancy movements you can do with your tummy but how you do what you do and what you communicate with it. Meditate before going on stage; pray, breathe, be thankful, call out your angels or yell in the bathroom, if you need to. Do whatever it takes to remember you (we) are not alone. Not on stage, not in life (just an extension of the stage).