It started with simple, recurrent, requests from dancers and students from all over the world: tell me how you do it; how do you keep expanding your career and growing as an artist & person?
I´d answer shortly but always felt there was more, much more, to tell. Because I don´t hold anything back – probably to my loss -, I´ve written one post called “Tips for a successful (long term) career in Oriental Dance”. Then another. And now this:
I hope you find these tips – part III – useful:
- se adversity as an ally. Obstacles, enemies and difficulties can be the trigger to major achievements. Don´t let them put you down – gather the rocks thrown at you and build a castle with them. It´s possible, believe me. I´ve done it 1000 times.
- Be aware that, if you´re consistently successful and you keep growing without major flops/flaws/falls, you will gather haters and (sad) folks who´ll try to harm you. It´s depressing, and hard to accept, but it´s true. I never understood why, and how, someone can be so unhappy to the point of using his/her time to harm another person out of jealousy. But, sadly, it happens. As a successful – long term – Oriental Dancer, you become the recipient of broken dreams, frustrations and insecurities of people who wish to be where you are. They don´t wish to work as much as you do, put themselves on the line or face the challenges you´ve faced but they surely wish to enjoy the final results.
- Love the craft more than the glitter and keep working on the background, where the Magic* begins. Dance, as any other art, is mostly made of what the public never gets to see: preparation, study, self-development, questioning, trials -training – thriving for more and better, reaching beyond limits. What the public sees is the final result of a long, invisible, some times painful, process.
- The best way to learn – improving in your craft – is doing. And, when you do things, you make mistakes and you come to terms with your limits. Inside our heads, we´re all geniuses – it´s the DOING that separates the wanna be from the artist. Deal with it. The only ones who never fail, or make mistakes, are the ones who do nothing and risk nothing. Do: do: do. Fail, if necessary, and keep doing it.
- Courage is a huge part of a long term, successful, career. You gotta put yourself out there, try new things, venues, solutions, doors, perspectives. Not succeeding at everything is not a problem; the cowardice of not trying, for the sake of vanity, prestige or “perfectionism”, is.
- Manage your resources wisely: time, energy, money, focus. Basically: skip the shit. There are things, and people, which are not worth of your presence and investment. Be polite, and correct, with everybody but don´t feed sterile ground. Learn how to spot the nasty weeds and let them go.
- Be flexible with other people´s timings, agendas and goals. Don´t presume everybody has to follow your rhythm and wishes. Set limits while being flexible.
- Keep your private life for yourself (polemic subject). In a time of oversharing and marketing through the morbid curiosity masses have regarding artists´private lives, be the black sheep. Separate your public life from your intimacy and make sure you set a clear frontier between them. There´s a sacred, personal, space that should not be shared with strangers. It´s a question of keeping your mental sanity, protecting yourself from weirdos (they´re out there!), and delivering only what matters to the public: your work.
- Reach out for people you´d like to work with in a professional, respectful manner. Present yourself, and your work, and thank people in advance for considering it. It doesn´t matter if you have the best product in the universe, you still need collaborators, students and audiences to expand it. Don´t act like a dumb diva, sitting at home, expecting the whole world to come knocking on her/his door. Although 99% of my work, in Egypt and in the International market, comes through invitations of organizers, I cherish the remaining 1%. If I happen to be in a certain town, at a time, and there´s someone there I´d like to collaborate with, I have no problem in reaching out to that person. Maybe she/he´s interested, maybe not. That´s not my problem. My job is to make sure there´s no chance wasted.
- Accept NO as easily, and professionally, as YES. Not everybody is obliged to like your work. Or you. I´ve come to terms there are haters as much as lovers; people who will dislike my work and who I am, no matter what. People often dislike a dancer because she´s not talented, or professional; they can also dislike her because she´s talented and professional. Exterior likes, or dislikes, shouldn´t define or affect you. I learn, and empower myself, from NO as much as from YES.
- Keep the Faith. Invisible, yet essential, tool. Seeing a path where there´s none; trusting life, god, karma, whatever you may call it. Sooner or later, you´ll need it.
- Accept, and use, constructive criticism. Distinguish between a personal attack and a well intentioned, potentially enlightening, critic. Use it.
- Go mad. A little, at least. There are no great achievements without a great dose of madness.
- Don´t apologize for your success if you´ve reached it through honest, uncompromising work, talent and professionalism. If others have a problem with it, let them deal with it. Don´t lower your gaze and shrink in order not to bother others.
- Realize your work is never done. Curriculum is good; being proud of what you´ve already conquered is essential. But what counts is what you´re doing NOW. Like it or not, we´re judged according to what we´re doing in the moment, not what we´ve done in the past.
- Schedule, and protect, your “dreaming time”. This is a space for dreaming – exclusively. Not doing, researching, contacting, plotting. Nope. Dreaming. Every artist needs this “solo dream time” in order to re-center, reassess, listen to her/himself and create new things from within.
- Make internet your promoter/connection partner, not your master. Spending too much time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or similar outlets is time and energy draining. When are you going to work? And live (real life, not cybernetic)?
- With long term success comes a price tag. Or several. Public recognition, opportunities, growth, the luxury of doing what you love are amazing – and a product of your hard work – but they also attrack enemies, envy, projections and overall criticism. With or without logical reason.
- We´re human. Everyone needs some down time, once in a while. Allow yourself to rest, retreat from the public arena, feel discouraged – if that´s the case – or desperate. Artists are more in touch with their feelings than “common people” – whatever that means – so they´re prone to feel everything: the great, the awful; the light and the dark; the beautiful and the ugly; the wonderful and the dreadful. Stopping, some times, is the only way to keep moving forward. Resting is not dying; being still, temporarily, is not quitting. They´re just ways to go on without losing your ground, stamina and purpose. It´s like running a marathon: we gotta speed, or slow down, in order to keep running.
- Don´t put all your eggs in one basket. If you´re a performer-teacher-choreographer-author (fill in the blank) in the market, for a consistent amount of time, you´ll realize there are flows of activity, market requirements, trends and other exterior factors that limit, or expand, your work. Make sure you keep yourself on track while reading the world around you and what´s demanding of you. Some times, you´ll be working more as a teacher; other times, as a performer. Or an author. Or a choreographer for other dancers. Spread your eggs into different baskets and don´t sweat the small stuff. If one project doesn´t move forward, let it go and focus on your other projects; if one idea didn´t work as you thought it would, focus on other ideas that are working. And so forth. Don´t put all your resources, and passion, into one single outlet. Spread your wings, defend yourself from disappointments by focusing on victories.
- Be happy while you´re working, even when things don´t go according to your plan. The whole point of working in what you love is precisely that: enjoying, having pleasure. If work becomes a drag, a heavy burden you carry on your back, you´ll get exhausted and drop it. Take your joy, and pleasure, seriously.
- Build a strong self-esteem combined with humbleness. Know your worth while keeping your feet on the ground, learning from others and respecting everyone around you. No matter what. It´s called class – priceless and oh so rare.
- Don´t let disappointments, evilness, prejudices and attacks put you down. The world is NOT perfect; nobody is. Learn how to forgive others as you forgive yourself. Receive the blows but don´t allow them to crash your heart to the point of becoming a cynic. Preserve your innocence and trust in Humanity at all costs.
- In an age of collective madness, uncertainty and mechanization, BE HUMAN. Dare to be a person against all odds. Your Art but, most importantly, your Life will thank you for it.