From those outside the belly dance community I've frequently encountered the misconception that all belly dancers have a certain personality: friendly, bubbly, sexy, gregarious, and in general, an in-your-face extrovert to the extreme. While there's a few belly dancers out there who fit this mold, there's actually a surprising amount of dancers who are the opposite of this; quiet, reserved, and introverted.
For those who know me in real life, I'm sure it comes as no surprise that I identify with the introverted camp. When I first started belly dancing, I assumed I would be one of the few, if not only, dancer who didn't feel a natural affinity for taking center stage and dancing in front of others. I mean to dance around in a revealing costume, takes a certain level of brazenness and courage, right? However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there are actually quite a few other dancers similar to myself. In fact, even the world famous Sadie, has said that she's an introvert and started out very shy, although, you'd never know if from her onstage persona!
It's my own personal theory, that introverts are actually drawn to dance because it's a great way for introverts to express the feelings and emotions that may otherwise go unsaid in normal interactions and conversations. Being on stage can be a much needed creative and emotional outlet for such individuals.
However, being on stage can also be very difficult for introverts who often-times don't naturally seek the limelight and may feel conscientious when all eyes are on them. Thus, this month, I wanted to share a few of my favorite tips I've heard over the years that can help introverts overcome stage fright and blossom into the performer they're meant to be. (Note: This is not to say that all introverts will automatically feel nervous or uneasy, or that all extroverts automatically won't. Everybody is different.)
- Carriage and posture - Even if you're feeling nervous inside, adopt a carriage of confidence on the outside: shoulders back, chest lifted and chin up. You'll fool your audience into thinking you're feeling complete poise and self-assurance, and maybe even yourself!
- Slow down and breathe - Nerves can turn a performance into a weird time warp where the audience experiences the normal passage of time, but the dancer experiences a slower version of time, resulting in the false assumption that her audience has become bored. Fueled by all those nervous butterflies, the dancer begins to compensate by speeding up, jumping busily from one move to the next. When you feel this starting to happen, take a deep breath and slow down. Let both yourself and your audience marinate in your current move before moving onto the next. Less is more.
- Dedicate your performance to someone or something else - This can help take the focus outside yourself and place it on someone else. By presenting your dance first as an offering, you can help make what others think of you become secondary, and thus alleviate some of the pressure to perform "perfectly".
- Remember why your doing this - You signed up to dance because it's supposed to be fun, so start having fun already! Remember that the audience is rooting for you. They also just want to have fun, and that's why they're here as well. Not for the purpose of judging. So loosen up, Smile, And if something goes wrong, just laugh it off. The world has yet to end due to a belly dance performance mishap.
One thing that I think is important to note with all of these tips, is that none of them are intended to make you act or dance like someone you're not. You want your authentic voice to be heard in your dance, so never buy into a belief that you need to fit a certain mold or adopt another dancer's personality. A performance does not need to be big, lively, and energetic to merit an audience's attention. Mysterious, evocative, dreamy, sultry, and graceful all have their place on the stage. Always dance you and only you.
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