Someone asked on twitter “how long did it take before you started to perform?” It made think back to when I first started to dance, when I started to perform and what issues or concerns did I face. There was so much more I wanted to respond in that tweet, but you can only type a few characters. This blog may seem like I’m exposing myself too much, but my hope is that if a student reads this and they are wondering when is the right time, then maybe by sharing my experience they can make a decision. I remember my first student recital with the class and feeling ok with the routine. I never really had trouble learning choreography what I remember thinking was my skill level good enough to present? The thought left my mind because it was great to be with my peers and colleagues, putting on makeup and dancing together. Then I moved on to being part of a troupe, again I had the best time, sharing the stage with other dancers and presenting the ideas of the director. At this level I still asked myself why was I dancing in front all these people? The nagging question was not dancing in front of the people, but why was I dancing, and what am I really getting out of performing. Then I moved on to be a soloist, I began to perform at festivals, bridal showers, family functions, corporate events. I became a great entertainer….but the same question would always pop up in my head…why am I dancing in front of these people?
I think the right time to perform happens when you feel comfortable with your dance skill and musicality. In addition, you have to have real confidence and belief in yourself. Continued training and learning is important to grow as a dancer, always strive to be more. But more importantly, I think it’s important to know as a performer, why are you dancing in front of all these people? After many years of performing I started to feel like, wow, I don’t think I want to perform anymore, because I don’t really have anything to say…..was I saying anything at all on stage?
I remember 5 years ago, I saw this Tango Flamenco show. There was a Flamenco dancer who did a 20 minute solo; she was so strong and beautiful on stage. I remember being so emotionally moved by her performance that I started to cry. Thinking back on this it hit me that dancing/performing is not just a set of moves to music, it is story telling; telling your story or someone else’s story (Artistic Director) through dance with vulnerability, and emotion is a completely different skill.
Anyone can perform; but performing for entertainment or artistic expression is an individual choice based on the level in your dance career. However, if you are ready, then I say… put on your best costume, strut your stuff and enjoy the stage! Sometimes you just have to put yourself out there and take the risk.