Friday, September 19, 2014

All Tribes Wednesdays! (With an aside on performance anxiety)

Now that summer is over, my awesome teacher Grace has reinstituted Belly Dance Wednesdays at one of the bellydancers' new favorite haunts, Coop's Den. We didn't have a specific performance to start with, but I was determined to at least dance in the chorus and back up the other dancers.

For those not in the know, All Tribes is how my teacher has defined an ATS performance as it was originally intended, pure improv, dancers with the same vocabulary getting together and rocking it folkloric style.  All of the ATS dancers in the area are invited, and anyone can go up during that set to join formation and groove. So there were plenty of dancers I'd never danced with before, and plenty of dancers I hadn't even met.

Of course, at one point the floor clears and nobody goes up, so one of my dance sisters from EFBD heads up there.  In ATS, one of the strong principles is that a dancer is never alone. We have to have our dance sisters' backs. So, in the spirit of participating, I headed up to take the floor with her, because we're always there for each other.

I have to be honest, I was not intending on even dancing that night, and it still happened. Oy vey. But, I was all gussied up, hair done, skirt on, makeup working, and I had a feeling later that if I hadn't danced, I would have regretted it, and I don't want any regrets when it comes to dancing.  But let me tell you... I WAS SO NERVOUS I THOUGHT I'D PEE MY PANTALOONS.

As I headed up into formation, I felt my knees begin to tremble, and my elbows got all wibbly, and I'm sure I looked like I was going to be shot.  And then I realized how funny it was, that I was looking fine as hell in my fancy jewels and freshly colored hair, my new favorite lipstick on, and a look of sheer glazed terror on my face. And then it came to my turn to lead and I went, "oh fuck."

So I went with about eight eight-counts of easy as fuck stuff (Arabic, Arabic Hip Twist, Arabic Hip Twist With Flourish, Egyptian, Egyptian Half-turn/Full-turn combo) and got the hell out of leadership just in time for the song to end.  We hit Level 3 not too long ago, but I'm still getting over my anxiety about performing where people I'm not used to can see.

There are a lot of anxieties I'm working through, through dance and through life in general. I'm kind of a brash, out-there weirdo in real life, and I work in retail management, so I'm totally comfortable just waltzing up to strangers and striking up a conversation. But in a performance context, my fight-or-flight kicks in majorly, and I get really freaked out and shaky. They say that a fear of public speaking/performance anxiety/etc. is at its base a fear of rejection from the community, and that rings true for me... I really crave reassurance afterwards (most of the time, this is directed entirely at my life partner and sous chef), and even if I have eight amazing classes in a row where I feel like I'm getting things and I'm told how awesome I did at X move, I still feel like I know nothing and I'm going to embarrass myself with my lack of coordination.

For example, I can Turkish Shimmy Quarter Turn Fade like a BOSS. I cue it all the time in class, I follow it either way with no problem, I can get out of it, it's amazing and wondrous and TSQTF and I are BFFs. I talk to TSQTF on the phone on my way to work, we get our nails done together... I love it.  But the second that people that I'm not used to dancing with are looking at me, I completely forget about TSQTF. My BFF disappears from my mind and I just... cannot.

However, although I was metaphorically shitting the bed with nervousness, I take Wednesday night as a huge win. There was a time, believe it or not, that I wouldn't have gone out at all. "Oh, no, it's cool, I'm fine just hanging around in my full costume and not doing anything. You go out there. Be young, have fun, drink Pepsi. My foot hurts so I can't dance." I was exhilarated with the fact that, though I may not have danced as beautifully as some, I did dance. Fear takes time to work through, and perhaps a little piece of it was shaken off with my shimmy.

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