Thursday, January 27, 2011

Persona and confidence

The real SKB.

My FLOW class will be working on stage presence and persona this weekend. As I've been preparing our curriculum, I've been thinking about my own dance persona and my goals as a performer.

I've realized that I don't really have a dance persona. I have a real life persona. The way I behave in my performances, especially recently, is a better representation of who I really am as a person than how I act in everyday life.
My inner universe is intense, although not particularly dark, and I feel I need to consciously dull down the display of my emotions for the sake of everyday interactions. I just don't feel comfortable being myself to my fullest extent all the time. I'm afraid of alienating people by being too loud, too obsessed, too manic, too angry or too confident.

It's sad, but more than any other emotion, I intentionally downplay my confidence in front of other people, especially my female peers. I learned to do it when I was in elementary school, and I keep doing it today because I feel weird otherwise.

The truth is, I think I'm a great dancer. I know people enjoy watching my performances. I think I'm smart and talented and interesting and funny. I think I'm pretty and I have great hair. I try my best to be kind and responsible and to live my life ethically, whether or not I always succeed. I wear cool earrings. I might even be an okay writer.
I like myself. No-- I love myself. I am fucking awesome.

I'm proud of myself for learning to be confident again. I was super confident as a little kid, but then the world taught me that it is not cool to like yourself too much. I've learned to disagree. Since I've learned to love myself, I have more empathy for other people and I can appreciate their successes more easily. 99% of the time, I don't feel the need to compare myself to other dancers, but I can still admire strengths that other dancers have that I don't.

Still, the norm is that people, especially women, cut on themselves in public to accomplish some weird kind of social bonding with their peers. It's like we can only understand each other through our shared weaknesses. When was the last time you talked to your girlfriends about how great your own work is? Can you even remember? What about the last time you talked about how fat you always feel?

Sometimes I feel really alone-- it's like I'm the only one who's not drinking the haterade.

What we're telling ourselves and each other with this behavior is that it's normal to hate yourself, and it's deviant to like yourself. It's stupid. I try my best to avoid these mutual self-flagellation sessions, but sometimes I catch myself participating out of force of habit, or social pressure, or I don't even know-- something equally inane. I hate it. It needs to stop. It should be vastly less embarrassing to say something positive about yourself among peers than it is to cut on yourself. Why, then, is it always the other way around?

But I digress.

At the beginning of this session, I asked my students to tell me what they wanted to learn in class, or to give me questions they wanted me to answer. Almost everyone told me they wanted to know how to look more confident onstage. All right. Here's my opinion on that.

Sure, there are tricks you can use to emulate confidence onstage, but there's no substitute for actually being self-possessed and thinking you are awesome. This is a hard thing to accomplish, to be sure, but it's more important than any dance technique, or really anything else in your entire life, so you might as well give it a shot.

Find your confidence and guard it with your life. Society is going to try to beat it out of you-- in fact, they're doing it right now-- but don't let them. Fight for your love. Endeavor every single day to show yourself that you love yourself, the same way you would if you were trying to woo someone else. Tell yourself things that you like about yourself. A lot. Be heartfelt about it. Find ways to make yourself feel comfortable and happy. And for the love of God, if you wouldn't say something to a friend, NEVER say it to yourself.

No one else can make you feel that love, but once you feel it, no one can take it away.

OK. So. You work on that, and I'll work on trying to lose my mild-mannered real life persona.


  1. very good blog, congratulations
    regard from Reus Catalonia
    thank you

  2. Sara you are absolutely correct! It took me awhile but I've learned that I may not be the best or the brightest - but I AM the best and brightest Cher there is! You can share that with your students if you like....

    You go right on loving yourself - and you ARE talented, gorgeous and one of the nicest women I know!


  3. Identifying with this on so many levels, heheh. It's real work letting your true self come out of your shell, especially in everyday situations. It's actually easier for me to be a "beast/badass" or whatever up on a stage in costume sometimes because I have this different persona and because I'm *supposed to be showing everyone how awesome I am. There's nothing weird about showing off what you like about your skills in a performance situation. THAT SAID I am referring to when I did a different dance form. I have yet to perform in belly dancing and I feel like belly dance is a more personal form of expression than what I did earlier, so I'll have to get my confidence up to a new level. =)

  4. Spot on - and if you can't quite believe in your own awesomeness, try faking it. You might even convince yourself!

  5. Rachel - that's what I had to do! That and force myself to stop giving in to negative internal monologuing.