I’ve been dancing since I was 4. So at 22, that means I’ve been dancing for 18 years. You could say I’ve grown up through, and with dance. It is every bit a part of me as the color of my eyes and how tall I’m not.
I’ve learned a lot of lessons through my dance training. I’ve learned a lot about the person I am, and the person I want to be.
There’s no doubt in my mind that I think the way I do because I’ve been a part of the dance world for as long as I have. Dance culture has been ingrained into every fiber of my being.
And one thing I’ve noticed about my thoughts, is how paradoxical they’ve become.
My mind, a self-ascribed dancer mind, is full of these paradoxes. Seemingly contradicting concepts systematically try to work together, sometimes to my advantage, and sometimes to my disadvantage. I can be both proud and disappointed in myself all at once, and that can get exhausting.
I can push myself to go to class and rehearsals 5 days a week, sometimes even more. I can challenge myself to stretch farther, jump higher, turn faster.
But the hardest part for me, right now, is finding pride and confidence in myself in spite of any criticisms or critiques, and sometimes without the support from the people I admire and respect the most.
Let me clarify, as I’m sure I’ve said before, I have an amazing support system, full of family and friends who have been with me throughout this crazy journey. They’ve encouraged me, and given me the kicks in the butt I might not have wanted, but definitely needed.
Instead, I mean that I find myself searching for support and even crazier, compliments, from my teachers and mentors, that I often don’t find. To put the record straight, I greatly respect and admire my teachers and realize that their job is to help me develop my skills and potentially find a job, not coddle me with unending compliments. And sometimes they do compliment me when I’ve done well, especially in the classroom. But in general, it is not in the culture of dance for a teacher or choreographer to always compliment their dancers after a performance. Their job is to help guide you and help you improve for the next show.
And truly, I could deal with that. Having the opportunity just to dance for an audience is a compliment in itself.
But for me, what really makes this all harder is when I hear of the kind words and positive feedback my peers have received while I hear nothing. I get stuck in this weird loop of wondering if I didn’t do as well as I thought, wondering how I’d messed up, and trying to analyze my performance to find my flaws. All while feeling so proud of my peers but also a little bit jealous.
I know, jealousy is not flattering, but I think we’d all be kidding ourselves if we denied ever feeling jealous. Again, I need to be clear that I have, in fact, received positive feedback from many teachers and choreographers after performances. And I am honestly very appreciative. But, as a perfectionist people pleaser, I am always striving to get that feedback from those who don’t usually give it out.
I’ve been thinking about all this recently. I was presented with an amazing opportunity, and I thought I did well. Friends, family, even acquaintances offered their praise and approval. One of my choreographers gave me wonderful feedback that I will never forget. But I still found myself disappointed that some teachers I respected most could not find any words to say to me. And I found myself becoming even harder on myself when I heard of the praise they’d bestowed on my fellow cast members and friends.
So now I’m stuck in a place where I’m desperately trying to find my own confidence and satisfaction in myself; trying not to think that I need feedback from everyone to validate myself. Which is so hard because my crazy brain is telling me that you will get nowhere without other’s approval. Which I guess is sort of true, especially in the dance world, but the logical side of my brain tries to remind me how that is a very unhealthy way to think. And I have more agency than I allow myself. Plus, in this day and age of self-love, I should really try and find satisfaction in my own performance and only think about the feedback I have received, instead of the feedback I haven’t.
It is hard though, and definitely something I need to work on. But hopefully I will be given more opportunities in the future to keep practicing.
USC Dance Company is trying to attend the American College Dance Fest this year, and we need your support! Please consider donating to help us cover the costs of the trip, it’s an amazing opportunity and we can’t wait!