Think about some of the dancers you admire, who are they? (Or your favourite athlete/actor/singer, your call!) For me, I’ve most certainly got a long list in both amateur and professional levels in many categories of dancing because they all have unique styles that I enjoy watching.
Now ask yourself what you like about these dance idols. For instance, you might like their appearances and the way they carry themselves on the floor. Or you might prefer their dance style over others. Or maybe you simply enjoy their charisma.
As dancers who are not on that level yet, we have a tendency to aspire to become more like the ones we admire. And while we might never reach those levels in our lifetime, however, as constant learners we continue to grow.
This is important, because I learned a few lessons both as a learner and a leader last weekend, when I had the opportunity to participate and lead an adult group performance at a children’s Latin dance competition. Even though our coach did not give strict rules on makeup and costumes, it is essential as a performer to put an effort to look the part in all aspects: appearance, dance quality and charisma.
During my growth as a dancer, raking up experience to get into performance mode with minimum jitters has gotten into second nature. But, even so, throughout the day, I started noticing more eyes focusing on me even when merely walking around in full costume, most of whom belonged to the younger generation of dancers for different reasons.
3 Lessons Learned When You’re Looking Shinier Than Everyone Else In The Room
1. No matter what level, you’ll be a role model in someone’s eyes.
During the time when I was in the changing room fixing my costume, a young girl of around 5 years old entered, carried by her mother, and crying her eyes out. Apparently she was crying because she didn’t get “the larger cup” (i.e. 1st place) and she completely forgot her choreography as soon as the music was on. While her mother was the encouraging type and was doing her best to cheer her up, the kid continued to wail, thinking that nobody understands how she feels.
I don’t blame her, she’s only 5 years old, and wanting to gain the upper hand is natural for anybody on all competitive levels. But she most likely wanted somebody who can relate to her.
This was the moment when I turned to this child to give her a statement, “Even I sometimes forget the steps!”
I may not be a ranked dancer, but in the eyes of a young child, at that point in time, I’m likely to be perceived as “the glamorous looking lady who talked to me”.
Glamour has always been associated with great performers – they give a different air of surreal emotions, as if they have cast a magic spell of awe in the room. They are frequently seen as picture perfect, as though they are part of a walking fantasy.
Except that deep down, even the best dancers are just as human as you and I. The perceived glamour is actually a result from all the hard work that has been put in behind the scenes.
We put the effort in because we aspire to achieve who we want to become.
2. Behave yourself, because the world is watching.
When you’re dressed in an attention grabbing getup, the outfit does exactly that: it grabs attention.
In connection with the first lesson above, when you’re dressed differently compared to everyone else in the room, it is important to behave yourself as a performer, both on and off the floor. All eyes have already been drilled on you to see if you will do something that’s worthy of gossip. Why else would tabloid magazines be so popular?
Even if you do not know anybody in the audience, you are most likely to be the subject of their conversations simply because your costume has already sent a visual message that you’re a performer. The last thing you will want is to be known as “the guy in the blue and white outfit who keeps screaming at his partner”.
The world has more than enough undesirable celebrities who are considered as “bad role models”, why add more to the number?
3. Performances are meant to be seen, not hidden away in the attic.
One of most common issues that novice dancers face is their desire to perform, but yet have a bad case of stage fright. It’s a conflict of opposing interests between Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Again, it’s an understandable situation: when you’re used to blending in with the crowd, it certainly takes time to feel at ease when you’re suddenly in the visual spotlight.
Growing dancers who attend their first performances and competitions fret mostly about appearing perfect and feeling absolutely ready. But let’s face it, nobody is ever “completely ready” for anything. In the worst case scenario, you forget your choreography, you slip and fall, and your hair becomes undone in the eyes of a full audience. This is not to say it won’t happen, but merely the fact that these are not the things to place your mental energy on.
If there is one thing you’re expected as a performer, it is to perform like you mean to perform. All categories of slouching and looking uncertain must be replaced with deliberate actions and a big smile at the audience. Only then can you be considered as a performer instead of merely someone who is simply following the crowd.
Because when you’re already out there, the only way to go is to make sure you shine brightly to the point of level siren on the floor!
And what happened to the little girl I met in the changing room? She soon stopped crying and agreed with a higher degree of determination that she will put more effort into practicing her craft after I jokingly told her that even the ones in sparkly outfits get things wrong sometimes.
Have you ever been in a position where people have started looking up to you? Share your story with us in the comments!