Scared Silly,
A Letter of Advice
to a Beginning Performer

by Lynette

A long distance friend and a valuable Gilded Serpent volunteer:
Well, I will say this--I'm in a troupe and we're doing choreographies, but that's about my limit. I have finally figured out what it is I'm missing, and it's a significant chunk--I don't have the natural inclination to relax and have fun and listen to the music right and move! Uh, oh! So I'm trying to work on improvisation's just not me. At least I know the questions now. I know enough to know what I don't know-- and that's quite a bit (in both senses!). …Maybe I am just lazy…

Lynette responds:
Don't give up on the improvisation! In the beginning, it takes more practice to just get over your self-consciousness, but, it's the most fun part of the whole thing! Choreography can become a crutch after awhile. For example, I played the violin all my life, but never memorized a thing, and I never learned to improvise either. Now I can't stand to play and hear myself butchering the music!

If you learn all these choreographies and see yourself dancing, you won't be able to stand seeing yourself being a beginner again while you are learning to improvise. Just put on your favorite western music and boogey down in private while slowly incorporating more Oriental dance moves. Do the moves in big long blocks, not just two of this and two of that. The biggest part is learning the musical patterns and knowing when the music will change. Listen to Oriental music when ever you get the chance, in the car, etc. You will soon be able to see the muscial patterns there also.

Nothing will get you higher than dancing to a live band that sees you are listening to and can work WITH them. Then you will work together as one mind and bring that incredible emotion and passion out of the music without even thinking! Good lights, great music… Channel that goddess! The Arab women in the audience will cry and they will swear that you must have Arab blood in your veins! That sense of being in the moment and expressing directly from your core will get you higher than any drug.

You will get tired of troupe politics before long. But it will be a good support group for a while. You are an artistic dancer though, and I am certain that you will want to express yourself more directly, if you are brave enough, and recognize that you have incredible beauty in your soul that people really do want to see! Hmm, so sorry , just got carried away. I do miss performing..... I can see it in your eyes though, you will be depriving your audience of seeing that mischievous nature in action.....

Dancers are human, and we are all lazy! That's why you accept gigs for which you aren't yet ready! You scare yourself into practicing and start getting hooked on a performers true drug: Adrenaline, which is born of getting up there and not having any idea what the hell you are going to do! After a while, you have to pretend to be scared out of your gourd so that the audience will watch your every move just to see if you can maintain that incredible intensity and not fall out of character! Then the miracle happens: you do something so amazing, they are flabbergasted! You flash them that mischievous, somewhat arrogant, smile that says "Ha, I gotch ya!".

It also helps your sense of confidence if you design a fabulous flattering costume that you know makes you look delicious! You carry yourself like you really do believe you are a vintage glamour queen. Take advantage of your youthful beauty! Practice on the dance floor in the location of your gig! Most audiences are quite indulgent of incompetence if you are lovely, at least for a while. Then, by the time you have done a few gigs in places that really don't matter to the future of your career, you'll be dancing great already. Of course, just as valuable as practice is patronizing Middle Eastern and Turkish dinner clubs and watching every move and strategy that each dancer and musician does.

Once you get over that shaky sense of yourself and past your self-conscious behavior, you'll start listening to the music. You actually will be able to get your body to do what you want more and more. Then the bands will start loving you too! You will have so many gigs you won't have time to practice and sometimes your gigs will become your "practice". You will find that you have to surprise yourself with "mystery music" (new music that you have never used in a performance before) so that your dance stays fresh. Think of the sport of it! Are you brave? Are you an actress? Are you a babe? Look in the mirror at yourself with that secret, sly smile!

Ooops, I did it again! Never mind… Be a Rockette if you want! I will send the serpent genie to you in your dreams, and she will entice you out of your "self- whatevers", and you will dance alone! You will dance from your soul and the beauty of it will change you forever!

Do it! ...and good luck!

Ready for more?
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