When I was choreographing my first solo performance for a competition I asked my teacher "should I wear a wig?". Her response was "For this style of dance, yes." It was Egyptian Belly Dance, Oriental Dance, Raqs Sharqi.
The core of her message was - you need to fit the mould as closely as possible. The message I heard was:
- You don't fit in
- You can't compete if you don't fit in
- You need to change to fit in
This was not a new story, message or thought to me, but hearing it out loud was confirmation that my fears about my new favorite activity and hopefully future career were real - I did not fit in, I did not belong and I couldn't be a dancer. The very real impacts to this were
- years and years dancing with that teacher
- but never feeling up to scratch
- years of believing that I could not fit in
- years of buying wigs, dancing in them, trying to find a way to feel like I belonged
- years feeling other
- lack of confidence
- disconnect from my passion
- very real lack of progression in the direction of my dreams.
How many times in life do we let others define what we can and can't do. Especially if they are someone we look up to. Even when we don't intentionally take it on board. This can be especially potent if we have already been experiencing those thoughts and beliefs ourselves.
And there were payoffs for this limiting belief, there always is:
- I didn't need to take risks and really put myself out there (why bother if I'd never succeed)
- I didn't need to take my dancing to seriously (why bother if I'd never succeed)
- I didn't need to confront my family for thinking it was just a hobby (it was if I'd never succeed)
So I stayed small. I stayed complacent. I stayed in an environment that didn't support my growth. I continued to listen to people who didn't really support my progression. I didn't follow my passion.
In working through this using a coaching tool I recently learned, I realized there was some really detrimental stories and beliefs in this. There was serious pent up sadness, frustration, anger and grief as a result. I also recognized that there was other paths I could have taken and wished I had someone there to tell me the truth and the skillset I needed then - to believe them.
What changed for me was meeting a mentor that truly believed in my dance journey. Who supported me unendingly, that guided me tirelessly and that nurtured my true desires and the true reasons I was drawn to dance in the first place. She challenged my limiting beliefs and made space for me to explore dancing without hair.
She was a whirlwind of humor, grace, kindness, authenticity and just the right amount of arse-kicking when it was needed. I started to perform more and more without hair. Building confidence not only in my abilities,
but also my unique gift as a dancer. As I left less supportive circles behind, I opened the door for more amazing teachers, coaches and mentors to enter my life.This is something I want all dancers to find. Their somatic style, their unique message, their singular journey. Isn't that what life is all about it, and isn't dance just an extension of expression - the expression of emotions and stories?
I want all dancers to have a guide and mentor that believes in them.
If that is truly your dance teacher, as it was mine later on, then I am thrilled for you. If it is not - then I hope you can take a moment to step outside that environment, outside that space and just see if there is a need for someone else in your journey. A teacher of life skills, a supporter who can offer witnessing and holding space for you that is about your journey and yours alone.
If this post resonates with you, please feel free to contact me. I'd love to hear your story of your dance journey and the challenges you have encountered.