The steroids have completely exited my system. I took my last dose on Friday, so whereas last week I felt like a three-year-old on an epic sugar high, the last three days I’ve had the energy of a slug covered in salt. Despite that, I attended two workshops and a hafla/drum jam this weekend with a well-known musician, hosted by the dance company. And it was a blast. Drummers, as a broad generalization, are ridiculous and hilarious—almost as much as dancers. There was much laughter, much goofing off, and a whole lot of amazing performances.
And while my post-prednisone fog is making it hard to put the words together, I realized this weekend that I know A LOT of truly talented, amazing women. And oddly enough, I am counted as one of them.
In the spirit of things, I did my makeup and put flowers in my hair for the hafla Saturday night. I donned my flowing wide-legged dance pants and wrapped my butt in one of my favorite scarves. And when I got there, one of my friends from the dance company asked me which song I was performing to. I did a bit of a double-take at her. I wasn’t performing; I wasn’t even sure yet if I’d feel like dancing during the drum jam portion of the evening. When I informed her of this, she very frankly asked me why not.
This particular friend has been trying to bolster my confidence as a dancer since she filled in for my fusion instructor earlier this year. And it is definitely in need of bolstering. Despite the fact that my fifth dance-iversary is coming up next month, I have really only performed about five times. None of those have been solos, and absolutely none of them have been improvised (which was the format for the performances this weekend). I still have to psych myself up to get up and dance with everyone else during drum jams. Part of this stems from social anxiety, and part that I’m still getting comfortable with the idea of dancing without planning every single step. But a good chunk of it is my life-long struggle with not feeling good enough.
I know, I know; how incredibly clichéd of me: an insecure artist with a lack of confidence in herself as an artist. We’ve all read that book and seen the movie about eight million times. But that doesn’t make it any less true. And in my opinion the only thing worse than an insecure artist is an arrogant one, so I see the constant struggle with whether or not my art is good or meaningful as a (mostly) good thing. It keeps me humble; it keeps me grateful.
But I sometimes wonder if the little voice in my head that keeps me humble is also holding me back.
It’s not really that I’m nervous about performing; I’ve been performing in some form or another since I was a little kid. I always get a perfectly normal and healthy case of the jitters, but it’s nothing crippling. And that feeling of connecting with an audience is always far and away worth any fear beforehand. I just sometimes have trouble getting myself to try in the first place. That lack of confidence in myself as a dancer keeps me from choreographing solos, keeps me in my seat for the first half of every drum jam, keeps me thinking, “Well, maybe next time,” when performance opportunities come up.
I know this is a step in the process. I know this is simply where I am as a dancer in this moment. And I know this moment will pass. I know I’ll get more comfortable with improvisation and performing as a soloist or performing my own choreography the more I do it. It’s just getting myself to take that first step, to commit to actually doing it, that’s the problem.
And I know the only person who can do anything about that is me.
The workshop yesterday afternoon was for dancers and drummers. We were running out of time at the end, so instead of throwing us one-by-one to the wolves (i.e., having the dancers take turns soloing with the drummers; which our director was kind enough to ask me if I was ready to do beforehand), we all danced at the same time. And about thirty seconds in, I just stepped back and watched. Not because I was scared or didn’t know what to do, but because there was so much amazing happening around me that I could no longer focus. I kept getting distracted by the beautiful women and the beautiful movement that surrounded me, until I was overwhelmed by them. I looked at each of the faces, lost in the music, and saw in every face both an incredibly talented dancer and a woman I call “friend.” And for that, I feel blessed beyond belief.
This post is not nearly as eloquent as I would have liked, but I felt like I really needed to say how much I appreciate spending time with these truly outstanding ladies. I’ve been with the dance company almost ten months and am sometimes still baffled that they asked me to join. That they thought enough of me as a dancer to ask me to dance alongside them is a major ego boost. But at the same time, I feel the need to remind myself that I am not an outsider looking in. To remind myself it is not that they are so amazing, or that they are so talented.