Beauty is a Performance Art

The video of my Reggaeton Fusion performance workshop last spring finally got edited. But watching myself made me feel so bad, I wound up crying.

So, this post is not what I thought it would be.

My intention was to write about my experience participating in the workshop and then give you the big reveal of the performance! I thought I’d feel so proud and so excited to share it with people. I thought, “They’ll be so impressed to see me dancing like this!”

I thought this would be one of many posts in which I’d celebrate the joys of dance and the thrill of performing.

Instead, I felt ugly, and couldn’t seem to stop fixating on my body not looking the way I wanted it to. It hurt that the way I felt actually dancing on stage (vibrant, sexy, joyful) didn’t seem to come through in a tangible way through the way I looked. I thought all of the women dancing around me looked beautiful and capable of making hot, sexy facial expressions, and I just looked like a dork trying to be sexy.

I felt ashamed for feeling any of this. For being so insecure and superficial and egotistical and hypocritical that a part of me wanted to put a video out there to be praised and to look “hot”. Even though I believe that dance is for everyone, that it is our birthright, and that no one should ever feel ashamed about embodying dance in their own unique way.

My reaction was so at odds with my experience during and after the performance workshop, which has been one so positive, so challenging and so joyful:

  • I loved being challenged by a tough teacher who fused different styles of dance and music with a theatrical performance. She treated us like real dancers – always pushing us to be better – and it was FUN.
  • I also learned how to take her direction and not take it personally. My teacher is super fiery and intense and for the longest time I created so much emotional drama around our interactions. I learned how to let it go and accept the information she was giving me, and I felt like a better dancer because of it.
  • I met THE MOST AMAZING WOMEN. I feel so blessed to have connected with the women in this workshop, who are all smart, talented, funny, kind and interesting women. I’ve developed some wonderful friendships that make me SO happy every day. (I love you, Freakitonas!!)
  • I loved performing! I loved the feeling of terror backstage before our first performance when my mind went black and try as I might I could not form a single complete thought. I had to just breathe. I loved walking out on the stage and knowing exactly what to do, letting my body take over. I loved sending my energy out to the audience, looking into their eyes, hearing them cheer and clap, and feeling our energies feeding off each other.

That’s what I felt. THAT was real.

And that’s why I’m posting the video. Because regardless of how I think I look or how you think I look, I know how I felt. I know what I learned. And I know that I can’t let these old painful patterns of not feeling good enough or pretty enough to BE MYSELF to continue to hold power over me for the rest of my life.

My husband said something tonight while we were talking through this that really stuck with me, so I’m gonna steal it:

Beauty is a performance art.

Beauty is not a flat image. It’s a feeling that we experience with ALL of our senses. It’s pleasing to the eyes, yes, but there’s an energy to it too. There’s a beauty to strength, perseverance, vulnerability, courage, sensuality, compassion and joy.

So I will practice being a “beautiful” dancer by that definition. That’s something I think I could be really proud to share with you.

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Am I a Ballet Snob? Or Just in Love?

Sometimes I feel like a snob when I talk about ballet.

I started dancing at around age four and ballet was the first class I took. I studied it for ten years more and have always felt that it forms the basis of any abilities I have in movement, balance and grace.

Basically, I can dance, because I’m a dancer. And I’m a dancer because of ballet.

So, of course, I’m a big proponent of dancers starting to learn with ballet. If I have a child, I hope to send him or her to ballet class as early as possible.

The technique you learn in ballet stays with you for the rest of your life. The mechanics of moving your body to be soft and strong, to leap, jump and land, to turn and spin, to move slow and move fast: ballet teaches it all. I believe that if you study ballet, you can more easily learn other dances because  you have already integrated an essential gracefulness and consciousness of movement.

But, see, this sounds kind of snobby.

I mean, not everyone can take ballet classes. Not everyone has access to them and not everyone can afford them. Plus, there are plenty of gorgeous dancers who dance from a foundation formed through many other techniques: modern , African, Latin, etc. I don’t want to fall into cultural snobbery – “THIS is the RIGHT way to dance” – because it’s far too easy to contribute to the denigration of other cultures’ own traditions. Every dance form has something to offer in terms of beauty, grace and strength – and cultural relevance (which is why I want to learn them all).

The thing is, I love ballet.

It’s not just that I believe that it is “the best”. Dancing ballet sparked something in me.

I was reminded of that when I watched this video. I was so mesmerized and so moved.

And I thought, ballet is the pure expression of beauty and grace. So, so perfect in every single movement. It wants nothing more than to be pure, perfect movement.

I imagine that as I continue with this project, to learn all of the world’s dances, that I will develop new ideas about ballet and discover new ways to experience dance through other forms.

For now, watch and tell me: How do you feel when you see this? Does it move you too?