I love modern dance. (Just to clarify, I’m a spectator, not a dancer. And for those of you who know me, please stop laughing. ;-))
I’m also very lucky to live just a short drive from where the American Dance Festival (ADF) holds their annual modern dance performance series.
I fully expected to be amazed by the beauty, creativity, and talent of the dancers, choreographers, and everyone else involved.
What I didn’t expect was to get a blast of brilliant insights from young dancers.
Let me explain.
Most of the programs I saw were performed by major dance companies. But Sunday evening I attended the final program of the season: works by four internationally acclaimed choreographers showcasing the talent of students in the ADF’s renowned six-week summer school.
The choreography was fantastic and the dancers were impressively good, especially given their youth.
After the performances, 12 of the students participated in a panel discussion on dance and their experiences as dancers and as students.
And that’s when the Wow! blast came: during their answers to the last question of the evening:
“Other than mastering the technical aspects of dance, where do you most need to grow and develop in order to become a great dancer?”
The students on the panel were primarily college-age, yet they were full of wisdom most of us don’t acquire for decades. Their answers were insightful, brilliant, moving, and applicable to everyone, not just to dancers.
Why? Because it doesn’t matter what you are – an artist, a leader, a scientist, an entrepreneur, a teacher, an attorney, a marketing professional, a software developer, a CPA, or in any of the hundreds of other professions or not in any profession at all – you have the potential to be great at dancing your dance.
Here are five insights shared by these young dancers that you can use to successfully – and beautifully – dance your dance.
1. Believe you deserve success. The exact words used by the student who was first to speak – and who choked up as he spoke – were, “I need to believe I deserve those three cheers.”
At the end of the work in which he’d performed, there were three waves of enthusiastic applause. The dancing wasn’t flawless, and it was clear they weren’t seasoned professionals. But it didn’t matter. It was still beautiful.
You don’t need to be perfect or better or different or anything else to deserve success. But you do need to believe.
2. Get out of your own way.
We all get in our own way, sometimes subtly, sometimes blatantly, and every way in between.
You get in your own way when you stay stuck in your comfort zone.
You get in your own way when you choose to listen to your inner critic.
You get in your own way when you take the path of least resistance.
You get in your own way when you dabble in change rather than truly committing.
And on and on goes the list.
(Ditto for me on everything above!)
As one of my clients is fond of saying, no one can save you from yourself but you.
Where do you need to get out of your own way?
3. Allow yourself to be vulnerable.
The dancer who said this added, “… and share that vulnerability with the audience.”
Being vulnerable means giving yourself permission to be human. And that can feel risky and scary. But the alternative – being so careful no one sees you for who you really are – is actually riskier.
It’s your humanness that creates connection. And it’s connection that supports success.
4. How you show up in your life is how you show up the stage (or in the office, with clients, etc.). This was prefaced by, “Twyla (Tharp) always says …”
Considered a giant in the modern dance world, Twyla knows what she’s talking about! And it’s true no matter what stage you work on (or in).
5. You become the person you want to be when you push through your fears. And you also create success, happiness, and the life you want when you push through your fears … one dance step at a time.
Where do you most need to grow?
Pick the item from the list above that most resonates for you and start with one small step. Then take another small step, and then another after that.
With a series of small, consistent steps, you’ll successfully – and beautifully – dance your dance.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson