Yesterday I published a post about continuing to work for the past 9 months despite severe pain. Some of you have expressed surprise as to how I was able to do that. To be honest, I am pretty surprised at myself too!
If you are a professional dancer like me I am sure you will have nights where you just can't get in the mood, or you are suffering either physical or emotional pain. How do you manage to get up on that stage and go for it, when it's the last thing you want to do?! Here's some of what goes on in my head and helps me put those sequins on when all I really want to do is get into my PJs and curl up with a good book in bed!
The main thing is professionalism.
This breaks down into two intrinsic elements: Brand value and income protection.
Brand value- I have to show that I can deliver what has been promised. I cannot bring myself to let people down and have them think ill of me. I need people to know when they book me, they can trust me to be there. If I cancel, even with a really good excuse, like a slipped disk, I'd run the risk of breaking that trust and losing that client.
When you run your own business you really do need to put your best foot forward or face the consequences. If you cancel work in Cairo, you run the high risk of never being offered a gig at that venue, or with that person again. There are other dancers out there and if they are forced to use another, they may not ask you back. Competition is steep. Money is seldom the reason most dancers I know have chosen this challenging occupation, however of course, we still all have rent and bills to pay. You can't afford to give the work away, you need to protect your current and future income.
|photo credit: www.MicheleDillon.com|
Sickness, injury, whatever reason you wish you weren't going to work that night, now because of professionalism you have steeled yourself up for it. So how do you manage to paint on enough of a smile that will show the world you are not only there doing your job, but happy to be? We need to make that effort because there is nothing worse than watching a dancer who looks like she doesn't want to be there.
For me it is all about slipping my feet into the shoes of my audience. Not literally!
'The show must go on' attitude has always been strong in me, no matter what, since the beginning of my performing career. I have always thought 'there will be at least one person in that audience who has never seen Bellydance before and it is my duty to make sure they go away with as favourable an opinion as possible'. Educate them, if you will.
Of course, you could argue that everyone in Cairo has seen Bellydance at one point or another so the above reasoning doesn't really apply unless I am performing at the time for a boat load of tourists or outside of Egypt.
In Cairo my thinking is more in relation to how the general public view belly dancers.
The vast majority of them really do see us as only one step up from prostitution, mainly due to the way Bellydance has always been portrayed in media. The dancer in films is always the 'bad' influence. Sadly. So when I set foot on a Cairo stage, I do so with the attitude that I want to show 'it's not like that'. Yes, it is sexy, but it is not crude or vulgar. There is elegance and skill involved too.
That is always part of my purpose and the thing that gives me that energy boost to get on stage and 'prove' them wrong or at least challenge their preconceived prejudices.
The third factor involved in that impetus to "get the show on the road", is entertainment. Everyone has struggles within their own lives and when you go out to see a show you want to be distracted from that and given the opportunity to smile, relax and have fun. To be entertained. If I can help even just one person in front of me do that through my dance, then I have made their world a slightly better place, even if just for that short time and that is, I think, a noble aim.
These driving thoughts have been the main reasons I 'soldiered' on through the pain and depression.
I didn't quit. I didn't give up. I wanted to make a difference.
To give me a valid reason for being a bellydancer. Perhaps even to give me a 'reason for being'.
If you still are finding it hard to push yourself when you really aren't in the mood to dance remember than you always get that natural chemical reward too. When you dance your body releases endorphins and these can be thought of as 'the happy hormones'. It is unlikely that the world will weigh as heavy on your shoulders at the end of the dance than it did at the beginning. I cannot count the number of times I have literally been in tears in changing rooms before a show, depressed about something going on in my own life, but then been able to smile and even laugh, genuinely, on stage. That's the high.
Dance is my drug of choice. It never fails to help me cheer up when I am down! I always feel better when I am dancing, or have just danced.
I hope that whatever the difficulties you face in your life, they can also always be lessened through dance. Whether you are a professional dancer, or not!