Introducing our next Introverted Performer Project contributor, the lovely Hayam!
How does being an introvert affect how you prepare for a performance?
When I begin to prepare for a performance I spend a lot of quiet time alone visualizing and listening to my music. I find that my connection to the music in particular is what helps me come out of my shell while onstage. I will generally have the songs I plan on dancing to on a running loop both on my iPod and in my head. Sometimes I will lie down on the floor and listen to the song, breathing deeply and imagining my movements and emotions in conjunction with the song. Whether it is a romantic song by Warda or a poppy drum solo, I take my time and work my way through the piece to make sure that I will convey the right energy. When I practice I also try to maintain the same energy I will be dancing with onstage… rather than plodding through the motions as we tend to do after repeating an exercise over and over again. As I practice I am especially aware of my facial expressions, making sure that they match the piece. I find that especially for introverts, facial awareness is key. We as a group tend to be prone to resting b****face!
How does being an introvert affect your connection with your audience?
As an introvert, performing in front of an audience is generally the last thing I ever thought I would do. It took me a long time to be comfortable with the concept of dancing for others and even longer to begin to enjoy it. I take joy in how a dancer can move an audience, and am thrilled when I am able to do it myself. I live for creating a twinkle in someone’s eye or the quirk of a smile on their face. I may not be able to do this in every aspect of my life, but I sure can do it on the dance floor! I have also finally stopped experiencing the paralyzing fear of the chance that the audience doesn’t like me. Some people may like me, some people may not, and that is ok. I focus on the positives and dance for those willing to engage with me.
How does being an introvert affect your choices of things like makeup, costuming, props, venues you choose to perform in, etc.?
Despite being an introvert, I have a penchant for the wild and crazy when it comes to my look. I like bright colors, I like sparkles (go figure), and I like spicy costumes. This isn’t too different from my day to day life…I think I just embody all things sparkly as a human in general. Shoot, as I write this my hair is blue. I could be perfectly happy wearing a feather boa and giant glitter platform sneakers in public…but I would hope nobody would come and ask me about it!
How does being an introvert affect the other aspects of your performance career (i.e. marketing, networking, negotiating)?
I have always seen networking, negotiating, and marketing as a necessary evil. I suck it up, put on my best go getter face, and do it. I would be perfectly happy to retire to my own little corner when it comes to these matters and I actively have to remind myself to “schmooze”. I never regret stepping outside of my box though, I have met many friends this way and have heard some incredible dance experiences. The networking experience in itself is a very valuable educational arena that I would encourage other introverted dancers like myself to participate in. I know we tend to get very comfortable giving “likes” and comments on Facebook, and we hide behind emails and texts. It is important that when you are at an event and you see someone you admire or want to know, you go talk to them! It is also important to remember that many of the great dancers of our time are not on social media and your best bet is to meet them and hear what they have to say in person.
What’s your relationship with your introvertedness? (Does it bother you, do you see it as something to overcome, have your learned to leverage it, etc?)
Being an introvert and a professional dancer is a tricky combination. I think I still have a long way to go before I am able to master the balancing act that is being a performer and an introvert. I still get very nervous before performances and yet nothing beats the thrill of coming offstage knowing I made a connection with the audience as well as with my piece. I don’t think that I will ever “overcome” being an introvert… perhaps just continue to mask it when necessary and harness it when I can.
What advantage does being an introvert give you over extroverted performers?
I think that introverts naturally have a lot of natural empathy that extroverts may or may not experience. As an introvert I feel better equipped to tackle the feelings and emotions behind my dance as well as those of the audience. I think introverts spend a lot of time quietly pondering the many layers of the onion, a la Shrek, and are able to bring this into their dancing.
What haven’t we asked that you’d really like to tell us?
One thing that I have found very empowering as an introverted performer is dancing to a live band. I think that introverts tend to be fearful of trying new things in public without having practiced. This inherent perfectionism makes dancing to a live band for the first time a daunting trial by fire. Despite this, I honestly believe nothing can lift an introverted performer up like dancing to live music. Interacting with the live band makes you solely rely on your instincts and your empathy. You must be in touch with your emotions, the band’s emotions, and the audience’s emotions at the same time. You have to open yourself up to others to generate a collaborative performance. A live band performance is a thrilling rush that comes with many rewards, especially for the introverted dancer.
Hayam is a Worcester based Belly Dancer, formerly of Boston. She is mentored by Basimah of Potsdam, NY and practices Egyptian style belly dance. Hayam is also heavily influenced by Aegela of Ohio and Shalimar of CT. She is a former member both of Basimah’s Habibis directed by Basimah, and of Troupe Little Egypt directed by Shalimar. She now performs regularly as a soloist in the New England area. Hayam has recently taken to studying the application of dance anatomy and kinesiology to belly dance. When Hayam isn’t shedding glitter on stage she can be found pursuing her doctorate in veterinary medicine…because people are gross!
You can find her on the web at: hayamraqs.com
See Hayam in action!