Just a short post today, folks, on the biggest gap I see in dance students’ educations when it comes to live music: exit music.
I attend a lot of live music events. I maintain the Facebook page and Google calendar for Mike Gregian’s Open Zills at the Athenian Corner in Lowell, MA, which is, for many dancers, their first experience dancing with a live band. And the most awkward thing I see, over and over, is those who don’t know when it is time to leave the stage. You can see the panic in their eyes – “When do I make my exit? I’m stuck up here and I don’t know what to do…” The band is wondering how to signal them to leave. Dancers in the audience are wringing their hands in sympathy and wondering how to help. Non-dancers in the audience can feel the awkwardness and aren’t sure what the cause is.
What is actually happening: the band has played your final song, wound down so you can take a bow, possibly called for a round of applause for you. As you straighten up from your bow, they begin playing lively music again. This is where many student dancers, confused, begin performing again. The band isn’t going on with the show; they are playing your exit music, so you aren’t walking off the stage in silence. You might want to take a few moments here to circle the stage, gesturing your thanks and appreciation to the audience. I encourage my students to follow this with a “Vanna White” – stand to one side and grandly gesture to the band. Then, get the heck off the stage. I like to grab my discarded veil with a flourish, and play my zills as I disappear from view.
You can see a video of my exiting to exit music here:
Now you know. 😉 Go forth, have a good time, and keep dancing to live music alive!
How does being an introvert affect how you prepare for a performance?
I prefer to prepare for a performance in my own way, which means in solitude, selecting music that resonates, imagining the entrance/exit, and what the floor space is like. I am easily over-stimulated and prefer less planning vs. over-thinking the situation. There are very few friends I will discuss the show with, music or costuming choice. One thing I will do if it’s for a venue I haven’t been to, is to go to the club or restaurant to see how others manage and run their shows. I like to see where the band is set up, where I am entering from and how the venue’s layout is. I am also interested in the lighting situation and if one even exists. I do this more for the purpose of seeing how make-up needs to be done. Before a show I like to have some quiet time prior to reground myself after being stimulated by meeting so and so and shown this and that,and probably sitting for a bit with friends. Being out and social is an energy depleter for me, (although I do enjoy it in spurts!) I try to minimize how much I do get out and interact with the exception of close friends I go with. I love to observe the audience and band and vibe of the room when possible to know what I am going into.
How does being an introvert affect your connection with your audience?
For me, this became more comfortable over time (years in fact). I originally ventured into Middle Eastern Dance with a troupe, so that is really what helped me not be as afraid. I was surrounded by friends and knew we were looked at as a whole, not individually. I had them around me to protect me from sticking out. I realized in classes that dancing solo brought out a completely different energy in me that I had never seen or felt before. I liked it, although I realized it was out of my comfort zone. I wanted to explore it though, and with encouragement from teachers and friends, I saw quickly how supportive an audience can be for a soloist. It fed me. I loved to see that others were excited to see me outside of the troupe environment, so much so that I didn’t think about being in the spotlight. I wasn’t sure why, but I felt there was something there to pick at and find out what was buried. Gradually over time and gaining comfort in dancing for unfamiliar faces, with unfamiliar bands, I developed the confidence to look at people in the eye, to try and at some point look at many to make them feel what I did when a dancer I loved looked at me and acknowledged me appreciating them. It was a soul connection that words couldn’t explain. By dancing for an audience and at the right time connecting with them, I felt touched by their heart and that I also helped them forget their worries and pain and things to do and to just be in the moment with me.
How does being an introvert affect your choices of things like makeup, costuming, props, venues you choose to perform in, etc.?
It’s interesting because in day to day life, I wear minimal make-up, rather boring clothes, zero jewelry. Pretty plain. I have had other dancers not recognize me in class when they see me without the makeup. I like to not bring attention to myself in my day to day life because its just not a priority. Onstage however, I bring out a woman that inside me that comes out to play only when dancing. I love makeup, I love sparkling and I love the showside of dance. It is only there for shows however, or going to see friends perform. I only dance at venues when asked and if I like how I am treated there. I like to be appreciated. I am always happy to dance for those that take care of their dancer and recognize the art form.
How does being an introvert affect the other aspects of your performance career (i.e. marketing, networking, negotiating)?
Being an introvert absolutely affects this in that I will post rarely about shows, or share videos. I am not of the mindset that believes overposting helps the turnout of the audience. I appreciate who goes to the event but do not ask people to go. I love to see people if they are there! I will not post as I know coming from the advertising world, this has adverse affects. If someone likes my dancing and asks to know when I am dancing, I share it with them. Chronic posting of events is quite a turnoff to me. Once or twice in the bellydance world is plenty. We all know whats going on thanks to social media.
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?)
As I get older I have learned to embrace it and am protective of the needs I have from it. I use to overbook myself. I have learned now that it doesn’t serve me or my show to bounce from one thing to the next. If I stop enjoying it as its makes me feel drained to be out too much, there is not point in it. I don’t want to lose my joy in dancing and training and classes by overdoing it. Less is more in my book, in more ways then one!
What advantage does being an introvert give you over extroverted performers?
This is a little hard to answer, as I am not really sure. I do know that when I see extroverted performers, I do not feel as moved. This may be an energetic thing, but I like to see sides of dancers that are not often exposed. That thrills me to see them come out of their shell. I am able to feel more connected to them and I feel its more authentic as they are sharing their stage persona, which is often quite the opposite of what most see from introverts day to day.
What haven’t we asked that you’d really like to tell us?
I didn’t start dancing to perform for others. I had no desire, plan or care to. It became a process of coming out into the bellydance world and it was nourished by amazing teachers. Its a process that takes time and requires patience. I think that dancers that may be introverts are absolutely capable of conquering the fear and anxiety by practice, time, and skilled performances. These are all achievable with intention. Dance even when you are scared, trembling, shaking! It will take you to emotional levels that nothing else is capable of.
About Sara: Sara is a Boston-based dancer and has studied with the areas most acclaimed intstructors. Shadia, Najmat and Phaedra are the foundations and motivational teachers that threw Sara into the dance world of this area. Over the last 8 years, she has traveled near and far to study with her favorite dancers. She enjoys learning about the culture and history of Oriental Dance. She feels the healing aspects of dance are life-changing. When not dancing, she can be found in the event planning industry choreographing deadlines.