The next installment in the Introverted Performer Project series comes from fellow Turkophyle Amina Beres.
How does being an introvert affect how you prepare for a performance?
Not everyone, even an extrovert, wants to perform – it’s scary out there on stage or in front of a class. What has helped is understanding the importance of a ‘stage name’ is not only for business and/or safety reasons, it gives you permission to develop an Alter Ego because it’s not ‘me’ out there. Very much like an actor becomes the character for a role they are playing, I become ‘Amina Beres’… she can be the outgoing dancer and instructor the audience and my students expect.
How does being an introvert affect your connection with your audience?
It makes it harder because I’m insecure about my dancing from the get-go. But as a performer, you have a contract with your audience – you have to deliver. So you have to get over yourself and your fears, and think performer first over dancer… most audiences do not know a hip lift from a hip drop nor do they care – they want to be entertained. You can fall back on the mood of the music to allow for on-stage introspection if you aren’t connecting, or you can also select music with many changes so you can alter the amount of your connection.
How does being an introvert affect your choices of things like makeup, costuming, props, venues you choose to perform in, etc.?
The makeup was the biggest hurdle to get over! All it took was seeing one photo of myself in stage lighting without enough makeup to get over being uncomfortable with wearing ‘too much’. My preference for venue size has changed over the years – I used to like large venues because you were ‘smaller’ to the audience and therefore somewhat not-noticeable; but why go to the trouble of the costuming/makeup/and dance training if you don’t want to be seen?
How does being an introvert affect the other aspects of your performance career (i.e. marketing, networking, negotiating)?
This is the hardest, because I am not a sales person. However introverts have an edge in this arena because we generally are detail-oriented which makes it easier to shift gears and approach our dancing as a business – which it is – instead of a strictly artistic, desperate (‘please hire me’) or hubris (‘I’m fabulous, trust me’) extroverted approach. Yes it’s art, but you have to run it like a business and think like a business person to be successful in addition to your dance training. I took some ideas from my ‘day job’, where we have to develop succinct standard responses to often-asked questions about ‘what we do’ and developed something similar for myself and for the troupe… this makes it easier to ‘sell’ our performances to audiences because our marketing strategy is more concise and our message more consistent. Potential clients don’t want to wade through paragraphs to learn if they want to hire you, and they do not care at all who you studied with because the names mean nothing to the general public. YouTube and video editing software also help, as you can edit performance videos into short segments of multiple styles so potential clients get a snapshot of what you do.
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?)
It’s become easier because over time you learn not to let it take over your dancing – you learn to use it appropriately as with any other tool in your dance bag. I am still the introvert after class, rehearsal, or a performance because I’m ‘me’, not my alter ego.
What advantage does being an introvert give you over extroverted performers?
In my experience, introverts care differently about performances… we hear more of the nuances in the music and want our dancing and costuming to be suitable for it… we tend to take more time learning what the lyrics of the song mean so we’re not dancing to something inappropriate… we read our audiences more to discern subtle clues about their enjoyment/appreciation of our performance. The caveat is finding the sweet spot between both worlds so we are not too introverted (boring to watch) nor too extroverted (it’s all about me). This will be different for every level of introvertedness.
What haven’t we asked that you’d really like to tell us?
Why do I dance? I dance because I was told I couldn’t do it and that I was too old. But the music and rhythms kept calling me, telling me to learn, enjoy, and share… after 20 years the music is still telling me these things… so I dance and teach for everyone who was ever told they couldn’t do it or were too old.
About Amina Beres:
A sports jock (the son her father never had) and musician since childhood, Amina never took a dance class until 1995 when, in her 30s, she took a bellydance class on a dare. She never looked back. Her first years were spent learning, teaching, and performing Egyptian and American cabaret and folkloric styles; she tried ATS, ITS and Tribal Fusion but they weren’t for her; then she discovered Turkish Oryantal and Romani were the perfect fit for her athletic and musical backgrounds. In 2009 Amina formed Minnesota’s only exclusively Turkish style dance troupe, Dans Aşkina Turkish Dance Ensemble. She continues to learn, teach, choreograph, perform and keep the ‘Turkish Fire’ burning on the Minnesota dance scene.
You can find her on the web at: bellydanceamina.com