Categotry Archives: Introverted Performer Project

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Leaning toward connection

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Mostly the Introverted Performer Project has been about turning your introvert traits to your advantage. Seth Godin’s recent blog post, though, is a reminder of one introvert trait we might want to make an effort to overcome.

It’s not hard to find studies online pointing to actual structural and neurochemical differences in the brains of extroverts vs introverts, suggesting, among other things, that extroverts are most driven by the potential of reward, where introverts are more sensitive to the possibility of punishment. But we can make a choice, to focus on connecting with those who love our work, rather than fearing those who will criticize it. Check out Seth’s post for an exercise that will help you to avoid stifling your own “beauty and greatness.”

Seth’s Blog: The two-review technique

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Lida, Introvert and Performer

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New Introverted Performer Project post from the very insightful Lida!

Lida, photo by Michael Baxter

How does being an introvert affect how you prepare for a performance?
Part of my experience as an introvert is a default mode of observing rather than engaging, and a finite amount of energy available to spend on engaging. On performance day, I like to build up my energy throughout the day so I have enough to share with the audience without having to be carted home. This means opting for low-key activities versus an action-packed day, and including at least one thing that makes me happy and relaxed. At the venue, I’ll watch those who perform before me to absorb the warmth and joy their performances create — I find it simultaneously calming and energizing. Backstage I’ll joke around with fellow dancers to relax, but as I warm up it’s important to spend a few minutes focusing on the essence of my set and the various emotions I’m about to share. It’s a bit like reviewing a “mission statement” and also serves as a reminder that performance isn’t about me — it’s about a collective experience I help create.

How does being an introvert affect your connection with your audience?
Because my energy is contained for much of the time, I feel it is more intense and focused than it would be otherwise. This is incredibly helpful in conveying moods and creating connections. If fully released, my energy could fill an entire hall — and that is the challenge here. When one’s default flow is set to “low”, it takes time and practice to open the gates and let it all rush out. I find restaurant shows less demanding than stage because of how close the audience is — there is less of a gap that my energy needs to jump in order to reach them and I get instant feedback on how I’m making them feel. I also genuinely enjoy joking with them, and empowering them to dance and be free, if only for a few minutes. That kind of positivity can make a big difference in a person’s day and attitude, and knowing this fuels me to the point where I find it quite easy to be the “party girl” for a bit.

How does being an introvert affect the other aspects of your performance career (i.e. marketing, networking, negotiating)?
My day job in marketing has helped me immensely, although it can still be challenging to put myself out there with the same vigor as extroverts. The marketing and networking world has historically rewarded the extroverted qualities of being incredibly assertive, outgoing, and a general “life of the party”. However, because the world has become so saturated with aggressive marketing and networking everywhere we turn, aspects of introversion can now serve us well in this area. For example, introverts are great at creating and maintaining a group of deep connections instead of many shallow ones. In a time when people crave to be a seen as individual humans instead of marketing statistics, this is a useful skill to have. When it comes to networking, I do dabble in extroversion when the situation calls for it, although it takes much more effort than it would for a true extrovert. Negotiating is another area that I think works best when extrovert and introvert qualities are blended. In business, I try to put aside my natural tendencies and research the methods proven to be most successful, though I find that the introverted qualities of saying less and observing situations are always helpful.

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?)
I used to find it frustrating to live as an introvert in a country where extroversion is so highly prized. Even friends and family don’t always understand — I might be perfectly happy people watching at a party and yet because I’m not always conversing, dancing, playing, or expressing myself, they’ll assume I’m not having fun. Over time, I learned to value the many benefits that I gained as a result of introversion, including a sense of calm, deep knowledge of self, and laser-like focus. However, I worked (and am still working) on incorporating extroverted qualities into my life, simply because these qualities can make me a happier person by getting me out of my head, and help me to reach the goals I set for myself. Many elements of extroversion make it easier to meet new people, find and follow up with opportunities, and make others feel good about themselves. I strive for the best of both worlds.

What advantage does being an introvert give you over extroverted performers?
The introspective mindset with which I live each day has helped me in many ways. It’s second nature to dig deeply into the emotional content of music. I can create a well-thought out, detailed, and complete performance to convey this particular meaning to the audience. I can use focused energy to effectively engage the audience. And while it takes time to build, the confidence that comes from turning inward to ponder and understand the layers of self and the world brings a grounded and profound presence to the stage. Introverted dancers have a great opportunity to showcase poignancy and inner power.

What haven’t we asked that you’d really like to tell us?
I’ve been “blessed” with the double whammy of introversion and shyness since childhood. Discerning between the two and overcoming what needed to be overcome has been a lengthy process in which dance had a major role. Dance started as something I did for myself with no intention of performing, and blossomed into a life-changing path. I gained confidence, learned about my strengths and weaknesses, met friends, and pushed myself to do new things. All of this helped me understand how to get rid of my internal barriers so I could strive to be the best version of my true self. I know many others have traveled a similar road and I’m grateful that we can share our experiences.

About Lida:
Lida was born in Iran and raised in the wonderfully diverse Bay Area, where she discovered a vibrant bellydance community and trained with many accomplished instructors. She loves all kinds of Middle Eastern dance, but especially Turkish and classic American bellydance, as well as the dances of Iran. Her other passions include art history and tea.

Visit her online at lidabellydance.com

See Lida in action!

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Sara, Introvert and Performer

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Please welcome the latest in the Introverted Performer Project from Boston’s own lovely dancer Sara.

Sara, photo by Najmat

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.

See Sara in action!

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Hayam, Introvert and Performer

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Introducing our next Introverted Performer Project contributor, the lovely Hayam!

Hayam, photo by Ashley Elizabeth Photography

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.

About Hayam:
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!

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Kezmaya, Introvert and Performer

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Our latest performer to write for the Introverted Performer Project is my friend and fellow lover of the book Quiet – Kezmaya!

Kezmaya, photo by RT2 Photo

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?)
I didn’t realize all that went along with being an introvert until I read the book Quiet.  After that, so many things made more sense.  The book explains the difference between introverts and extroverts in terms of the level of sensory input at which an individual functions well.  Introverts function better at lower levels of sensory input, or can be considered more sensitive to it, and will start shutting down when the levels get too high.  New situations or large groups mean lots of information to process, so introverts tend to be more comfortable with the familiar and a few friends.  Any situation that kicks up the stress and anxiety levels, like being in the public eye, is best handled with lots of preparation so there are fewer surprises and less demand for quick thinking.  Introverts can operate out of their comfort zone, especially for something personally meaningful, but recharge time will be required.  What this means for me is that I can talk readily about topics that interest me, but I do the classic think-before-speaking thing so I may not say much when in the company of extroverts.  Social interactions or performing require energy, so I need to budget how much I do.  I found out the hard way that taking workshops before a performance wasn’t usually a good idea.  On the flip side, I have good attention to detail, which helps in so many situations.  There are times when I’d like to be more of an extrovert so I’d have an easier time putting on a more outgoing dance persona, but I have to work with who I am.

How does being an introvert affect how you prepare for a performance?
Being prepared is really important so I can feel comfortable about the performance and don’t have too many things to think about when I’m in front of an audience.  It helps to be familiar with the performance space, type of audience, expectations, and so forth, so I ask questions if the event is new to me or if the description doesn’t have much information (asking lots of questions is another hallmark of an introvert).  I dance best (or with the most authenticity) when I find something meaningful to share.  This means having a story to tell or picking music that I connect to emotionally.  Having a costume and/or prop that’s visually interesting is also important, because that’s part of what I share.  I like to arrive early enough that I can check out the performance space.  If I can take a minute or two to experience how the space feels, how it sounds, what the floor is like for a few moves that I will do, then that space becomes more like a friend.  I’ve found that some quiet (non-talking) time just before performing really helps me get into the right head space and make the switch to Kezmaya, even if it’s only a few minutes.

How does being an introvert affect your connection with your audience?
For me, connection is most intense one-on-one.  I’ll usually do eye contact with a few friendly faces and ramp up or down depending on how that goes.  Everything I’m doing is with the purpose of sharing with the audience, so connecting is key.  I may be a bit reserved in my approach, but the intention is there.  How much I try for one-on-one connection also depends on how much else is going on that is taking up my attention.  If I’m trying to zill, figure out what the band is doing, and move through space in an interesting way, making eye contact just got relegated to the back burner.
If the audience is a large group (more than a table or two of people I know), the experience of performing depends on what I feel coming back from them.  If I feel that they are coming along on the ride with me, that they’re making good noises, I’ll get a wonderful surge of energy that I can share back with them.  If the group, large or small, doesn’t respond or pay attention, I have to work hard not to give out energy that won’t come back.  It becomes a more contained dialogue.  One of the most disconcerting performances I had was when I got nothing back from the few people that were in the room, and it felt like the space had turned into an energy vampire.  I had to pull back a bit before I felt frantic, concentrate on the music for something that I could play with and find joy in, and proceed from there.

How does being an introvert affect your choices of things like makeup, costuming, props, venues you choose to perform in, etc.?
Putting on my external dance persona (belly dance armor) is important, because that sets the stage for everything else.  I pick what fits the situation and is visually appealing and then practice in it so that I know it’s going to work.  That way the conversation (so to speak) I’m having with the audience won’t be interrupted by inappropriate remarks on my part.  I get the double introvert whammy of one less thing to think about plus the emotional boost, if needed, of “look at my wonderful costume”.  I’m usually performing in venues I’m familiar with or at events run by people I know, so there are rarely big surprises.  And having friendly faces in the audience or backstage helps keep the performance anxiety from kicking in.

How does being an introvert affect the other aspects of your performance career (i.e. marketing, networking, negotiating)?
Working a room is not something I’ll ever do easily.  I touch base with people I know at events and shows, and quick bellydance conversations are easy one-on-one and in small groups, because dancing is something that I enjoy talking about.  Facebook makes it really convenient to keep track of people and events.  Written communication is often easier for me than conversation, another common introvert trait.  There have been a few events where I didn’t get to perform, because I took too long thinking about whether it would be a good choice or if I had something interesting to contribute.  For the rest, I’m not a professional level dancer, so this doesn’t impact me too much.

What advantage does being an introvert give you over extroverted performers?
I don’t know how extroverts view performing.  When I’m dancing, I’m not thinking about me performing as much as I’m sharing how the music feels or finding snippets of music to express and trying to connect to the audience through that experience.  If I’m telling a story or playing a part, then I’m trying to inhabit that place, physically and emotionally, as completely as I can.  Dancing to a band adds an extra level of complication, because I also need to track what the music is doing.  I try to keep the mental dialog simple and something that I can emote, like “this is fun”, or “my veil is beautiful”, or “the taxim will break my heart”.  Dance as performance is something I came to later than most; bellydance still feels like a place of wonder mixed with a walk on the wild side.

What haven’t we asked that you’d really like to tell us?
As someone who often does more listening than talking when in a group, performing gives me the chance to be seen while doing something that allows me expression in a way that nothing else does.  Even as Kezmaya rather than everyday me, I still have to work a bit at claiming space and attention.  To do this, I remind myself that I am Kezmaya, I have on a beautiful costume (which usually changes my posture as soon as I think it), and this performance space is mine.  If need be, I’ll make myself move around more, and zills are also a help as an attention claimer.  I think that I probably have a more contained, less exuberant dance presence than some.  My dance persona is still more daring and emotive than the person most  people see.

About Kezmaya:
Kezmaya, a Boston-based performer, began her dance journey on a whim with American Cabaret, shifted to Tribal Fusion and American Tribal Style, and circled back to American Cabaret. She has learned from and been inspired by The Goddess Dancing, Kareema, Phoenix Avathar, Melina of the Daughters of Rhea, Nadira Jamal, OmBellyCo, and Aslahan. She is the quieter half of the ATS duo Tassellations. As a soloist, she has come to embrace the freedom and joy of dancing to live music. Whether sequins or twenty-five yard skirts or something in between, it’s all bellydance.

See Kezmaya in action!

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Aslahan, Introvert and Performer

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Welcome to my own entry in the Introverted Performer Project.

Aslahan, photo by Pixie Vision

How does being an introvert affect how you prepare for a performance?
When I am planning for a future performance I generally do it solo, sitting down by myself to select music and ponder my costuming, staging, etc (I seldom choreograph). If I need to work through ideas or brainstorm, I’ll scribble my thoughts out in a notebook rather than talking it through with a friend or colleague. Sometimes I want to run an idea by someone for feedback, but I can’t then work it out collaboratively – I need to drag what I get from that conversation back to my mental lair to finish processing it alone.

As far as getting dressed and putting on makeup for the show – given the option, I will take that as “alone time” also, to ramp up my energy. The defining characteristic of introverts vs extroverts is that extroverts get energy from social contact, whereas introverts, even if we enjoy being social, are energetically drained by it, and need solitude to recharge. So I’ll paint my face and glue on my eyelashes alone with a cup of tea and possibly some music playing in the background. For me it isn’t a social time, but a chance to draw inward in preparation for projecting outward onstage. When necessary, it doesn’t bother me to get ready in a crowded dressing room (some of the funniest conversations I’ve ever overheard have been in theatre green rooms), but at the very least I do usually pull into myself in the last few minutes before it’s my turn to take the stage.

How does being an introvert affect your connection with your audience?
This is one area where I really had to think about how to turn something I can’t change about myself (my introvertedness) into something I could leverage. To some degree we do have to overcome introversion, ramp up our energy, and project it out to our audience, especially as we enter the stage. But – introverts excel at one-on-one connections. We have the ability to grant our attention to an individual in the audience, and make them feel truly seen, truly connected to us. Spending an entire performance like that (as opposed to shining our attention on the audience as a whole) is not a great strategy, but using it strongly during parts of our performance adds a great deal of warmth to our stage presence, and it’s something that comes to introverts naturally – giving audience members that isolated moment that belongs to them alone.

How does being an introvert affect your choices of things like makeup, costuming, props, venues you choose to perform in, etc.?
I don’t know that being an introvert affects my makeup and costuming, although it took me several iterations to get my performance makeup ramped up enough, especially for a large, lit stage. It does affect the types of gigs I take. I am not a “life of the party” type, and therefore bellygram-type gigs are not my strength. I dance at private events in function halls where there is a stage or dance floor, but I’ve stopped accepting events that occur in people’s living rooms because, as fun as they can be, that’s not where my strength lies. For the same reason I generally don’t dance in restaurants where there is no designated “stage area” and the dancer is expected to dance among the tables. Venues with no “dance space” give me no chance to draw back a bit and bring the audience to me, which is a dynamic I like to utilize as an introvert.

How does being an introvert affect the other aspects of your performance career (i.e. marketing, networking, negotiating)?
I think introverts are actually amazing at networking. Many of us think we aren’t because we have a different idea of what networking should look like. We think we are supposed to go to an event and meet lots of people, exchange business cards, boldly introduce ourselves to that dancer we admire but have never met before. And that’s fine, if you’re an extrovert. You create a network with lots of nodes. Introverts are the ones who go to an event and spend the whole evening talking to one or two new people in a corner. We don’t meet that dancer we admire until we’ve met someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows her. Sound like bad networking? It isn’t, at all. We (introverts) create networks with fewer nodes but stronger connections. There’s a depth to our interactions in social settings that balances out the smaller number of people we connect with. And because those interactions are deeper, we get introduced to people who care about the same things we do, so our networks tend to develop organically in the directions that are important to us. I actually suspect that we are better networkers than extroverts are…

Negotiating, on the other hand, can be problematic. Introverts tend to be best at written communication (like email and texting) because we get a chance to compose our thoughts. (We, by nature, work our thoughts out before speaking rather than “talking through” an idea.) This makes in-person and over-the-phone negotiation a challenge – most of the introverts I know don’t like to talk on the phone at all, never mind when it’s a business negotiation. I learned years ago that I could mitigate some of this “phone stress” by keeping my trusty notepad next to me and writing as I talk. I scribble down everything I’m saying, even my own name and address if I’m giving it to someone over the phone. My notes probably look like that of a crazy person, but it seems to work to keep me from grinding to a halt. In-person negotiation for me involves rehearsing a few scenarios by myself and crossing my fingers. If all else fails “I’ll have to get back to you on that” allows me to withdraw and collect my thoughts.

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 always been a part of my nature, and one that I accept as a feature, not a flaw. But – when I first decided to seriously pursue a career as a dancer it kept me awake at night, worrying that perhaps as an introvert I just wasn’t cut out for the business aspects of being a professional performer. I’ve long held the belief, though, that strengths and weaknesses are always two sides of the same coin, and if you get creative enough with your perspective you can make almost any personal trait work for you as a strength. So I set my mind to figuring out how to not just overcome my introversion but to use it. Pondering this idea, and talking about it with some fellow introverts in the dance community, planted the first seeds for this blog series. Which, itself, is a pretty good example of making my introversion work for me.  🙂

What advantage does being an introvert give you over extroverted performers?
I did mention the introvert advantages of networking, and I touched a bit on it talking about audience connection: I suspect the dynamic of drawing our audience to us, instead of always going to them, comes a bit more naturally to introverts, and creates a nice give-and-take that adds depth, especially to longer performances.

What haven’t we asked that you’d really like to tell us?
One area where I do think introverts are behind is in collaborating and/or asking for help on projects. We learn early on that the first responders to calls for assistance or partnership are, for obvious reasons, extroverts. And they mean well, but the help they offer often doesn’t fit well with the way we work. They want to sit down next to us and work through something with us. We want to exchange nuggets of ideas or information and then go back to our caves to process the work solo. And it feels ungrateful to say “gee, thanks for the help, but I need you to go away now” so we stop asking. Extroverts reading this – it’s not you! Introverts just don’t work effectively unless the processing can happen inside our own heads. Introverts – I think we need to learn to be OK saying “Thanks for your help – I need to take this idea and go process it myself, and check in with you later.” Reaching out to each other will allow us to more fully realize our potential. But we have to honor our nature and do it introvert-style.

About Aslahan:
Aslahan is an award-winning Turkish Oryantal dancer based in Boston, MA, who hates writing bios about herself. When not dancing she can often be found nose-in-laptop, geeking out about the intersection of topics like neuroplasticity, dance history, trade routes, and the difference between klasik and karadeniz kemençes. She drinks a lot of tea.

You can find her on the web at: aslahan.com

See Aslahan in action!

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Sekhmet, Introvert and Performer

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The latest in the Introverted Performer Project series – please welcome Sekhmet!

Sekhmet, photo by Bruce Mount
Sekhmet, photo by Bruce Mount

How does being an introvert affect how you prepare for a performance?

I’m sure that it’s directly linked to my tendency to do research about my venue, find out what kind of audience to expect, and talk to other dancers who have performed where I’m about to perform. While an extroverted performer might be more concerned about the quality of her publicity, I want to have a better understanding of the variables I might face on locale. The more I can learn about what to expect the better I will feel about showing up. If I am dancing at an annual event or workshop, I will ask the event planner or one of her associates some of these questions. As far as my actual dancing goes, I’ll rehearse as often as I can, and look for a space that accommodates my rehearsals.  I often end up doing this in the weeks before a performance anyway, since I don’t have a dedicated dance space at home.  If I’m performing to recorded music, I always have a spare CD and an MP3 file for the sound tech when I arrive to the performance location.  In this case, introversion helps me focus on managing the factors of performance that are under my control.

Since I dance most often as a soloist, I don’t often rehearse in front of other dancers. I realize that for many, dance classes are a source of social bonding.  By contrast, I might ask someone to one of my practice runs if I think they can give me critical feedback. The feedback part is important, though. I wouldn’t use the time for socializing.  I don’t invite friends to my rehearsals “for fun.” Rehearsal time is valuable for creating muscle memory, determining the logic/flow of a choreography or visualizing the emotional nuances of a new piece of music.  Socializing and creating a dance require different parts of my mental energy, and it’s rare for me to try to expend them both at once.

How does being an introvert affect your connection with your audience?

This is a really good question since introverts on the whole are motivated by their internal world — their creative influences, ideas, choices of music, etc.  This sets up an interesting tension when dealing with an audience, an external presence. As I mentioned earlier I always want to know who my audience might be.  Are they dancers, the general public, parents with children, all women, or a regular restaurant crowd?  The energy and mood of the audience can make a real difference in how my performance is received.    Knowing something about the audience helps me decide what costume to wear, sometimes influences whether I’ll dance to “classic” belly dance music or how creative my choreography will be. Knowing these things is part of being an informed professional. There’s no point in doing Turkish Oriental/Hip-hop fusion if your audience won’t get it or like it.  So the tough part is, without having a “Look at Me!!” personality, how can I encourage the audience to feel involved?  At this point, my role is as translator:  my job is to embody through my dance why my music is great. If my research into the tastes of the audience and the layout of the venue are accurate, then my show should go well.

So many aspects of life and dancing are like a balancing act!  Ideally, I want to feel control over my dancing that doesn’t completely block out the audience, but doesn’t let social interaction interfere with my dance.  I don’t go into my audience, pick out “volunteers” and make them dance with me for comic effect. I realize that it could destroy the mood if I’m too extroverted or pay too much attention to one or two audience members.  However,  if I’m completely introspective, that will bore some people (although a photographer friend of mine once told me this was sexy).   This is especially important to me when I’m in a restaurant setting (where there are distractions in the form of waitpersons, children, or people coming in off the street) or any performance venue when I’m not on a stage elevated above the viewers.  I often choose medium to fast tempo music and invite the audience to clap along. Once I’ve made this connection, I’m “off the hook” so to speak, and I can give the audience my best, keeping a genuine smile on my face as I dance.

How does being an introvert affect your choices of things like makeup, costuming, props, venues you choose to perform in, etc.?

Makeup and clothes are two things that I’m tremendously picky about in my non-dance life, so that’s not a big change for me on stage. This is the reason why it’s rare for me to perform in troupes nowadays.  I want control over what I appear in.  I admit that my sense of style is quite individualized. To be precise, I don’t really care if it’s the newest costume design from Cairo, everyone likes this eyeshadow color, or saw one of the Belly Dance Superstars wearing a particular brand of bell-bottoms. If it doesn’t look smashing on me, I don’t wear it.

My decision to dance with props is limited to whether I feel that my music calls for them.  The prop that I choose most often is the veil because of its visual dynamics.

How does being an introvert affect the other aspects of your performance career (i.e. marketing, networking, negotiating)?

I don’t really think I’ve been able to capture the entrepreneur mindset. The dancing part is the easier for me:  I don’t mind working on a skill and polishing it in order to get better.  It is difficult for me to assess my abilities, write objective material about them, and then do the promotional work.  I have a hard time understanding how I’m supposed to develop content for online media that includes testimonials, recommendations and referrals.  Because introverts are often people who have well-developed internal motivation, I am often at a loss when it comes to requesting external acknowledgement.  This is a task that makes me extremely uncomfortable.

I’ve networked over the years in the sense that I’ve met a number of dancers with whom I share some interests and creative approaches.  However, I’m not really sure how to take advantage of those relationships.  Or that I should. I often get stuck in an emotional loop of I don’t expect strangers to work with me or promote me, but business is a “dirty” game that shouldn’t be allowed to intrude on positive relationships (i.e. friendships). I think I actually perceive good relationships as “private” and business relationships as “neutral”.  Having an introverted nature does make me value my professional relationships, but it can also cause me to think the value is limited to my private world.  It would probably help me to broaden my perception of positive relationships to include both emotional value and collaborative gain.

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?)

I see it as one of my personal characteristics like my eye or skin color.  It makes some difference in how I approach the world and how I like to socialize.  Sometimes, it can be a real gift. I think the attributes of being an introvert allow me to pursue dance with both intellectual interest and creative intent.  I am always interested in learning new things, so doing research or working on a choreography isn’t a chore for me.

I think a true manifestation of my introvert nature is wanting attention when I want it rather than wishing to be the center of attention at all times. Dance performances satisfy this need at three to twenty minute intervals quite well.

I have had to learn how to negotiate the environment of haflas and some dance workshops.  While in class, I often feel energized especially if I’m learning new material.  In a similar way, preparing to go on stage gives my energy level a positive spike.  However, after classes and performances, I often retreat.  This means being alone to absorb new dance moves or quietly returning to a table far from the stage to let the next performer have the spotlight.  Sometimes  I find the culture of “perpetual celebration” at dance events to be overwhelming.  I have a great appreciation for colleagues who understand that I’m not depressed when I retire to my room/table. I’m just recharging.

What advantage does being an introvert give you over extroverted performers?

I think competence, mastery and individuality are more important to me than acceptance and popularity.

I’ve observed that many people assume, because introverted individuals hold their cards close to their chests, that we don’t feel anything.  I simply don’t think I have to express everything I feel.  Meanwhile, I think introverts are more likely to work with music that truly resonates to us, employ movement that we choose for ideal interpretation and dismiss what doesn’t work for us.  I have a tendency to work on personal projects for quite some time.  The creative process is important to me whether or not I’m on stage.

What haven’t we asked that you’d really like to tell us?

Why is “strength”  a bad word in the Belly Dance world?  Belly dancers work hard for recognition, must be mentally adept to talk about their art form, and must constantly educate the uninformed or biased about what we do.  Whenever I cite strength as an element I want present in my choreographies and performances, I feel as if I’m treading on unpopular territory.  Like I’m going to go all ninja on people or something.  I’m not just talking about physical strength when I say this. I think that intellectual strength is a great compliment for being able to shimmy for 5+ minutes.  I am not an “accidental” dancer.  I chose this style of dance because it can express a spectrum of emotions:  pride, strength and courage among them.  Perhaps, here, too, I am concerned more with my personal vision of  Danse Orientale or Raqs Sharqi, rather than the images the general public wishes to paste on it.

About Sekhmet:

Sekhmet, who began her career in the Washington, D.C. area, now lives and dances in New England. She has performed both as a troupe member and a soloist. In June of 2014,  Sekhmet was chosen to perform at the Theatrical Belly Dance Conference in New York City during one of the open stage slots. She was happy to have been selected through a juried process for an original choreography, It’s Not Easy being Beat. Most recently, she was Featured Performer at the Moksa restaurant in Cambridge, MA in the month of September.

She can be contacted for shows, presentations, or lessons at her email dancinglioness@outlook.com

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Amina Beres, Introvert and Performer

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The next installment in the Introverted Performer Project series comes from fellow Turkophyle Amina Beres.

Amina Beres
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

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Rosa Noreen, Introvert and Performer

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Welcome to the very first installment of the Introverted Performer Project, written by the amazing Rosa Noreen of Portland, ME!

Rosa
Rosa Noreen (photo by Rebecca Waldron 2014)

How does being an introvert affect how you prepare for a performance?

I need to be sure that I have an internal monologue available to me for every performance. I may or may not use it, but it helps immensely to have a direction to follow if I need it.

Occasionally this is a full storyline (like in my performance at the 2014 Las Vegas Bellydance Intensive). Most often (like in the baladi video) it’s something more abstract, something that serves to anchor me and remind myself that it’s not about impressing the audience but instead taking them along for the experience.

It can be scary to let people in, but also very rewarding when they value the connection you have made during the performance. I hope that they will remember the feeling they got more than the individual movements performed.

How does being an introvert affect your connection with your audience?

When I first started performing, I chose to use a stage name to help me get into a separate persona. After a number of years, the belly dancer side and the personal side had merged and I decided to drop my stage name. However, it was very useful to me as a tool at the beginning of my performance explorations.

What I have come to realize is that, as long as I have a role (performer, teacher, representative of my “brand”) I’m perfectly comfortable being extroverted (at least for a few hours–then I have to recharge). As a performer, I have a role, so I don’t find it difficult to connect with the audience. That said, I’m not a gregarious or hilarious performer… that’s just not my personality!

How does being an introvert affect your choices of things like makeup, costuming, props, venues you choose to perform in, etc.?

I enjoy the challenge of performing in all different types of venues. When I’m able to see it not as “me wiggling around” but as “the belly dancer in action” the fear goes away and the challenge is there to be met.

Performing on a stage where you are separate from the audience used to be more comfortable for me. After becoming comfortable with improvisation, I started to really enjoy restaurant-style performances where audience interaction can feed your performance. I think there’s a link there… that would be an interesting topic to explore.

How does being an introvert affect the other aspects of your performance career (i.e. marketing, networking, negotiating)?

Carolena Nericcio, founder of Fat Chance Belly Dance, says “I’m not an extrovert; I’m a business owner.”

When I heard that quote, it really struck a chord, and illuminated things for me. Just going out there and trying to promote myself feels impossible. It is difficult to gear up to go flyering. To cold call venues. To introduce myself to strangers. But thinking of it as representing my business (rather than myself) is very helpful.

I have learned to pace myself when I am at big events like belly dance festivals, for instance. I know to build alone time into my schedule. When I fail to do that, I end up crashing and needing to run away and hide for a while.

I also find that Facebook and other social media work nicely with my introvertedness. I’m able to craft my responses before sharing them, I can interact with people from the comfort of my couch, I can share when I feel like it and log out when I want to.

And when I meet Facebook friends in person, we often already have a shared experience, we know something about each other so it’s much easier to find things to talk about. Yay for text-based connections!

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?)

This is a case in which a label has been very helpful to me.

I am An Introvert.

I would rather stay home and be cozy than go socialize at a bar–or even a friend’s party, sometimes, to be totally honest… Anxiety not infrequently sneaks its way in when trying to motivate to go be a “normal” social person, and for no good reason.

But acknowledging that I am an introvert helps to calm that, and it also helps me to make the right decisions for myself.

It’s OK if I don’t go do everything (as long as I haven’t said I would, of course). It’s OK to give myself the space and the recharging time that I need.

What advantage does being an introvert give you over extroverted performers?

Being an introvert, in my case at least, means that I enjoy spending time alone. So, spending time in the studio with myself and the music is not a burden or a barrier to other pursuits, so much as it is a pleasure in itself.

About Rosa:
Rosa Noreen founded the Grace Academy to help dancers add depth and dimension to their work so they grow in confidence to take their places on stage and in the world. Based in Portland, Maine, where she runs Bright Star World Dance studio, Rosa travels nationwide to teach and perform. Her workshops, DVDs and online intensives have helped dancers around the world to slow down and revel in the moment.

You can find her on the web at: rosanoreen.com

See Rosa in action!

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Announcing the Introverted Performer Project

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I am an introvert, and a performer.

The subject of introversion has always fascinated me – it’s often conflated with shyness, but, while both traits are often found together, they are not the same thing. I was very shy as a child, but I would not describe myself as shy at this point in my life. And yet, I am an introvert.

When I began performing, I struggled with this idea. “Everyone knows” that performers are extroverts – would being an introvert hold me back? Was it an insurmountable obstacle? I love to perform – how was that possible if performing was extroverted in nature? I became determined to see the advantages of being an introvert, to figure out ways to leverage my introverted nature to be an asset to me as a performer.

Along the way I chatted with some of my dancer friends about these ideas, and discovered that several of them, even the most dynamic, compelling onstage presences, self-identified as introverts. And they had fascinating ideas on the subject. Thus the seed was planted…

I’m delighted to announce the Introverted Performer Project, a guest-post series about being both an introvert and a performer. It’s my hope that this series will make us more visible to each other, and provide some inspiration about how to find and use the advantages of being an introvert in a performance career. If nothing else, it should provide some fantastic conversations.

Stay tuned.