New Introverted Performer Project post from the very insightful Lida!
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.
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!