Getting Past Fear
I’ve been wanting to write about fear because it’s something that affects dancers all the time, but honestly, I’ve been too afraid. I wanted to have something wise to say. I wanted to master my fear before writing about it so that I could say THIS is how you do it, guys. I wanted to have it all figured out.
I was afraid recently because I had an audition for a play. I didn’t even know I was afraid until I looked through the house and found myself in my bed, on my phone, starting to write a blog about fear.
It was then that I recognized all the tell tale signs—the self sabotage, the self doubt, the self criticism, the avoidance. (See what I did there, avoid-dance?)
I know enough about fear to know telling myself not to be afraid is useless. I tell people to come to my ballet class all the time. I can see fear in their eyes, they’re afraid to look like an idiot. “It’ll be fun”, I tell them. I try focusing on the joy of dancing instead of the obvious fear. They don’t realize I’m afraid too. I know once we bridge the initial awkwardness, we’ll have a great time, but first we have to get past the fear.
I had to gently guide myself the other day, focusing on doing each next thing to prepare, keeping myself from daydreaming or getting distracted. Those were just fears’ ploys. As I worked on my roles, fear was at me non-stop, weaving fabulous fables of my faults. I redirected her with a firm “that’s not helpful”, made a cup of tea, and picked up my highlighter. I accepted the limited time I had, and put my energy into developing each character.
As I put on the outfit I chose, I let go of my plan of perfection, especially when I realized the humidity made my hair frizzy and I had no mascara. I cut my losses and let it go. I kept focusing on what I needed and what was most important.
It was time to go. I hoped not to be afraid as I left my house. Getting out often helps — once I leave my dwelling I no longer dwell. I looked at the sky and the changing November trees and smelled the damp leaves but fear came along too, laughing at me on the train.
As I arrived at the audition, it was raging loud in my ears, crashing like surf, so that my hearing seemed muted and I greeted my friends awkwardly. I was mortified we had to audition in front of others instead of privately. The room seemed unbearably hot. I began to judge myself again. Fear was winning.
My turn came – the moment of truth. I let go of myself and went into my characters. I allowed everything I’d prepared to come through. At that point I was too busy doing my work to notice the fear that still made my hands shake. When I made everyone in the room laugh, I had them. When I made them all blush, I was sure. Everyone looked at me, but they didn’t see fear at all. It had slunk off into a corner, waiting for the next time. Good try, fear.
Please see the Classes page for my current teaching schedule. I’d love to see you at the barre!