I love learning!
It’s one of the biggest components to make us great people, as well as great dancers.
With continuing education, you’re learning as you are growing and you know the saying, “if you’re not growing, you’re dying.” One way to learn, which I found extremely helpful but some might consider a little out of the box, is watching TED Talks.
I love them; they are so informative. They press your mind to make you think creatively, innovatively, and from a different perspective. I think they are an underrated piece of education that we have in the dance community.
If we think about it, dance is a level of self-expression that we give to ourselves and the community. Dancing requires us to be authentic, to be vulnerable, and to be effective communicators when we move.
I want to share with you three TED Talks that have profoundly changed my dance and personal life. These had a profound impact on me, and you may have already come across them before, but if you haven’t, then I want to make sure I can share these with you.
Brene Brown – The Power of Vulnerability
The first one I want to share is by Brene Brown, called “The Power of Vulnerability.” If you’re searching for it, she’s wearing a brown outfit. You can also watch it here and listen her talk about vulnerability and being courageous.
One of the things we don’t talk about enough in dance is being vulnerable with our audience. We want to be vulnerable with ourselves so that we don’t look like we’re fighting ourselves on stage when we dance. We can dance like we’re authentically channeling the music through our being and then expressing in the way we truly feel.
That’s really hard to do if we have a lot of crap in the way mentally and emotionally.
All of us have crap. I know I do, and I have to continually work on it. To make sure I’m communicating effectively when I’m dancing, I have to develop through my movements. I want to be dancing the way I want my audience to feel. Watching this TED Talk changed my life.
This was one of the first Ted Talks she gave, and it shifted the way I look at dancing. It also shifted the way I want to train when I’m practicing in my studio.
When I’m practicing in my studio, I have to ask myself, “Do I want to train in a way where I give this false pretense to people about how I’m pretending to be happy?“
It challenged that for me and allowed me to open up and be real about how I was dancing.
I asked myself, “How can I get in touch with that part of myself where I can give myself freely, love myself just the way I am, and allow people to see me as a real person and not just this persona?“
The persona I’m talking about is what we might be portraying when we’re dancing, or on social media.
The Power of Vulnerability is just one of her powerful works. I have also read her books, The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly. These are phenomenal. I bawled in the beginning because I was like, “Oh my God, this is me, oh my God, this is so big.“
I just felt connected to these messages because I realized I’m not the only one experiencing these feelings!
Most of the time, we feel like we have to keep it closed down and cannot share them all the time. I love the TED Talk because it gives us a point of access to that emotional world. I think it can be accessible to a lot of people now. I highly recommend Bernie Brown.
Amy Cuddy – Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are
The next TED talk is very interesting and is by Amy Cuddy, and it’s “Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are.” It’s crazy to see how applicable and practical this Ted Talk can be. She talks about body language, and she talks about feeling like you’re a fraud when you’re trying to portray a character on stage. Maybe it’s because we don’t relate to that character or that song that’s playing.
If this is happening to you, she explains that you have to muster up the courage to ask yourself, “How am I going to make it believable, how am I going to make it seem authentic so when I see me or others see me I don’t feel fake?”
This talk and questions like this changed the way I did my pregame before I perform. You may have your own ritual (I know I do), but I have this pregame that I do, which is me preparing myself leading up to my performance, even the moment before I step on stage. Sometimes it’s putting in my headphones before I actually go on stage, so no one bothers me while warming up. Sometimes I run through my piece; sometimes, I don’t. Sometimes I listen to music that puts me in the mood in which I want to perform.
One of the most phenomenal things she talks about is body language and power poses. One of the major takeaways was making myself appear bigger. Standing and drawing yourself up and standing tall during the pregame before a performance, and after two minutes, you get this chemical change in your body. I feel fantastic, and I stretch it out and take up as much space as I can like Wonder Woman in that pose.
Another example is carefully choosing my body language if I’m holding a veil. I don’t close my body, hold my veil around me and wrap myself up in it. I’m in my power pose beforehand, so I’m really preparing myself as much as possible for my performance, even moments before I go on. You can feel the difference in your posture, and it changes the way you present yourself. That, in turn, changes the way it’s communicated to the audience.
I love how full of powerful information this talk is and how applicable it can be to your dance training and your performance and your experience of being a dancer. I highly recommend Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk.
Tom Wujec – Build the Tower, Build a Team
The last TED Talk is Tom Wujec, called “Build the Tower, Build a Team.” I love this one so much because it describes this cycle and process called prototype-refine, prototype-refine. He describes it using the marshmallow challenge in different groups of people who went through it. He covers who ended up on top of the challenge as well as the incentives they had. It really spoke to what leads to success, and so this Ted talk is one that I love.
If you’ve seen my “How to set up to your video when you belly dance,” you’ll get the relationship. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch that video here. It goes over how to videotape ourselves dancing and then how to make our movements better.
When we spend so much time talking about fixing things versus actually doing it and being ok with failing and then just restarting and trying again, we can spend so much time in the theoretical area of our brain thinking about the best way to approach it.
You have to do it, evaluate it, and find out what works and what didn’t work. Then you do it again. Each time you start that process over, you figure out what worked, what didn’t work, and then reiterate what worked and try something beyond what didn’t work. That process is really important for us when we’re training and performing.
Sometimes we get stuck over-analyzing something for 30 minutes before we even start it. I even need to be conscious of that when I’m talking to my classes. Am I teaching my students to sit for 20 minutes and just talk through a class and analyze it or teach them how to do it and analyze it at the same time? I can stop, look at it, and then go through it again, just adjusting what needs to be adjusting.
This Ted Talk puts this process concisely and makes it really understandable. It can make a huge impact on us so we can train more effectively and dance more effectively.
This has definitely helped me with my improvisation. This can be very scary because we haven’t practiced the moves enough. We might not have the confidence to improvise mid-dance. But it’s important to keep doing it. I ask myself what makes this scary. Then I challenge myself to make it less scary next time. I work through that. And then I lean on the strength in the improvisation that I did.
I can’t speak to this Ted Talk enough because it also covers incentivizing yourself to help you in your practice. If we are just starting out, we can scare ourselves to the point of backing out or getting paralyzed. We need to incentivize ourselves to practice or continue to dance in a way that really pushes, supports, and encourages us.
I also encourage you to think of your students if you’re an instructor. How does this play out for your students if they are new and don’t have a certain skill level? Are we putting too much pressure on them that actually works against them? Or are we putting the right amount of pressure on the student and supporting, encouraging or challenging them enough in a way that actually pushes them into the next skill set level. It’s interesting to see this video from a student and instructor perspective.
Thank you for taking the time with me today to think about our process a little bit differently. It’s important to challenge ourselves and expand our dancing past just classes and see how it can translate through other mediums. If you are looking to expand your belly dancing skills or just get started, you can join me in our online classes that have a beginning, intermediate, and advanced curriculum to enjoy. And let me know in the comments below. Are there any Ted Talks that you have ever found helpful in your dance practice?