When I watched the video of my first Reggaeton Fusion performance workshop I felt so bad, I wound up crying.
It was not the reaction I expected. And so this post is not the post I thought I would write.
My intention was to share my experience participating in the workshop and then proudly reveal the video of the performance. I thought I'd feel so proud and so excited to share it with people. I thought, "They'll be so impressed to see me dancing like this!"
I thought this would be one of many posts in which I'd celebrate the joys of dance and the thrill of performing.
Instead, I felt ugly, and couldn't seem to stop fixating on my body not looking the way I wanted it to. It hurt that the way I felt actually dancing on stage (vibrant, sexy, joyful) didn't seem to come through in a tangible way through the way I looked. I was convinced all of the women dancing around me looked beautiful and capable of making hot, sexy facial expressions, and I just looked like a dork trying to be sexy. (See "fierce" duck face below.)
I felt ashamed for feeling any of this. For being so insecure and superficial and egotistical and hypocritical that a part of me wanted to put a video out there to be praised and to look "hot". Even though I believe that dance is for everyone, that it is our birthright, and that no one should ever feel ashamed about embodying dance in their own unique way.
My reaction was so at odds with my experience during and after the performance workshop, which has been one so positive, so challenging and so joyful:
I loved being challenged by a tough teacher who fused different styles of dance and music with a theatrical performance. She treated us like real dancers - always pushing us to be better - and it was FUN.
I also learned how to take her direction and not take it personally. My teacher is super fiery and intense and for the longest time I created so much internal emotional drama around our interactions. I learned how to let it go and accept the information she was giving me, and I felt like a better dancer because of it.
I met THE MOST AMAZING WOMEN. I feel so blessed to have connected with the women in this workshop, who are all smart, talented, funny, kind and interesting women. I've developed some wonderful friendships that make me SO happy every day. (I love you, Freakitonas!!)
I loved performing! I loved the feeling of terror backstage before our first performance when my mind went black and try as I might I could not form a single complete thought. I had to just breathe. I loved walking out on the stage and knowing exactly what to do, letting my body take over. I loved sending my energy out to the audience, looking into their eyes, hearing them cheer and clap, and feeling our energies feeding off each other.
That's what I felt. THAT was real.
And that's why I'm posting the video. Because regardless of how I think I look or how you think I look, I know how I felt. I know what I learned. And I know that I can't let these old painful patterns of not feeling good enough or pretty enough to BE MYSELF to continue to hold power over me for the rest of my life.
My ex-husband said something while we were talking through this that really stuck with me, so I'm gonna steal it:
Beauty is a performance art.
Beauty is not a flat image. It's a feeling that we experience with ALL of our senses. It's pleasing to the eyes, yes, but there's an energy to it too. There's a beauty to strength, perseverance, vulnerability, courage, sensuality, compassion and joy.
So I will practice being a "beautiful" dancer by that definition. And that's something I AM proud to share with you.
Tell me in the comments - do you have the same reaction when you see videos of you dancing? How do you deal with it?
* Photo credit and thank you to Tika Morgan, teacher and choreographer, "Frenemies" 2013.
* An earlier version of this post originally appeared on Follow-My-Lead.com on Feb. 9, 2014.