Definitions of Success

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I’ve been thinking about the idea of ‘success’ lately in relation to dance. What it means to be successful, to find greatness and what that means for different people. This past weekend I went to Rock that Swing Festival in Munich and competing brought to light someĀ familiarĀ feelings and insights around competing that I thought I’d share. These are definitely coloured by my experience as a figure skater, solo dancer, jack and jill participant, partnered swing dancer, opera singer and burlesque performer. They are by no means groundbreaking, but might be helpful to someone else especially as people start preparing for London Swing Festival in May.

1. Define success before the competition. Why are you doing it? For the love of performing? For the thrill? To challenge your personal dancing? To place? Decide what success is before and then whatever the outcome take a moment to celebrate afterwards. You’ve worked hard.
2. Be kind to yourself. Unless it’s a showcase of some kind, you don’t get to pick the music, sometimes you don’t pick your partner or even the texture of the floor. The moment you walk on the dancefloor you’re winning – so don’t let other s#$% affect your state. Go back to what you defined as success. Sometimes it’s winning, sometimes it’s just sharing what you love with other people. If things go wrong, let them go. It’s just dancing! (I personally struggle with this, but you really do have to do it.)
3. Only wear things you’ve danced in before. This is something that I see far more in burlesque then lindy hop, but it still applies. Practice or social dance in the things you want to compete in. You’d marvel at how many things go flying or rip or tear when you haven’t tested them out. Wear that necklace or dress and make sure it’s not going to be more memorable then your performance.
4. Consistency is key. Practice your routine. Film yourself, watch the video and look for things to celebrate AND things to improve. Let yourself get comfortable with particular movements, tempos etc. It’s the easiest way to alleviate stress.
5. Look up. Maybe smile. Whether it’s burlesque, swing dance, cabaret – whatever – it’s about connection. Look up and connect with the people in the audience. Invite them in, make them a part of your success. They want you to do well and are on your side, let them give you energy. You’re in this together! That’s part of what makes dancing, performing and competing fun. If you lose this part it lacks the joy and life it deserves – that you deserve.

Vision and thanks

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I often observe that many of my friends are destined for greatness. The definition of that greatness is unique to that person. For some, it’s raising a beautiful family. For others, it’s reimagining beloved theatrical works, slaying public relation demons, or juggling machetes for international audiences. These individuals are a constant source of inspiration. The strength, tenacity and focus they bring to each of their pursuits is incredibly beguiling.

I write tonight to congratulate some incredible people and to thank some others for their kindness. One of my friend’sĀ dreamed up a large scale burlesque show in Toronto as a fundraiser and appetizer for the Toronto International Burlesque Festival. Along with her devoted team and partners, she executed a show that sounds like from all accounts a pretty remarkable affair. Although I am far away, I could certainly feel the triumph from across the pond! So a brief, but heartfelt bravi tutti for their mastery, artistry and dedication this week. I know they gave Toronto a show to remember!

I’d also like to talk about those that have taken care of me in the last few weeks. I’m excited about the next phase of my adventure in San Francisco, but I am certainly scared. I will be back in London in anywhere from six weeks to three months. I have asked for help and several people have stepped up to the plate and for that I am eternally grateful. Everything is up in the air so let’s focus on the things I know for certain: 1. I have the best friends in the world…worldwide. 2. I am ready for what comes next. 3. I have the right shade of lipstick for the occasion.

And now for my song of the moment and a beautifully danced backdrop. I’m pretty sure this was filmed in Toronto judging by the TTC train.