Got to be Real: Self-Reflection and Making the Moment Important
Do you remember watching a dance performance that you truly enjoyed? Do you remember what made it so memorable? Do you ever catch yourself taking mental notes for “things to try” when watching a great performance? If you really think about it, you will realize that a wonderful performance depends on a variety of different things. But more importantly, when all those things are in perfect harmony, from the costume to the technique, from the music to the musicality, from the style to the expression - all of these need to come together. It took many years for me to realize how to create this perfect combination of elements. I learned through continuous trial and error, constantly asking for feedback and a lot of experience that I was able to craft a formula for each of my performances.

I understand that a lot of us are hustling to book more shows or to make more appearances than our competitors, but do we spend enough time trying to improve ourselves? Do we spend enough time focusing on learning more, getting out of our comfort zone (i.e. trying to dance with a new prop), changing up our usual 30-min set, or investing in a new costume? Do we ever consider why someone else is booked more often than we are? Perhaps they have something to offer that we are not? Self-reflection is a very difficult thing when you’re a dancer in the “industry.” It’s a very good exercise to assist us in evaluating our performances, and more importantly helping us grow as performers. 

Performing and dancing are two very different things. For example, the restaurant or club belly dance performances are entirely different from a theatrical show. We often dance in very close proximity to our viewers, which can be overwhelming, but it can also be very powerful. Personally, I am living my best life when I see a room full of cameras/phones with cheering audiences, that doesn’t scare me at all. It’s the quiet audiences that always make me feel self-conscious. I am sure many of us can relate to being on “stage” mid-performance and thinking, “did I choose a boring opening? I am balancing a sword on my head - is nobody impressed? The applause is so quiet when I finish a number...what’s wrong with me?” And that is the worst thing we can do! I am lucky to always have my mom with me at all my performances, so I know at least someone is enjoying my performance.

In all honesty, being present in the moment is extremely important. I remember I once took a workshop with Aziza (of Canada). She said one thing that I will never forget: “If you don’t think it’s magical, then your audience won’t think it’s magical.” And that really stuck with me. I find that whenever I have an audience that isn’t giving me the energy I need to give a stellar performance, I remind myself that I am dancing for myself (a cliché but a totally remarkable quote from the film Center Stage). Once you realize why you are dancing and remind yourself that you are dancing because you feel magical, it will start to show in your expression, in your execution, and that will be translated to your audience. They will have no other choice but to watch and feel the magic (if you’re a scientist like me, you may also attribute this to the phenomenon of mirror neurons...hehe). Be present in every moment of your performance, because you never know who is watching and who you will inspire.

Olga "Shamiram" Kramarova is a passionate performer, instructor, and choreographer whose knowledge of various cultural music and dance include Arabic/Belly Dance, Persian Dance, Armenian Dance, Dabke, Indian Dance, Russian Folk Dance, Brazilian Samba, Spanish Flamenco, Ballroom and Latin Dance. She is currently director, soloist, and choreographer of Negma International Dance Company and principal dancer in Roberto Amaral’s Spanish Dance Company. When she is not dancing, Olga works as a professor of Statistics, Research Methods, and Cognitive Psychology at California State University, Northridge, as well as UX Researcher for YouTube. She has performed and continues to perform in several local venues throughout California, as well as around the world.