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Looking Elsewhere – Practicing alone

October 23, 2010 1 comment

This is an entry in the David Elsewhere series where I analyse his training methods and philosophy. The quotes are derived from his myspace post. In this entry, I discuss the following quote.

Practicing Alone I have found that it is more productive to practice alone than with people. This is partly because I feel like I am performing more than practicing when I have eyes looking at me. Practicing with people doesn’t give me the full opportunity to experiment because I become too self-conscious.

This may be the most controversial one on the list. I could list a number of benefits there are to practicing with others. Other people can fire you on and keep you motivated during practice, or at least keep you company. But when you’re around friends, endless distractions keep you from focusing. The stories from yesterday, the drama and beef between friends, plans for tomorrow. Many have iphones and ipads. How much more fun is it to watch the newest battle clips then to practice the basics yourself?  Shooting the wind will take up most of your time.

More importantly,  to be able to practice every day and devote the time it takes to learn a complicated style, it is necessary to learn how to practice alone. You can’t always rely on others to practice with you, or that they’ll be interested in practicing what you want to practice.

But Elsewhere touches on insecurity. Elsewhere states that he feels self-conscious when practicing with others. I know that feeling inside and out. I’ve quit many dance classes in my teens because of this feeling of being judged, of not being on par with the other trainees. It can be very demotivating to see others progress faster than you in a move. I rarely believe that I progress fast enough, and training with others only reinforces this pressure on me. This throws me off my course. I began to forget what I’m training for and only saw failure everywhere.

When I started practicing some moves alone in my room, I started to feel comfortable and realised that I could actually follow through on my objectives. I was surprised by the time and frequency I spent practicing. Not once a week, not for a few minutes; but every day and for hours sometimes. I realised that I could rely on myself and practice what I wanted to practice, at my own pace.

We can’t stay in our cellars forever. I gradually confronted my self-consciousness by first showing my dance to friends, then doing it at clubs. The idea to go to workshops and perform in front of experienced dancers was an even greater obstacle, and it required some gentle nudging by Michi Kasuga (we exchanged thoughts on the subject over many emails).  Validation is important for any dancer, and that can only come through sharing your dance. Without that, we feel like we are kidding ourselves by hiding our dance from critical eyes. Dancing helps overcome our fears, shyness, and inhibitions. It should be your goal to share your dance with others and prove your worth.

But even after you have reached that level, you still benefit from taking time to practice on your own, on your own terms, allowing you to experiment with greater focus. The more you expose yourself with your dance, the more it is necessary to retreat and recollect your thoughts and energies. All you need is a room, some music, a mirror, and time.

For many impatient and insecure beginners, practicing alone may be the only option to build up a small level of confidence and patience. Without that confidence, your mind is constantly clouded by self-doubt and frustration. No one can be more critical of our dance then ourselves, and we always fall short of our initial expectations. These frustrations can really inhibit your progress, and this may force you to quit for no reason. Considering the time it takes to create and master a style, this can throw you off course even if you don’t quit completely.

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Looking Elsewhere- Trusting your own judgment

October 2, 2010 1 comment

This is an entry in the David Elsewhere series where I analyse his training methods and philosophies. The quotes are derived from his myspace post. In this entry, I discuss the following quote.

Trusting my own judgment– This is very much related to “Being Myself”, because being your true self requires some degree of trust in your own judgment. By “trusting my own judgment” I mean having the faith and confidence in my own taste and creativity to determine how I want to dance. Listening to feedback is helpful to me; yet ultimately I try to always trust my own judgment.

The notion of trusting your own judgment runs throughout the entire Elsewhere series, through every principle in fact. Elsewhere’s method goes to extremes that most dancers wouldn’t follow. The need to practice alone. The need to experiment and follow through on your ideas. The need to bypass implicit rules posed by labels. The need to reduce the dance to the elements that appeal to you, even if they are too obscure for the mainstream. None of these are possible if you don’t build up confidence in your judgment.

Trusting yourself seems nearly impossible at the beginning. We make many mistakes, we get frustrated, we know too little, we imitate others, others are better than us, we aren’t even sure what we want or how we want to achieve it. To tell us to trust ourselves feels like a backhanded insult.

You will only believe in this principle once you’ve achieved results through your own efforts. Only once you actually experience that you can trust yourself to achieve results will you start believing this principle. You trust your friends after they’ve proven themselves trustworthy, not because they tell you that they can be trusted. Why should it be different any different in the way you look at yourself?

Two things inhibit most of us in trusting our own judgment. We fear failure, and we have never experienced succeeding through our own efforts. To overcome failure anxiety, you need to put yourself in situations that frighten you, even though you know you will fail (like a circle battle). After experiencing this several times, you will see that these failures won’t kill you and you can learn a lot from them. While a little fear always remains and actually helps you focus, you’ve rid yourself of the tendency to blow up these fears to exaggerated proportions. Then you have the freedom to achieve results on your own. Once you see the fruits of your labor, you will learn to trust your judgment. Many people emphasise the need for positive thinking, but only a few emphasise the necessity to enter such a process.

Trusting yourself is one of those truths that sound simple, but is incredibly difficult to actually apply in real life. It’s a simplified idiom for a long and complex process that requires time, effort, and the ability to change the way you view yourself and your life.

Quotes of truth

Robert Greene, The 33 strategies of war, p. 35
Being self-reliant is critical. To make yourself less dependent on others and so-called experts, you need to expand your reportoire of skills. And you need to feel more confident in your own judgement. Understand: we tend to overestimate other people’s abilities-after all, they’re trying hard to make it look as if they know what they are doing- and we tend to underestimate our own. You must compensate for this by trusting yourself more and others less.

Robert Greene, The 50th law, p. 222-4
Often we have a general feeling of insecurity because we have never really mastered anything in life. Unconciously we feel weak and never quite up to task. Before we begin something, we sense we will fail. The best way to overcome this once and for all is to attack this weakness head-on and build for ourselves a pattern of confidence. And this must be done by first tackling something simple and basic, giving us a taste for the power we can have. […] When you take the time to master a simple process and overcome a basic insecurity, you develop certain skills that can be applied to anything. You see instantly the reward that comes from patience, practice, and discipline. You have the sense that you can tackle almost any problem in the same way. You create for yourself a pattern of confidence that will continue to rise.

Looking Elsewhere: Being yourself

September 29, 2010 Leave a comment

This is an entry in the David Elsewhere series where I analyse his training methods and philosophy. The quotes are derived from his myspace post. In this entry, I discuss the following quote.

Being myself – as corny as this might sound I think that being myself has been one of the most important attitudes that I have maintained. By “being myself” I mean dancing the way I sincerely want to dance, regardless of what others think or what the latest trend is. Being myself, has kept me motivated because I am doing what I truly want to do.

We often neglect what we want because of what we think we think should be. We want to be poppers, we want to be successful, we want to be cool, we want to follow trends, we want to fit in with the other dancers. These aren’t shameful wishes (we all want to be these things), but they distract from what’s most important: satisfying our wish to be creative, exploring what we are capable of, dancing the way that most satisfies us, creating a style from our own preferences.

Dancing the way you want is the only real way to stay motivated during the months and years it takes to learn the dance. There are quicker and easier ways to be cool, achieve some kind of success, to fit into a group, or satisfy your ego. You’ll drop out if that’s all you want, because it takes up too much time and effort. I learned this through my own experiences. That’s one of the reasons I gave up my other creative interests like guitar and writing. I was interested in producing something that would impress other people and show them I have talent, but I didn’t actually enjoy the process of learning the craft.

Dancing is different. I still want to impress everybody else (one of the main drives to improve my technique), but I actually enjoy the hours I spend by myself, experimenting and refining my moves. I practice waving and strobing every day because I love these illusions and want to recreate them. I am more than willing to sacrifice the time and effort. On some stressful days it’s the only real source of satisfaction, and I look forward to the hour or two I have to myself, practicing my latest idea for a move.

No one can tell you what you want to achieve with your dance. People can offer advice and criticism, can give you support, can help you connect with other dancers. But they can’t find out your wants and wishes, your ambitions and goals. You need to rely on yourself for that. We often look to others to help us figure out how we want to dance, but no external source can do that. Trends that come and go can’t do that. In fact, to truly dance like you want, you need to transgress many of the boundaries that others put up in dancing. Some may resent or dismiss you because of this. Accept this, because following other people’s idea of the dance will only reduce your creativity and drive.

I’ve read that we are often frightened by the freedoms that we have. In the face of more options, we often don’t make any choice at all. Our freedom frightens us instead of inspiring us to action. We look to others for guidance, for others to give us a path to follow. Slowly, slowly, we need to break free from this and look to ourselves as a guide.

There’s always someone better than you. Others are more experienced, talented, energetic, and creative than you. But you are unique. You have your own tastes, your own ideas, your own way of thinking, you make associations that other people don’t. The only way to have an edge is to do what few other people do, really looking into oneself for inspiration and direction, truly appreciating what makes you different from other people.

I’m not writing this to sound inspirational. Being true to yourself won’t unlock any hidden “jedi” powers, nor is it a way to avoid practicing. This is practical strategy for you to stand out and make your mark, advancing in the direction you want to take your art. There are so many talented and dedicated dancers. You need to convince others that only you can provide that brand of dancing, and imitating others can’t help you with this.

Spacecapital, Westcoastpopping.com interview.

I believe the one thing the current generation is missing is self. I believe they just have to look into self and try to be more of themselves. They are doing very good when it comes to dancing, they just don’t focus on self. Stop looking outside so much and look inside. That is what is missing today, back in the ‘80s we did all the same movements, we added ourselves to it and I think that is the biggest different. Why is it that so many dancers look so much alike? They look so much alike because people don’t want to take their time and truly learn this dance, so everybody is taking the shortcut routine. This is why the unique dancers today standout more, it’s because they are being themselves.

If you’d like to read all Looking Elsewhere entries, click here. To receive regular updates automatically, click here for RSS feeds.