Wednesday, October 16, 2013

On Competition

I overheard an interesting snippet of conversation today. One dancer was retelling a story where someone said that dance was too competitive and that it was simply unnecessary in a professional company. Her stance was that, dude, this is competitive. If you don't like it, you're in the wrong line of work.

I have thoughts on this.
  • There is simply no way to make professional dance less competitive. There will always be more excellent dancers than there are jobs available. Complaining about it is like complaining about the economy--go ahead if you want, but it's completely pointless.
  • At the same time, my unreasonably-driven-I-should-probably-take-some-Xanax-or-something personality will go into fits if I think about competing with the other dancers in my class. For me, "competition" is a win-lose game where I am always the loser. (I'm working on this, guys. I am therapy's favorite child.)
So what's a girl to do? I take the sentiment and just call it another name. (Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? If the person doing the smelling had odd issues, yes.) Instead of looking at the dancers next to me as competition, I see them as visual examples of what I could accomplish. They are inspiring instead of intimidating.

Clearly, this is better for me emotionally. I also think that I am a better dancer because of this mindset. Everyone learns better when they feel safe and supported. Everyone dances better when they are unafraid. Letting other people show you possibilities turns class into a collaboration. Not only does the teacher have something to give you, so does every other person in the room. Suddenly your 90 minutes are so much richer.

I still push myself in class, but I don't compare myself to others. I still see my weaknesses, but I don't see them as fatal flaws. I still like feeling competent and accomplished, but now I can feel that way without needing to be the best in the room.

I am beginning to understand what Margot Fonteyn meant when she said, "Take your work seriously, but never yourself." One of these days I'll get the hang of it.

1 comment:

  1. I sucked at competitiveness when I was young because I had a difficult upbringing. Now as an adult I realized I was so afraid of failing, I lost the chance to get a foot in the door of a professional career I would have loved. Now having missed that window, I train alone, self critiquining, but I think I would like to go to class just to get some self confidence back and grow some balls