*this is from a practice prior to covid-19. Don’t @ me
I’m loooking up into the eyes of one of my dearest friends and I, for the first time I am afraid. I fight the urge to step back, to look away to hide, as my mind reminds me of all my insecurities… loudly. I, for the first time in two years am intimidated. And, I want to talk about it.
Cuttin’ the solo game of one upmanship is hard on most people. Dancers take turns and try to show up, intimidate, and impress. It’s a lineage in blues that has existed in some form or fashion for ages. One that I have struggled with on and off my whole life.
Black kids often play rhythm and dance games and if you think it’s intimidating to have a dance off as an adult, you don’t even know. This is a long standing tradtion that in some ways comes from our African roots that shows up in majority of black dances. iit was this tradition I was born into, and… the tradition of mental illness.
It’s important to mention my anxiety and depression but also that Black culture struggles at times with being understanding towards these mental health struggles in particular. You can read more about Black mental health here. With children’s shaming being particuarly rough before they learn to support those through their sturggles.
So I have a complex history with this style of dance. being too anxious to go in, to show off, and being made fun of stopped me from dancing for 15 years. As an adult I’ve had panic attacks before attempting to show off, and the last cuttin’ comp I was in I left midway through prelims, panicing alone in chicago. it. is. terrifying.
On the other hand being depressed means I can’t access the persona I’ve created for performances. I’m too raw. It was in this raw, anxious state that I faced off with the beautiful, feminine, soft woman who, while practicing looked at me with such, women will no what I mean (i think), I can’t believe you think you are pretty and better stay away from my man eyes. At other times I looked up as this tall, handsome, suave man who loomed over me, reminding me of who small I am with a look of controlled intensity.
I could feel my heart rate going through the roof. I could feel the slight tremble. the kick in of fight or flight and being overwhelmed by it. while, I also noticed more of my insecurities. They flared up and I tried stomp them out. I didn’t feel confident. I felt short, unsure of my style and body and overwhelmingly aware of how good they are as dancers.
I think sometimes people assume that teachers aren’t intimidated by cuttin’. That some of us don’t have the same worries and fears that the others have. We do. So here are some tips for handling intimidation during cutting (and life TBH)
- Sometimes not losing ground is a win- don’t move
- Take breaks by looking away humorously
- Own your stregths
- Stay present
- use moments of listening to regulate body responces
- use flight flight or freeze to your advantage
- convert anxiety into smaller, faster movemtents/complex thought
- convert depression/tiredness into intentional choices
- don’t compare, instead steal their stylying and make it yours
- pretend to be someone else
- find a movement to snap you out of your head when it’s your turn (claps are my favorite)