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The Perspective Effect

The Perspective Effect

 

Why you think you’re boring LONG before the audience does

A few years ago, a photo of a dress was going around the internet, and people couldn’t figure out if it was a blue dress with black stripes or a white dress with gold stripes.*
 

Everybody was looking at the same photo, but nobody could agree what color it was, because each person was seeing it with different eyes.

The same thing happens with our dancing. Your sense of what’s boring is totally different from the audience’s.

This can lead you to second guess yourself, and cram in more “stuff”. But instead of making your dancing more interesting, it just turns into a scribbly mess. And it feels awful.
 
So how can we correct for that?
 

Listen Now:

 

Or Read the Transcript

This was professionally transcribed, but it probably still has some errors. If you catch any, drop me a line at nadira@nadirajamal.com. I’d love to hear from you!

A few years ago, there was this photo of a dress going around the internet, and people couldn’t figure out if it was a blue dress with black stripes or a white dress with gold stripes. Now, everybody was looking at the same photo, but they would break into these huge arguments about what color it was, because each person was seeing it with different eyes.

The same thing happens with our dancing. Your sense of what’s boring is totally different from the audience’s. This can lead you to second guess yourself, to cram in more stuff; but, instead of making your dancing more interesting, it just turns into a scribbly mess, and it feels awful.

Why is that? The thing to remember is that when you’re performing, you’re having a totally different experience from the audience. This happens for two reasons. One is adrenaline. The audience is just sitting there having a nice time; but, because of the adrenaline flooding your system, your perception of time is totally skewed and your emotions are heightened. Another reason is knowledge. You know what you’re going to do before you begin, or as you begin, but the audience doesn’t understand what you’re doing until they’ve seen it a few times. That means that you are a few seconds ahead in your dance.

What can we do about that? Well, gauging the difference between your perspective and the audience’s does get better with practice, but it’s never going to go away completely. Remember that adrenaline coursing through your system. There are some things that can definitely help.

If you feel like you’re boring when you’re doing single moves or short combos, keep in mind the Rule of Four. What this means is that the first time you do something, you know what you’re doing, but it goes completely over the audience’s head. The second time they might start to pick up on it. The third time they recognize it. The fourth time they know exactly what you’re doing and are ready for a surprise or a change, if you want to give them one.

So, a rough rule-of-thumb is that when you get bored, repeat what you’re doing at least one or two more times. If you’re doing longer or more complex combos, then what will make that most effective is to balance the amount of repetition you do with the length and the complexity. Simpler and shorter combos don’t take as many reps, because the audience picks up on them more easily, and so they’re more likely to get bored early on. Longer or more complex combos, well, it’s going to take the audience more time seeing it before they can follow it.

This is something that I covered in episode two of my video podcast Taktaba. This was some of the earliest work that I’ve done. It’s more than 10 years old, but it’s a great resource to check out. If you want to dig in and do some much deeper work, think about using some video feedback. Right after you get off stage, pull out your journal and make some notes. How do you feel about how boring you were? How did you think the audience felt? Were there particular points in your performance that you can remember feeling that way? If you can’t remember, it’s not the end of the world. For a lot of us a performance goes by in a blur.

Just record your basic impressions. Then watch a video of that same performance and compare. Did you seem boring in the same places you felt boring? When you do that, remember that you’re still biased. You know what your intentions were, whereas the audience wouldn’t, and we’re always the harshest judge of our own dancing. So, it may help to wait a little while and give yourself some space. I tend not to watch my performance videos for a few weeks or even a few months.

Why do we need to do this? Why not just go with your own sense of what’s boring? Isn’t more better? The answer is, it’s not. If you cram in too much stuff into your dancing, then the audience can’t follow your train of thought. If they can’t follow that train, they’re going to zone out, and that’s when they get bored. So, doing too much is just as boring as doing too little. Worrying about being boring can make you boring.

Let’s summarize what we’ve talked about. Even though you and the audience are both in the same room, you’re having totally different experiences. Your knowledge of your dance choices, improvised or choreographed, are always going to be a few steps ahead of the audience’s, and the adrenaline coursing through your system is going to give you a totally different sense of time. That means that you’re going to think you’re boring long before the audience does. So, when you go by your own sense, you’re probably going to end up scribbling and cramming in too much stuff.

To get over this, you can use the Rule of Four, understanding that three or four repetitions of something is typically interesting, even though you may feel boring after just one or two. Remember to balance the complexity of your combos, their length, and the number of repetitions. Consider using journaling and video to compare to get a better sense of how your perceptions match or don’t with the audience’s. When you do that, remember that you’re still biased and cut yourself some slack. When you train yourself to gauge your performance through the audience’s eyes, then you can create not just dancing that looks better, but dancing that feels better.

If we think back to that striped dress, people were not enjoying those conversations. They were having active fights. So, instead of fighting with your audience over whether the dress is white or blue, you can just agree that it looks great.

 

Your Turn

Do you worry about being boring when you dance?

Did you try any of these techniques? How did they go for you?

Got a question or topic that you’d like me to talk about on the show?

I would love to hear from you.

Leave a comment below, or better yet, leave me a short voice message. Maybe I’ll even play it on the air!

 

Want More?

The podcast episode I mentioned is Taktaba Episode 2: Long-Term Repetition. It’s the second thing I ever made for the belly dance public, way back when I was just transitioning into the pro world. But I’m still really proud of it. 🙂

And if scribbling is a challenge for you, check out my instructional video The Improvisation Toolkit Volume 2: Structure. You’ll learn how to structure your dance to make sure the audience can follow your train of thought.

Check it Out 
 

*p.s. I thought it was white and gold, but it turned out to be blue and black.
 

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