This was my 3rd speech, focusing on 'getting to the point', with a broad purpose and a more specific one, titled 'Dancing through life'.
I used to dance for money. Shocking!
Toastmasters and honored guests, it’s not what you think.
My mom put me in Chinese folkoric dance classes when I was 5. From that young age, I performed every year at the annual dance show, the televised Spring Festival show, the Chinatown festival show....anything related to Chinese community in Mauritius. Then, in my teenage years, I started performing at hotels on a weekly basis for pocket money. Mauritius being a multicultural country, hotels aim to showcase the diversity every night with a different cultural show. The Chinese show was on every Friday or Saturday night and I did that for about 5 years. What have 5 years of dancing for money taught me? Well, believe it or not, it has taught me a few ways on how to cope with real life situations. Let me give you 3 examples.
Performing the same routine every week does not mean you have a flawless performance each time. In fact, you rely so much on muscle memory and habit, that you allow your mind to drift away during the dance. Countless times, I have missed a step or let go of my prop which resulted in me seemingly doing my own thing on stage. Here comes lesson #1: if you do not know where you are going or you have forgotten the next step, move in the general direction everybody is going. Even if you are not doing the same pirouette as others, the audience might not notice a mistake if you are moving with the pack. In life as in a performance, we need to know where to go, or anticipate the next move. Sometimes you feel out of sync with other people or sometimes you feel like you are behind as compared to others. The important thing to remember, is that it is okay to lag behind, as long as you catch up with others, preferably before the end of the dance. It is that much easier to fall back into the dance if you are already moving in the right direction.
What happens if you cannot mask your blunder and you are mortified with embarrassment? Lesson number 2 is to smile and keep moving. Nobody will notice your mistake if they are too busy looking at your smile. A professional dancer smiles even if she misses a step, it is the dancer’s ultimate poker face. When a dancer makes a mistake, she has to fight her own panic-stricken thoughts, quickly think of the next move, and force her body to move faster to catch up while smiling brilliantly. Sometimes in life, we are caught off-guard and we let our emotions show in that moment of complete panic. I have learned to put a smile on even when I’m feeling lost and I’m put on the spot. I’m not saying that you have to cover up every emotion with a smile, but it does help to be able to ride over some difficult news with a smile while your brain is still processing them.
Which brings us to the 3rd thing I’ve learned. So what if you were not where you were supposed to be and you end up doing a solo piece involuntarily? Or you have a wardrobe malfunction that embarrasses you so much you think it is the end of the world? Well, it’s not. I once ripped my pants while doing a split during a performance. Crack! just when the music paused! My fellow dancers heard it and were fighting a fit of laughter. I was livid and I thought of rushing off the stage in shame. But true to my training and experience, I kept smiling and finished the dance while trying not to lift my leg too high. It would have been easy for me to hash things over and over and to be afraid of ever donning that costume again. But the following week, the audience had changed, my fellow dancers forgot about it and nobody who cared for me cared that I made a fool of myself. The lesson: the dance will end, the audience will change and you will get another chance to prove yourself as a dancer.
You know the saying ‘dance like no one is watching’? Well that is complete absurdity! Dance like you know SOMEONE is watching. Because in the performance called Life, someone IS always watching. Do not worry though, you now have 3 coping mechanisms to help you: 1, if you do not know where to go, move with the flow until you figure out the next step. 2, smile while dancing it makes all the difference especially if you make a mistake and 3, even if something goes wrong, tomorrow is another day, another audience. If none of this works for you, just remember that no performance is ever complete without a beautiful reverence at the end. That is your opportunity to dazzle and leave a lasting impression with your audience.
*make a little reverence*