Friday, September 27, 2013

The Power In Believing - Week 39

Hello Singapore!  Welcome to the fourth quarter of the One Big Wedo Blog!  Here we are at week 39 already!  Only 13 posts left.  I can hardly believe that the year is coming to an end.  It will be 2014 before we know it.  I have plenty of good material for all the remaining posts and hope I can fit it all in by the end.  So without further delay, let's get started.

This week's blog is called "The Power In Believing".  In addition to the topic of belief, I hope to touch on several others including motivation, criticism, the qualities of a professional and more!  A whole lot of personal thoughts for you to contemplate.

I Believe

Recently, I had someone ask me if I actually believed that the ideas I've presented here in my blog could really happen.  There are the movie ideas, show ideas and all the ones presented in my post on week 35 called "Ideas For Folklorico".  If you have been consistently reading over the past 38 weeks, then you're familiar with all of them.  I'm full of ideas!  My reply back to them was, "Yes, I believe anything is possible!  It could happen!"

As I have said in the past, folklorico is harder than it appears.  That's my opinion anyways.  Dancers do an excellent job making it look so easy.  When I first started, Richard was constantly correcting me and challenging me.  Whenever I would say, "I can't" or "I've tried that already and it doesn't work" or any other variation of the excuse, he was always quick to tell me not to say that and to try again.  He would say, "If you tell yourself "you can't", you never will.  Rather say, you're not there yet.  Bring what you can.  You have to push yourself."  

I have often observed how many dancers have limited themselves by not pushing their own limits and/or trying new things, myself included.  It may be uncomfortable at the moment, but it will ultimately lend to a better performance and personal growth.  Everyone loves their comfort zone.  But change and development often takes you out of that zone.  The Bottom line is if you say you can't, you won't!  But if you change your attitude, you open the door for possibility.

In the beginning, I would often get frustrated and discouraged.  Truth is, I still do at times.  When things would get overwhelming and seem hopeless, I would be ready to quit.  Actually, I think I did quit at least a dozen times in the first few weeks.  At times, I would ask myself, "What are you doing Mike?"  Although I drove him crazy, Richard was always there to tell me, "Don't give up.  Don't get discouraged.  Stick with it.  You'll get there.  You just need to give it time and practice.  Just be patient."

People often limit themselves by what they believe.  I have often heard the phrase, "What you believe about yourself, you will become."  In other words, "If you don't believe it can happen, that you can do it, or you can be it, chances are it or you won't"  This causes me to ask myself the question, "How many times have I missed out on an opportunity because I failed to believe?  Have I held myself back?"  I need to believe more in myself and that I can do it so I don't miss out on opportunities and can be the best that I can be.

There is another famous quote that you have probably heard before, "All things are possible to him [or her] that believes."  Are you familiar with that one?  There are power in words and when we say we "can't", we give our words power over us and become defeated.  

Oftentimes, when we say "can't", we really mean "I don't want to"!  Change is often uncomfortable, especially when it addresses our habits and behaviors.   It's funny how we pad our words, rationalize, compromise and justify ourselves in our minds to the point of convincing ourselves we are incapable. In my case, I have had to work extra hard on "the white gene".  You've heard me speak of this in the past.  Truth is, it has been uncomfortable at times to overcome and push past those areas of challenge in my life to become a better dancer.  There are plenty of areas for improvement that remain.  There's work to be done.

Richard's words of encouragement and correction have been instrumental in changing my focus from "can't" to "it's possible".  I can do things now that I never thought I would be able to do.  There were dances and steps I thought were hopeless and impossible for me to learn and execute in the beginning.  Over the course of time, I learned them!  It feels good to do something you once thought impossible.  It encourages you to keep striving to be better.  I'm still working on certain steps and dances in hopes of conquering them.  It is an ongoing process.

This whole concept of belief can be applied to our own personal lives as well. Here is something to ponder:  What you belief about yourself, whether it be right or wrong, truth or deception, will ultimately rule your life and determine the course of your behavior.  Now think about that!  It's kind of heavy, so I'm moving on.  But take some time to think about it.


One thing I have learned in this dancing journey is that you need to be able to take criticism.  You got to be tough!  Everyone has their opinion of you out there and chances are they will express it at some point.  Oftentimes, directors and instructors critique you with the intent of helping you become better. Then there are those who are simply vindictive and vicious.  Sadly, many of the comments and criticisms from other dancers are often of this nature.  Dancers can be ruthless and heavily critical of one another, especially between different dance groups.  This is something that I have observed first hand on several occasions.  Can't we all just get along?  

I always know what people think of me simply by their words, whether spoken directly to me or behind my back!  I have found that many dancers are quick to judge.  There always seems to be unnecessary tension when dance groups are around each other.  Because of this, I  try to be extra nice!  Even my kindness has been judged and mocked.  As far as people's criticisms are concerned, I have heard everything from "he's got potential" to others that were well disguised as compliments, but had an underlying negative implication.  I can appreciate someone being direct and honest with me, but a lot of what people say is really unnecessary or an unsolicited evaluation/opinion.  Moving on.

Give It A Try!
I am a Facebook enthusiast!  Ok fine, addict!  I subscribe to all kinds of "quotes of the day" and "positive affirmation" pages.  I often share them on my timeline.  Recently, I have seen many about "trying", "attempting", and "effort".  In fact, here are a couple for your consideration:

It never ceases to amaze me how many people won't even try things.  Even in the dancing world, people often won't take risks.  This can limit and cripple the potential in a person.  My approach is, "Why not!  I'll give it a shot!  I have nothing to lose!"  I often hear excuses like, "I tried that in the past" or "It doesn't work for me" or "I'm not comfortable with that" or "I don't like that" and so on. Sounds like variations of "I can't" to me.  I was taught at an early age, "don't let your past and failures be your excuse for your future."

When I was applying for colleges, one school I considered was Juilliard in New York City.  I recall that part of their application process included auditioning and interviews.  One specific area they evaluated was "willingness to take risks". I didn't go to Juilliard, but I did study music elsewhere. Part of my training included improvisational skill building which required you to make an effort and take risks.  It was awkward at times, but it helped me grow.
Another quote I use to hear often was, "It is better to try and fail than fail to try."  I encourage everyone to "try" folklorico dancing.  "Give it a try!"  I encourage dancers to try new things out for their benefit and growth.  If you fail, try again and take a new approach.  Never give up!  To fail to try, or try repeatedly, is to accept failure and defeat!  Why not try, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose.
Now let's take this whole "trying" concept a little further!  Let's move to the realm of "doing"!  I guess I must be full of quotes this week cause here's another one for you!  "Never mistake activity for accomplishment."  That's a sobering comment, isn't it?  It really made me stop and evaluate what I have actually accomplished during my folklorico journey. There has been a lot of activity, including practices and performances, but what have I truly accomplished?  What have I gained?  What's the criteria for actually "accomplishing" something? These are some of the questions I asked myself.  So what's my conclusion?  Michael, you've come a long way, you have a lot further to go.  Keep going!

Just Do It & Do It Well!

At some point in life you want to crossover from the realm of trying to actually doing.  Although trying is good and shows you have intent, doing actually shows that you've gone beyond trying and followed through.  Doing shows the level of commitment and dedication you have.  I have seen it where dancers get annoyed with other dancers, who have paid the price and worked relentlessly to build their skills and technique.  I think there is a bit of envy in their reaction.  Rather than appreciate the skill, they seek to bring the individual down.  I wish people would be more supportive, especially when they share a common interest and are involved in the same art, perhaps even the same group.

For me, I want to be the person that I claim to be.  Whatever that is!  I was always told that "words are cheap" and "actions speak louder than words".  Oh no, more quotes!  Anyone can do words, few follow through to action.  I'm getting to the point in my journey where I want to do things well consistently.  I want good performances on a consistent basis.  The best performances I've had come from aggressive practicing and focus.  Even if the performance is at short notice.  Preparation has been key.

It's ironic that when someone calls for a show, they often request dances that we're currently not working on. Whatever we are focusing on at the moment, usually is fine tuned and looking good.  So their request results either in brushing up on some of the classic dances previously learned or learning new dances altogether.  From my experience, I feel that I do better learning completely new dances at the last minute rather than "dusting off" a dance I already know.  I wonder why that is!  You would think that I would be better with the dances I already know.  Hmmmmm.  What's that about?  

I suppose I could mark it up to being a beginner, lacking experience.  Perhaps, my short term memory is better than my long term.  I have seen other dancers struggle with this as well.  This common behavior drives directors nuts because it's nearly impossible to always practice the same dances and still move forward and learn new material.  I think it's human nature to forget if your focus isn't on something regularly.  I might be wrong.  Sounds like I'm starting to make excuses again.  There is a big difference between being an amateur and being a professional.  Perhaps that's the reason.  Let's explore what makes a person a professional at something.

What Makes Someone A Professional?

Over the past couple years, I have had the privilege of sharing the stage with many talented, skilled, trained dancers.  Many that I would consider to be professionals.  It has been a challenging experience to hold my own on stage during a performance, dancing next to these people.  Ultimately, I think it has caused me to advance and progress a little quicker than some.  I like that benefit.

So what makes someone a professional in your opinion?  I asked people this question and got a whole slew of responses.  Here is a few of the responses I got, check and see if you agree.  

1.)  A professional is someone who is financially compensated for what they do.  If they do something to the degree where they are paid for doing it, then they must be professional at it.

2.)  A professional is someone who has so much experience in a given field of study that they stand above the rest.

3.)  A professional is someone who is skilled and learned in a particular area that execute their craft with excellence.

4.)  A professional is someone who holds a position or place in a specific field.  They have earned status and respect and therefore hold a place above others and serve as models.

5.)  A professional is someone who does something as their primary main occupation rather than just a past time hobby.

6.)  A professional is someone who commits so deeply to something that it becomes their passion.  Their intense pursuit shows that they have a deeper desire for it, rather than those who treat it as common.

The list goes on and on.  I tend to agree in part with all the definitions.  My definition of a professional would be a person that stands above what is common.  They have achieved a level of excellence through experience, training and skill building, natural talent, or a combination of these.  They learn quickly, adapt and retain information.  They execute excellence under pressure.  They deliver.  They engage on a level that exceeds what most commonly do.  They treat what they do more seriously than just as a hobby or fun activity.

I am always amazed at these folks who can come to a practice and the teacher shows them the dance in a few minutes and they can turn around and execute it flawlessly right after it is shown to them. Obviously they are highly skilled, talented individuals.  They are ready for the stage after one short practice.  They perform the dance for one show and they are off to their next dance group adventure. If you see them years later, they will still remember the dance they learned and can execute it flawlessly.  These people are professionals.  You may think this is extreme, but these people exist. Hats off to them.  

One more thing to mention before moving forward, the "it" factor.  Some people possess that rare showmanship quality that is referred to as the "it" factor.    They take it up a notch.  They are those individuals that steal the show and grab everyone's attention.  You'll know it, when you see it. So look for it!

What's Your Motive?

Recently, I found myself asking the question, "Why?"  Why do I dance folklorico and what's my motivation to do it?  It was at an outdoor show, in the direct sunlight, hot as you can imagine.  We were dancing for a small crowd and the sweat was running down my forehead and into my eyes.  My eyes were burning!  I was miserable.  So why do this?  

I have several reasons why I dance folklorico.  Initially I was curious and wanted to try it out.  It gave me something to do and occupied time.  I had lots of time on my hands!  I enjoy doing it.  It's fun.  I also have this hoarder characteristic about me.  I think I enjoy collecting costumes and adding to my list  of performances and venues.  But, I have always said my main reason and motivation to dance is Richard.  I wanted to spend time with him, get involved in his world and make him proud.  I guess I needed to prove to myself and to him that I could do it.  It's no secret that he doesn't like that I use him as my reason for dancing.  Regardless, it's the truth.  He always says, "Dance because you want to dance and because you enjoy it, don't dance for me."  Why not both!


For the most part, folklorico dancing is a labor of love and a carrying on of tradition and culture.  However, some financial compensation can be gained for those who aggressively pursue and dedicate themselves to performing.  If someone is interested in folklorico simply for the financial benefit however, I would have to advise them not to pursue it as I feel it requires a greater financial investment than return.  Personal gratification and enjoyment is a much better motive.   

There are performances and regular gigs that pay.  Typically not that much however.  Not as much as you might think for being "entertainment."  Instructors earn some money from lessons and workshops.  Folklorico dancing is more of a passion that's done in addition to a regular full time job and/or career.  Certainly there are a handful of teachers and dancers in touring groups that rely solely on their dancing for income.  But in the world of folklorico, I would have to say that is not the norm.  If you can make a living solely from folklorico dancing, you are doing very well for yourself.  

The Cost

What are some of the expenses for a dancer?  Well first there is the cost of lessons and studio rental fees.  These are usually included in the monthly membership dues to belong to an academy or company.  Then there is all the expense of the costumes, which in folklorico, there are many.  Not only do you pay for the costumes, but the upkeep of them as well - tailoring, dry cleaning, replacing damaged lace, zippers, buttons and fabric.  Part of the costume includes all the props and accessories like fans, jewelry, ties, hats, hairpieces, make up and so on.  The list is extensive!  Folklorico shoes and boots need replacement and repair as they wear out.  Shoe polish and paint is another expense. There is the cost of gas to travel to and from performances and practices.  At the end of the day, it all adds up!  

Another investment dancers make is time.  The time away from family and friends is a cost few consider.  Many of the professional performers I know sacrifice family events and weekend fun festivities for shows and events.  You miss out on a lot of personal events and activities with friends. Performers who work regularly on the weekends in venues, like restaurants, that have a set show schedule, pay a huge price.  Although they are compensated financially, they completely sacrifice their weekends almost entirely.  Certainly, it's understandable why many get burned out over a long period of time.

Granted there are those groups out there for recreation purposes only.  And taking lessons for simple enjoyment and exercise is common and becoming more and more popular.  Just remember if your joining a performing group however, you'll be performing - so be prepared for what comes with it!  It's important to grasp a full understanding of the commitment required before getting involved.  

Closing Thought

In closing, I think it's funny how things work out in life.  Seems like people often end up doing things that they didn't initially set out to do.  When I was at Wheaton studying opera, a guest came to speak. He was a professional opera singer.  When asked how he got there in life, he shared how he never intended being an opera singer.  He never studied music.  He had no professional training.  Rather, he set out in life to be a professional football player.  He was on course to be a football player when his friend asked him to sing at his wedding.  He agreed and at the wedding one of the attendees was a person in the opera field.  After hearing him sing, they offered him a career in opera.  He took it and now he does it for a living. 

 I may not be a professional or anything close, but I never thought I'd be dancing!  I wanted to be an opera singer.  Folklorico has made up for my failed attempt to be an opera star.  Probably someone out there is singing opera that wanted to dance folklorico instead!  I hope they are enjoying themselves!  

That's all for this week. Check back next week for the Fair show blog!  Wedo out!

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Note: Looking for your own adventure or journey? Herencia is a great place to find one!  Folklorico lessons and performances are both available. Herencia Mexicana performs for private & public events of all kinds. Book your event today! Herencia Mexicana welcomes new students. No previous folklorico or dance experience required.  All are welcome.


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