Presence: How Do You See Yourself? (and how would you like to see yourself?)

A friend recounted to me in exhausted detail everything on her (immense) to-do list, along with her frustration and overwhelm at its contemplation. She had recently moved into a new house, and the workload was indeed massive. However she had already transformed it from a wreck into a lovely home. Mostly alone. During Covid. Scrubbing grime-blackened floors on her knees. I mean… if it were me, I’d still be living in squalor. Her accomplishments were astounding! So I listed them. Take the time to celebrate what you’ve done, I said. “Oh,” she replied, surprised. “I didn’t know you could do that.”

Few of us do.

We discount our successes. We only see how we’ve missed the mark, made mistakes, or failed miserably. We focus on our flaws. We speak bitterly to ourselves.

It’s not our fault. We are socialized to do this. The vast majority of folks on this list are women, sensitive men, or somewhere in between; in a patriarchal society, we are seen as inferior, as less than, and made to see ourselves as such. We always need a new cream, or dress, or diet, or whatever garbage to improve ourselves. To be good enough.

We are already good enough!

My dear colleague Walladah Valadah made a meme to showcase this. I feel so honored!!

Sure, we can improve ourselves. All our lives.

Plenty of people who feel they are quite perfect can also improve themselves. We will never be truly perfect–we can’t. We don’t want to be. Perfection is death. Life is about becoming.

And with all that socialized attack upon our self-worth, it can be challenging for us as dancers to enjoy ourselves. To love ourselves. To relax, to savor, to relish. To be genuine, real, playful–Present. Especially in this specific art form, where these are our primary endeavor.

There are twin questions that, for me, come at the top of the list for dancers in our dance.

Is the dancer enjoying themself?
Does the dancer share their joy with their guests?

If we are working too hard, thinking too much, fearful, freeze, worry we are not good enough, etc, etc, then we aren’t enjoying ourselves. If we aren’t enjoying ourselves, we can’t share our joy.

So how do we change this?
What if we develop our Presence?

What is Presence?

According to Amy Cuddy, who wrote a whole book on the topic, Presence is “the state of being attuned to and able to comfortably express our true thoughts, feelings, values, and potential.”

Able to comfortably express our true thoughts, feelings, values, and potential.

How often do you feel able to do that–comfortably? How often are you able to bring that into your dance?

I’ve spent decades unable to do that, in life or in dance. It’s taken a lot of personal work to change that, to be able to comfortably speak my mind, to know my worth, to feel equal to the world. Cuddy maintains that we can self-induce Presence. Which is what I have been studying over the last several months to design CYGS–and what I am bringing, in dance form, to the upcoming FUN Class, Presence.

I’ve written recently about using the mirror and acting as if. We’ve been doing these in CYGS for the last few weeks; all the participants report shifts and breakthroughs. These strategies work.

Today I bring you another simple, yet powerful, strategy, also from Amy Cuddy.

Write about your core values

What is important to you? What do you hold dear? What principles guide your life? They may be big or small. One of mine is to be warm and appreciative with “service” staff–waiters, cashiers, clerks, hotel housekeeps, and so forth.

What are yours? Make a list. Choose one or two that are most central to your identity. Write a tiny essay about it. Just a few paragraphs. Five minutes. What does it mean to you? Why are those values important to you? When in your life have they proved to be important?

This is called self-affirmation, and study after study has confirmed its effectiveness in helping folks saty grounded in challenging situations.

This is just one of the strategies we will use in Presence. We’ll use a different tool each week to help us bring comfort and joy into our dance–and our lives.

As it happens, Presence starts on Tuesday!

Presence: Joyous Connection in Oriental Dance

Our next FUN Class Deep Dive is alll about developing a joyful, confident, connection to ourselves, our dance, and anyone with whom we care to share it. We’ll use pinning, breakouts, and other strategies to increase our capacity for connection, openness, warmth, and joy.
What we’ll do

  • Explore and embody Presence
  • Enrich simple combinations with joyous connection
  • Bring our confident movement quality to a range of musical styles, tempos, and genres
  • Make space for openness, warmth, and love
  • Practice grounded, present, agency

Presence runs Tuesdays at 4pm ET from Oct 4 through Nov 1. Each class is recorded (instructor view only). Each recording is available during the session.

Will you join us? It’s going to be joyfully liberating!

Register here!

With love,

You might also like Walladah’s fascinating article on the use of the Ayoub rhythm in Cretan music!

And here’s some music for your Presence ; )

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