During the Essence Of Belly Dance workshop one of Mira Betz’s key focus points revolved around our body image, brain chemistry and being on stage. How primitive flight or fight responses can hinder a performance, the interaction between our brain and our body, and how we can use this to our advantage. Her opening remarks to the class reminded me of Aziza’s “if it doesn’t feel like this it doesn’t look like this” mantra. Where Aziza was focused on the muscles and posture of the dancer (because lets face it, it is far easier to slouch than sit up straight, and if it doesn’t feel like you are sitting up straight then you look like you are slouching), Mira was going moving toward the mind body connection of “when you look like this, you will feel like this.”
Mira began each class in a Wonder Woman stance. Three minutes standing with out feet grounded, head held high, chest out, hands on hips. An entire room of dancers, standing still, looking confident, pretending we were Wonder woman for 3 minutes, and that was going to make us FEEL more confident. There were a few giggles, but after the first 30 seconds or so, everyone had assumed the crime fighting stance, and was waiting for the magical transformation to occur. To go from sometimes mother, sometimes secretary, sometimes accountant, sometimes fixer of technology, sometimes daughter, and of course a lot of times dancer, to Wonder Woman.
Where did she get the idea? While she didn’t actually reference Amy Cuddy by name, the research Mira mentioned came (nearly) word for word from a Ted Talk I had watched last year about the power of posing and body language. For those who attended Mira’s class, or those who just need a little boost before heading into the office, here is the video:
Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success.
When I first saw the Cuddy video I immediately thought of it’s impact in life, and of course on the stage. Mira brought up some new insight into our pre performance behavior: that as we sit hunched over our mirrors, applying our makeup and curling our hair, we aren’t engaging in positions of power, instead we are posing for failure. The hour before the show we are flooding our brains with chemicals that won’t help us when the lights are up – so, dancers, let’s take a vow to counteract that mirror time with at least 3 minutes of Wonder Woman pose before we head on stage!