Archive | July, 2007

Arrogance Vs. Confidence & How This Applies to So You Think You Can Dance & YOU

14 Jul
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Photo Credit: Richard Finkelstein

I’d be pretty confident if I could do this…

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I am thrilled to have been quoted on Blogging So You Think You Can Dance:The Thinking Fans Blog! And I have gotten some feedback there on my recent So You Think You Can Dance post regarding arrogance and humility as it pertains to Danny. Specifically, that lack of humility gives off the impression that you think you are better than everyone else, and that Danny will not be as likable to America i.e. the voters if he is arrogant. I take this to mean that if Danny comes off as overly-confident or “arrogant,” he will be punished by the voting public for displaying this kind of behavior, and that their votes will go to someone else. And sadly, this may be true.

In response to these comments, I’d like to make the distinction between arrogance and confidence. As I’ve written, I don’t find Danny to be arrogant. For example, I don’t think saying that he was surprised to find himself in the bottom 3 was an arrogant statement, I think it was truthful.

Quite honestly, I don’t like arrogance; I am turned off by arrogant people, and am attracted to those who express true humility. However, there is a difference between true humility and playing small. And in our culture, we don’t need anymore role models for or examples of how to minimize our own talents and gifts; I strongly believe that we need more people who are publicly embracing and celebrating their talents and gifts, and sharing them with the world. As Marianne Williamson says: “Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.”

Confidence is very different from arrogance, and confidence is what I believe Danny possesses, and what he is being challenged on and criticized for radiating. But there is nothing wrong with being proud of and confident in your talents and expressing this boldly. And Danny is better than everyone else. At being Danny. Who happens to be a kickass awe-inspiring dancer. And I am better than everyone else at being me. And you are better than everyone else at being you.

The desire to criticize others for their brilliance and radiance, and to tear them down for being confident, is rooted firmly in a lack mentality that there is not enough greatness to go around – he has something that I will never have, and therefore I have to bring him down to my level in order to feel good or even adequate about myself. You know how, when you go to a bar with a group of friends, and there is that beautiful confident woman in the corner surrounded by a gaggle of adoring men fawning over her every move and showering her with drinks and attention, someone has to say: “What a bitch,” and then someone else responds, “I don’t even think she’s all that pretty anyway, what’s the big deal?” Well, what if she really is that pretty? What if you are too, but you’re just spending all your energy criticizing others instead of radiating out your own gorgeousness?

And when you magnify this tendency in our society to tear others down when they are talented, confident, and successful, it gets at one of the reasons why it can be so scary to be successful. As you go for your glory more and more, people want to bring you down more and more. The entire tabloid industry is based on this phenomenon: Oh, you think she’s so pretty and talented just because she made one outstanding movie? Well guess what world, she has CELLULITE, and here’s an unflattering, poorly-lit, extreme close-up photo of her to prove it, and on top of that even (as if having cellulite isn’t a disgusting, repulsive enough offense as it is), she’s not even wearing make-up! Yes world, she dared to leave her house cosmetic-free and sporting sweats on a Sunday morning! And you know what, she’s not even that pretty in person when she’s not all airbrushed and shit. I mean, who does she think she is???

Take Tyra Banks – a gorgeous, successful, talented, hard-working, super-intelligent business woman who inspires women and teens worldwide and creates opportunities for countless people to shine their own lights and rock their own special particular talents, and she gets called out in the tabloids for being “overweight.” First of all, big deal, so what if she is?, and secondly, she’s totally not!

The truth is, there is no lack. Some of us were not blessed with more talents than others, one with more specialness than another. The truth is that we all have our equal share, some just take the risk to shine their gifts boldly in the world whereas others shrink away from theirs. But is it any wonder that more people aren’t claiming their glory when the world makes it so difficult and painful to do so, and rips others down and apart for being brilliant, talented, successful, and confident? Doing that just creates a world of more small, fearful people hiding from their own light. And as Marianne Williamson further says: “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I, for one, am grateful for Danny Tidwell’s talent, hard work, and confidence (without which he may have given up on dance long ago, and then what would I have to write about in this moment?), because I directly benefit from his gifts. Watching him dance brings me joy, inspires me, and LIGHTS ME UP. And we all have the capacity to affect others in this way.

Being successful at doing something you love and are passionate about is already scary enough as it is, without factoring in others’ efforts to criticize you and tear you down. Furthermore, being successful doing something you love and are passionate about requires confidence. So America, let’s do our part to set the stage for a world where is it safe for all of us to embrace our one-of-a-kind gifts and shine like the stars we are all meant to be, by banishing the phrase “Who does he/she think he/she is?” from our conversations, by stopping punishing people for being confident and successful, and for instead, choosing to celebrate each others’ and our own radiance.

And why not start right now?

Copyright © 2007 by Jennifer Garam. All rights reserved.

So…You Think You Can Dance? Why Not SHINE?

13 Jul

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Danny & Anya’s radiance on this week’s So You Think You Can Dance

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I often tell my students that they can find inspiration for writing topics everywhere – in the lyrics of a pop song, on a walk through a park, in a snippet of an overheard conversation (side note: I frequently overhear interesting conversations at Starbucks that could potentially serve as jumping off points for stories and/or characters. I once heard a woman declare (actually quite loudly so I didn’t really even have to eavesdrop) to her friend, about a freshly-ended relationship: “I JUST MISS THE SEX!”, and more recently I caught a conversation that involved smeared fecal matter). So as you can see, inspiration abounds all around. This week, I took my own advice, and found inspiration in…So You Think You Can Dance.

I used to be a Dancing With The Stars snob, and I’d only ever watched So You Think You Can Dance one time last summer, primarily because Natasha Beddingfield was the musical guest and I loved that song “Unwritten.” But this season, my friend KB has shown me the error of my ways in disregarding So You Think You Can Dance in seasons past, and I have come to the realization that I have room for two dance-based reality shows in my life. (As a recent convert, I have already spread this Dance gospel to my Mom, to whom I emailed the below SYTYCD YouTube links, and then, while on the phone, I forced her to press play at the exact same time as I did so that we could simultaneously watch and enjoy my favorite dance numbers together.)

This week, in my attempt to live a more balanced life, I took time out of my workaholic schedule for both the Wednesday performance show and the Thursday results show (OK, I only caught the end of the results show, but that is when all the crucial who-is-cut-who-is-coming-back information is imparted anyway, and besides, I was late tuning in because I was coming from a yoga class, which also contributes to a balanced life, and not because of any work-related reason).

Watching this show, I feel exhilarated, inspired, and invigorated, much like I have felt watching all those somewhat-cheesy dance-themed movies in years past – such as Center Stage in 2000, featuring dancer/actress Amanda Schull, and Ethan Stiefel of the American Ballet Theatre, and culminating in an exuberant, edgy, and ground-breaking dance number to that Jamiroquai song “Canned Heat”- which is to say, like I want to swing by Broadway Dance Center, pick up a schedule, and DANCE like my life depended on it!

Back to reality: this week on So You Think You Can Dance, my favorite number was Anya & Danny’s contemporary routine. I was watching the dance, mesmerized, and then it was over, and I realized I had not bothered to breathe in the past 3 or so minutes, and I felt like the dance itself had punched me in the stomach, and taken my breath away, in the best possible sense. Ohmygoodness, the heat, the passion, the longing and raw desire. Um, WOW. Anya and Danny are both phenomenal dancers in their own right, and as a couple, they have the kind of chemistry that jumps out at you and punches you in the stomach, which is to say, breathtaking.

I was however, disappointed with the critique they received. First of all, Danny was criticized for “disconnecting” from Anya in moments, but hello, this was a timeless love story of coming together and then ripping apart, only to, unable to deny the intense magnetic attraction any longer, come back together again, much like, well, life. Haven’t you ever had any relationships like that? (Only they usually don’t include such elaborate leaps and partner tricks…or maybe they do…)

But even more upsetting was how Danny was lambasted for his arrogance. This was after being referred to by one of the judges as “unquestionably one of the most beautiful male dancers I have ever seen, uh, ever,” and being told by another, “when you leap, nobody leaps as high and with such power and explosive…” So I’m asking you judges, what’s wrong with a little arrogance? I mean personally, he doesn’t come off as arrogant to me, but what if he did? He is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. He is doing seriously freakin’ hard things, like leaping through the air in a single bound, and contorting his (gorgeous) body in the name of art!!! Clearly, he is passionate about dancing and works hard, so what’s wrong with knowing he is talented and exceptional and wonderful and fabulous, and further radiating and celebrating that? He is great, so why not rock his greatness, and SHINE like the light that he is? Sure, he could fake humility, but how annoying and obnoxious is that? He was told: “With the kind of technique you have, you dance like you think you know you already won the competition.” Well, why not imagine a positive outcome? Why is it better to imagine and anticipate the worst, that you will lose, fail, that things will not work out for you, that nothing will go your way? Why is that “humble” stance more revered?

And in conclusion I say, rock on with yo’ talented hot self, Danny! Most of us could use a lot more unabashed appreciation of our own fine, talented, exceptional, wonderful, fabulous selves. We can stop playing so small – JUST STOP IT RIGHT HERE & NOW – and play instead to our big, bold, beautiful juicy talents that we ALL have – regardless of whether or not we can “backbend and then grande off the floor.” So this week, don’t be afraid to boldly, unapologetically, rock YOUR best, biggest, brightest talents, whatever they may be! Perhaps you can even sneak them into play more than once. Why not? GO FOR IT!!! And don’t even try to be humble about it…

For your viewing pleasure, here are some of my other favs from this week’s show. Post a comment and let me know what you think! Should Danny pretend to be humble? Who is your favorite? It can be like a book club, except with dance reality!

  • Lauren & Neil’s jazz routine (choreographed by Wade Robson – ‘member his (short-lived) dance reality show The Wade Robson Project (aired from August 18, 2003 – October 13, 2003) – a great example of a successful guy having a “Failure” Chapter in his Success Story (see: “The Glorious Success of Failure,” May 4, 2007)
  • Sabra & Dominic’s hip hop routine – sooooooooooooo steamy! Hip hot + heart! (“Hip hop just had a nice breakthough tonight,” Adam Shankman, SYTYCD Guest Judge.) By the way, Sabra has only been dancing for 4 years! We can all live the dream!

Have a ROCKIN’ weekend and I will see you at Broadway Dance!!!

xoxo,

Jen

Copyright © 2007 by Jennifer Garam. All rights reserved.

Workaholic Takes An (Email-Free) Vacation

11 Jul

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Still Life With Coffee: A pen, a blank notebook page, an ice coffee…my idea of perfection!

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I am a self-proclaimed workaholic, and I come from a long line of workaholics – my sister is a workaholic, my father is a workaholic, and so are my mother and my stepmother. On an given night, one might find me sitting in front of my computer at 11pm, just coming to the realization that I haven’t eaten dinner yet, and I haven’t watched one reality TV show or Sex & The City rerun all week. I am very passionate about what I do and can get lost in my projects for hours, days, weeks at a time, which can be a very good thing, but can also throw my life out of balance if left unchecked. Every life needs a little Dancing With Stars or Carrie Bradshaw every now and then to maintain balance.

Last week, I did more than take a break from work to watch So You Think You Can Dance (yes, I am partial to the dance-based reality programming). I did something totally radical for me – I took a much-needed vacation! And not only that, I took an email-free vacation. I did not even bring my computer, which turned out to be the right choice as my quaint little inn had free wireless and I do not know if I am strong enough to resist free wireless. And the thing is: I did not even miss my email one bit. I was not even the least bit tempted to “casually” (i.e. frantically) stroll into an Internet cafe or library so that I could get my fix. And sometimes, I even left my cell phone on the bedside table of my quaint little room, and aimlessly strolled around, completely unreachable.

Instead of being enslaved to my email addiction, I spent my days reading and writing, going for walks, lounging on the beach, and essentially, listening to my inner self about what I wanted to do next, and then doing it. And in doing so, I reached a whole nother level of relaxation, rejuvenation, inspiration, freedom, possibility, and hopefulness that I have not experienced in what felt like years, perhaps since before the dot com boom.

When I got back home post-vacation, one of the first things I did was to check my email. And I noticed, instantly, that my energy diminished, and I felt bad. As I logged on, I felt my hopeful, rejuvenated relaxation just drain right out of me and pool up on the floor. I felt the disappointment of a few emails I had been eagerly anticipating not being returned and not waiting for me in my inbox, and I felt the stress of emails that I would have reply to, of obligations, and people needing things from me. I have been grappling with my email addiction for years but it was enlightening to me to actually feel the tangible energy drain that it creates.

Our culture is extremely techie-addicted and I am really coming to believe that this can be to our collective detriment. It is so hard to be present and simply be and allow yourself to soak up all the beauty and joy and friendship and love and peace that can be present in a moment when you are worrying about an email you are expecting, or texting someone else who may or may not meet you later, or intermittently taking phone calls that “have” to be dealt with “right now,” but are really very rarely of an actual urgent nature, it is just that everything seems urgent and requiring of instant attention these days.

I used to have a friend who, every time we went out for dinner or coffee, she would plunk her cell phone down in the middle of the table, and then take every call she got (there were many) and proceed to engage in lengthy conversations while I was faced with the choice of reading the menu again, checking my own voicemail under the pretense that there might be a new message for me to listen to, or staring at my elbow. It definitely sent the message to me loud and clear that I was of secondary importance to any and every one who was calling her. Interestingly enough, we have since drifted apart…

And then there is the etiquette involved. It has become so second-nature and accepted for everyone to be doing a million things all at once – taking a call, checking their BlackBerry, texting an acquaintance – and everyone does it, that it is difficult and uncomfortable to say: “I feel unimportant and ignored when you spend our entire lunch date on your cell phone (or immersed in your BlackBerry).”

On vacation, it was so liberating to be free of all these vices and their choke holds, and I felt noticeably calmer and everything felt measurably crisper, clearer, more intense – leisurely conversations with friends, cups of creamy fudgey fudge-swirl ice cream melting over onto my fingers, scallops drenched in lemon and butter, a fresh lobster roll on a buttered hot dog bun surprisingly crunchy and blackened in bites, pale pink dripping into fiery coral sunsets, the smell-almost-taste of ocean salt water, broken shells on the beach, sand between my toes, long walks with no where in particular to go…an empty notebook page, an intensely good book, a large delicious ice coffee with just a splash of milk…

It is always hard for me to reintegrate back into my regular life after a vacation. Seven years ago, when I got back to my office job from a weeklong vacation at the beach, I tacked up photos from my trip in front of me in my cubicle and for days after my return, I found myself getting lost in thought in the middle of some mundane task like entering repetitive information into a database, staring off at my ocean photos and dreaming of my beach-bound return, of a more relaxing and peaceful existence outside of New York City and its crazy hectic pace. (And that was even before email got so mainstream.)

This time, I wonder if I can bring some of that peace back to me and into my hectic agitated New York City existence. If I don’t have to travel 8 hours to remember who I am and what I want to do moment-to-moment, to remember the simple things that bring me immeasurable joy, like scallops and sunsets, like getting lost in a book without distraction, like walking down the street with eyes so wide they soak up every inch of detail as if I have never seen any of this before, rather than walking from my apartment to the subway without any recollection of actually seeing one building or person or tree on my way there, because I was too busy being wrapped up in my To Do list, or mentally drafting an email response to an urgent request. I wonder if I can have that kind of heightened awareness, that calmness that disconnection from technology brings, that degree of intense aliveness, in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon, in the middle of Brooklyn.

I am certainly going to give it a try…

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Two bookworms on a seaside vacation, happy as clams….

Copyright © 2007 by Jennifer Garam. All rights reserved.