TBT: Performance and Perfectionism
A wise art witch reflects on how perfectionism and the desire to be seen impacts her current practice.
I was always a dreamy child. I think I learned to hide my rich imagination after one too many people looked at me with bewilderment and incomprehension. Artistic expression was always an area of interest and, for a child in the rural town I grew up in, dance was one option for young performers to engage in the arts.
My first experience on stage was in my earliest dance recitals. At ages 6 and 7 I took ballet and some tap classes and performed at the Orange County Fair and the Redlands Bowl. I remember looking out at the lights and audience and trying to remember the choreography.
Being in front of an audience never really made me that nervous. I enjoyed being the center of attention, though even as a child I wanted to be the best at whatever I did and be better than everyone else, gaining the highest accolades and the most gold stars. This burning ambition and desire for external validation is something I have battled throughout life in order to become a more functional practicing artist.
I’m not sure why I stopped dance lessons at such an early age. It was probably a combination of cost to my parents and my own realization that I could no longer compete with the little and graceful bodies of my peers. Even by 8 or 9, I was taller and larger than most everyone else my age. I felt relatively clumsy in comparison, and my desire to be the best would likely have made me lose interest in dance simply for the fun of it.
Besides, a stronger kind of strength was emerging as I worked my way through school — my verbal acuity. As early as second grade I was being praised heavily for my writing and language skills, and this gave me the external validation and feeling of being number one that I naturally craved. My academic success is…