Confident Little Me Versus Unconfident Big Me

before tap routine in Phx

While visiting my mom recently, I was searching through photo albums and came across this picture of myself. It was right before my dance school’s recital at Phoenix Symphony Hall. I was six years old. We performed a tap routine to “You’re a Grand Ole Flag”. Kristin Sloan had invited Winger readers to send in a piece about their first performance, which is what had prompted me to search through old photo albums. My mom even remembered part of my childhood tap and ballet performances being on home video. So we watched them. Unfortunately, I couldn’t write about this first experience because I have no actual recollection of it. But, interestingly, on the video I looked soooo much more at ease, so much happier, more confident, more like I was just having a load of fun bouncing around on that stage smiling widely. And, in this pic, I look so excited to go out there on stage in front hundreds, without a care in the world. Such an enormous difference from my experiences performing as an adult. I showed my mom a recent video of Pasha and me doing our rumba routine at the DTS showcase and I’m so appalled at how terrified and self-questioning I look. I think a good 90% of the problems I had with my rumba — bad lines, missed steps, near slips — were due to plain and simple nerves. What is it that you lose of yourself in adulthood — you’re so much more inhibited, so much more conscious, and afraid, of what others think of you. Not that questioning yourself is always bad — it can prevent you from making mistakes sometimes. But when it turns into self-doubt it can lead to a serious inability to act, and that’s a shame. Ugh. I want the little, confident me back!

Anyway, I ended up sending a piece on my first adult performance since I had no recollection of this one. I’m waiting to see what she does with them all before posting anything here (though it’s mostly things I’ve already blogged on previously). I definitely encourage all Winger readers to participate though — it’s fun!


  1. Hey Tonya,

    My memories of dance in childhood center around shame & doubt; however, I was born with neither so I acquired them. I subscribe to Dr Phil’s philosophy that our lives are affected by at least ‘…. five pivotal people, seven critical choices, ten defining moments, …’ My mom put her little black child in ballet class in an all white, segregated town, Agawan/Feeding Hills, MA. We were the only ‘token’ black family there, and, apparently, 1970-1982 wasn’t the right time to be black there. Needless to say, ballet didn’t work out for me because I was not welcome, which happened not only in most organized childhood sports/activities but in school. I had an emotionally abusive and unsympathetic mother, who simply could not relate to my experience or help me to cope with it. I became an extremely sensitive child who never took chances with my favorite pursuits, dance & singing, lest I be rejected or made to be a laughing stock as had happened to often in my experience.

    Thank God I left that town for Sacramento, CA when I was 12, or I probably would have killed myself otherwise. Although the race card was no longer an issue, the shame & doubt remained so I continued to avoid putting myself out their for others to voice any negativity. Oh, I still have the feelings today to some extent because it is learned behavior; I just have awareness and better coping strategies is all. I mention the race card the race card only because t can clearly see how the experience shaped my entire outlook on life until I consciously started taking control. I am perfectly aware that everyone goes through pain and suffering at some point in life. I didn’t take any type of dance class again until I was over 21 years old and even then the old feelings of self-doubt haunted me. The key is having good coping skills whenever these feelings or emotions rear their ugly head.

    In hind sight, with a sensitivity like mine, it would have probably been detrimental to my mental health to pursue the performing arts during childhood. One kinda needs a thick skin to survive in addition to talent. If it had not been the race card initially, it probably would have been some other insecurity that developed. As an adult, I am just trying to be happy in being able to experience dance in any capacity. Of course, I wish I were perfect, a famous dancer and singer, had the most perfect body and was wealthy, too, but again thank God for coping strategies.

  2. Hi Chimene! Oh, this is really sad — but I agree with you, that there is good that comes from just about everything. And you learned coping strategies from it all. And, I think at a certain point in your life, you just stop being so self-concious and caring what others think of you, but, like you say, sometimes some prior painful experience can run so deep and reside in your subconscious that it’s really hard to overcome. The weird thing with dance, with me, is that I feel like I’m at the point in my life where I don’t care so much whether people approve of my thoughts, my political opinions, the clothes I wear, the books I read, etc., but when I was on that stage with DTS, what everyone thought of my dancing seemed to be the only thing in my brain! I think I’ll calm down with more experience though. The important thing right now is to have fun, get a good workout, and just be pleased with ourselves, right!

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