The Gilded Serpent presents...
Critiquing,
the “Agony & The Ecstasy”

by Nisima

This was a challenging topic for me to write about because it’s obviously a sensitive issue for performing artists in whatever medium of show business. As an aspiring belly dancer, I became used very early on to fellow-students, teachers and troupe directors “critiquing” each and every dancer’s technique, stage presence and costuming at rehearsals, student recitals and “open” performing nights at clubs and restaurants.

It’s an unnerving experience to be “critiqued” by your peers, but my personal opinion then and now is that when you perform in public, critiquing just goes with the territory of performing. Granted, these unofficial critiques may not be a write-up in a local paper or the Internet, but you are nonetheless critiqued each and every time you perform.

I always felt that critiques were a “growth opportunity” to learn from whatever weaknesses and strengths the critiques unveiled (no pun intended!). Many teachers and directors would tell students who were absolutely dreading being critiqued or seeing themselves on a video that they would be pleasantly surprised at what strengths they displayed in performance and should therefore be encouraged to develop those strengths and work on weaknesses.

Of course, now with the instant and far-reaching effects of the Internet communications, critiquing has taken on a much wider and deeper scope. It’s no wonder that performing artists react strongly sometimes to what they may consider is not a valid perspective expressed by the person critiquing. And I do realize what the potential impact of critiquing is on a performer, but it should be put into perspective.

So, what should the response be to a critique that a performer considers “invalid” for whatever reason? Here’s one of my favorite dance teacher quotes to us dancers shaking in our zils about performing and then being critiqued:

“Good, bad or indifferent, your audience will critique you for that moment in time – if the critique is that your performance was less than stellar, learn from it and move on; if it’s high praises, realize that performance existed for only one moment in time; you may never be able to recreate it again, learn from it and move on.”

Actually, this was very comforting to hear from a teacher who had made her living as a belly dancer for many years! I hope that it helps bring a slightly different overall perspective on the “agony and ecstasy” of critiques!

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