There’s nothing quite like learning an artist you’ve admired for so long shares your same struggles, fears and moments of self-doubt. The not-aloneness that comes with that travels deeper than the average “same here.” It gets up underneath you and jolts you to stand up and do something — because they did. They became one of your favorite artists for a reason.
Natalia Eristavi is an international Lindy Hop Instructor based in Southern California. When she’s not teaching or creating jazz choreography, she works as a part-time freelance designer, creating marketing graphics for other dancers and the Atomic Ballroom, where she teaches locally.
Earlier, I sat down with Natalia and she shared a recent breakthrough she discovered in her dancing. It started at last November’s International Lindy Hop Championships where Natalia made the final for All-Star Draw, and drew Peter Kertzner, who she’s known since day one of dancing.
“I drew the first person I ever admired dancing, and I blew it– I think I blew it. It was funny because the night before I stayed out dancing until 5 am, and I slayed so hard people were watching. And I watched the video of the finals and that [referring to the night before] wasn’t there in the final. Not even close… I asked myself, ‘What is going on in my brain that’s making me not dance as well as I can?’”
After that, she got so fed up she started researching articles and watching TED Talks on how to manage performance anxiety and wrote down everything that resonated with her.
“I made a checklist. I trained it inside of comps and outside of comps too,” she explains.
Then, this past Inspiration Weekend, something clicked into place, where she no longer let fear run the show.
“It wasn’t like suddenly I was better in terms of skill, but I finally had a grip on this. I’m proud of that, because it actually didn’t take that long to get over considering how many years I’ve been a slave to my own anxiety.”
Natalia traces her anxiety in dance back to her childhood. For her whole life, she’s struggled with chronic ocular migraines. As a child, they’d happen twice a week, and she’d have to be alone in a dark room for up to 48 hours, waiting for the pain to subside.
Out of the experience of dealing with this chronic illness came a mindset that Natalia had to learn how to overcome.
How did she learn to get out of her own way? The first step was to acknowledge where the feelings of anxiety came from.
“Acknowledging it shrinks it and you’ll see that, while you thought for so long ‘I’m incapable or my body’s incapable,’ what happened was you grew up feeling afraid,” Natalia explains.
As soon as you identify where the feelings are from, you can put them in a box and focus on being your best self now, because you’re not in the moment where the feelings originated anymore.
Now, on the other side of her breakthrough, Natalia is ready to share what she’s learned. So if you’re stuck in a dance lull or can’t quite figure out how to be your late-night-dance self in front of a panel of judges, she’s here to help you crack the case.
On Patreon, she will be rolling out courses specifically tailored to help empower followers and address issues like performance anxiety. In fact, she’s planning to host live chats on the subject.
Her monthly-subscription video course, Follow Focus, is — as you might have guessed from the name — geared toward followers. But it’s really meant to develop the dancer inside you, beyond just the role that follows. You’ll learn how to take ownership of your body, space and movement so when paired with a partner you’re set up for success.
“This is the perfect time to prove to yourself that you can be on your own. It’s like the perfect relationship,” Natalia remarks. “You don’t want to depend on anybody — you want to be a dancer in your own right.”
You can join Follow Focus for as little as $5 per month as a “Feel-it-out Follow” and get two monthly videos, or sign up as a “Fierce Follow” for $20 per month and get all the videos plus a 20-minute personal video review from Natalia. Check out the Follow Focus Patreon Page for more info — or just to admire its gorgeous design.
Natalia’s Must-Have Tools:
- Tribe Resistance Bands: Practice with something that feels like a partner. Tribe has these great resistance bands with handles, which are great for practicing stretch.
- Foam Roller: I start any dance practice with a good warmup and that means rolling out my hips.