When I started my journey as a Bharathanatya dancer, solo performances were heavily encouraged. I took part in dance competitions on my own, I obviously sat my dance exams on my own and of course I did my Arangetram and further professional training on my own. Yes I did perform in groups as well, but generally the whole training process was very individualized.
Therefore, since I was child I was very much used to dancing on my own and having the total limelight to myself when I performed. My stage fear started to decrease gradually. When I was on stage, I did not have to think about anyone else. All I had to make sure was that I did my level best and if I forgot choreography, I trained myself to be confident to improvise. Easy stuff.
This started to change a lot when I started doing team performances as university. As both a dancer and choreographer, I started facing massive challenges. The biggest challenge I faced was that I had to think for each person on that team, whether it be for Bhangra where I was just a dancer, or for Gaana performances/TDC where I had to also think as a choreographer.
As dancer, I had make sure my chemistry with every dancer around me at any one point was strong, reflecting the positive team dynamics. As a choreographer, I had to ensure that every dancer was comfortable with the routine, and understood the individualized feedback I gave them.
Every performer is different, has a different skill-set, has different stage experiences. My job was to understand all of this and ensure these differences were not shown on stage – ultimately the team had to function as one, rather than 15 to 20 separate dancers. Yes, this was a HUGE challenge. I am still in the process of improving these skills, but I know for sure I would not have been able to hone these skills if it had not been for me dancing on teams.
So would I chose to do solo or team performances? I could never choose between the two because at the end of the day, performing is performing. However, team performances give me an opportunity to develop a skill-set which I would not have had the opportunity to do as merely a solo dancer.