Performing

New video

So here is a video, of me in studio last night. I love this song by Beats Antique and I finally decided to just try a bit of improv!

I obviously see a lot of mistakes and things I can do better in. I like improv though and I’d like to try and get better at it. I am actively working on dancing more and doing yoga more often, so I want to document any progress I might make.

Seeing yourself on video is a double-edged sword. It’s cool that I can see what I’ve improved on, but at the same time it shows me what I still need to do.

I’m trying to see that in a positive light – that I have never learned it all and that there is always so much for me to do! It’s a never-ending journey! 🙂

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Anybody can be a belly dancer!

I was browsing through Shimmies, Sequins & Slippers the other day, hoping a new blog post would magically appear as I was scrolling. *ahem Roxanne, ahem!* Although I wasn’t surprised with a new blog post, I was intrigued by reading some old ones that are very good that I had forgotten about.

One of the posts that caught my eye was the unintentionally mean post. (I would recommend reading it here, before reading my post). In short, it was about a dancer that performed at a festival and was absolutely terrible. Roxanne just chats about whether all dancers should be allowed to perform in public – and she didn’t mean it in a mean way! (Go read it!)

I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and even asked my Facebook friends what they think of the latest phrase to be thrown around: “Anybody can bellydance!”

I’m going to be absolutely frank with you: No, not everybody can belly dance. It’s like telling a child that they can be anything they want to be if they work hard enough. Yes, part of that is true and it’s a wonderful thing to believe. But especially with art, a lot of it needs to be natural talent as well as hard work. Singing works as a brilliant example, just look at the Idols contestants every year. There are always complete opposite degrees of talent that audition for that show – the completely tone deaf that make the “Wooden Mic” reel, the people that can hold a tune, and then those with exceptional voices. I don’t know much about singing, so when I watch Idols auditions and I see those that can hold a tune get voted off, I often wonder why. The reason for this is that they can hold a tune. They can sing, yes, but there is nothing exceptional about them. They may be able to sing along to songs with no problem and maybe even make it into a church choir. But it’s a huge leap from there to being a professional. And in a competitive industry (like dance) you need to be better than good at your craft. You need to be exceptional.

Another example comes from my past – when I was younger I was obsessed with crime novels and investigation shows. I started out by reading Famous Five books, moved onto the Point Crime series, then started getting into Jeffery Deaver when I was 13. I watched shows like Bones and CSI. I even bought a “Forensics for Dummies” book. I was completely convinced that I was going to study forensic science when I left school. I was passionate and interested in it and willing to work hard at it. I ended up getting 40% for science at school, and got a tutor in who helped me get it to 60%. At the end of grade 11, I realized that I didn’t have that natural knack that some people have for science. My brain just wasn’t geared towards thinking that way, and no matter how much I trained it, I would never be as good at it as my tutor was – it was second nature for him. A completely natural way of thinking.

The reason that the “Anybody can bellydance” phrase came around was to show people how it was different from modern dance and ballet. It’s different in that it is a dance form that has no restrictions for learning. You can be any age, shape, colour or nationality to take a belly dance class. Ballet has always been a dance form reserved for the young, and although now we are seeing adult dance classes advertised, it’s still a new thing. Another big difference is that you can start belly dancing at the age of 25 and still go pro, where you can’t do that with ballet.

The unfortunate truth of it is that some people  believe that they can be a pro, because anybody can do it! has been floating around in their heads. And then you end up with a lot of mediocre dancers flooding the market and taking gigs away from seasoned pros. As well as dancers who take to the stage because they believe they are ready – after all, anybody can do it, right?

As dance teachers we need to have the guts to tell our students they’re not ready to advance to the next class or to perform on stage. There are lots of opportunities for students to perform, and if there aren’t then we should create more. Inviting family and friends to come and watch a student recital or small hafla is a great way to get dance exposure if you’re still new to dance and especially if you’re not ready (technically, artistically or mentally) to go pro.

In the end, it’s about being honest with yourself. Being honest about what you want from the classes – are you doing it for me-time, for the social aspect, for fitness, to be a pro dancer or some other reason? It’s also about being honest about your abilities as a dancer and learner. If you’re honest with yourself about your wants and abilities, there should be no problem. I know it’s difficult to admit your weaknesses, but you need to be honest with yourself to get an idea of where you are going and where you want to go.

Passion is a beautiful thing, but we have to be honest and realize that audiences don’t want to see somebody go onto stage and be passionate, but have no technique. Audiences (and other dancers!) want to see something impressive and different. I sometimes feel that a technically great dancer with little passion can go further than one with passion but no technique.

I think that as a dance community we need to have a definition of what makes a pro. Because – like we learned in school – every right comes with a responsibility. What are the responsibilities of a pro dancer? What are the rights of a pro dancer? As well as deciding what makes a dancer ready for the stage. The difficulty in doing something like this is that belly dancers don’t have a syllabus, so we don’t have a way to ‘measure’ our dancers and how to tell if one is ready for the stage. As Roxanne said in her blog, taking to the stage is an honour and a privilege and if we let everybody onto the stage, I think it loses it’s magic a little bit. Don’t you think? It suddenly becomes attainable and nobody wants to work hard for it.

I believe that anybody can enjoy belly dance, anybody can take classes and anybody can improve dramatically. I believe in student recitals (We used to do it every second term, where all the students would come together, we’d perform for each other and try out new choreographies on each other, and just DANCE together) I also believe in haflas geared towards students and giving students a chance to perform on a stage. I also believe in there being separate shows, bigger events like a showcase for when we bring in an international dancer – those showcases are reserved (in my opinion) for the professionals. I don’t even believe that I am ready for a big show like that (Although I’d love to be given the chance!).

I think the important thing here is to realize your potential, realize what you are capable of. And while it may hurt to be honest with yourself about your abilities, it NEEDS to be done. Some people are meant for the stage. Some people aren’t.

As a side note: I don’t even know if I’m a “real” performer or if I should just stick to smaller things. I love to perform and have a good time on stage, but when I watch the real pros I feel like I’m missing something. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself, but maybe I’m just being honest. 😉

Miscellaneous Catch up

Welcome back!

I know, I’ve been absent for 2 months, but a lot of dance related drama has been going through my head and I’ve had a bit of stuff to deal with. But it’s all sorted now and I can look forward to 2012, which is already looking better than 2011!

I have been doing a fair bit of costuming, I made a new Tribal Fusion bra from bits and pieces bought at Geka and lovely faux suede fabric in a chocolate brown colour – ooh! I realized how many things I have in browny shades for my bottom half and that I only had 2 black fusion bras, but nothing brown to go with my brown pants or cream coloured wraps. Below is a very bad photo of this new bra – just taken with my phone. I will find and upload a nicer photo at some point.  I still want to do a bit of work to it, without overwhelming it with things. The problem is that it looks full and great up close but when I wear it in the studio it doesn’t look like much from far away. Hmm. Ideas? Also, the dark brown lace on the sides is insanely itchy which is great for keeping my arms up and not letting them drop but it does leave ugly marks on me after I take my bra off. Ah, the joy of sensitive skin!

In other costuming news, I have taken apart my blue cabaret costume. I realize I never posted photos of the finished product, but I have one or two from our show that I will post. After seeing the DVD of the show, I realized that there was too much wrong with it. Firstly, I am a rather short person (1.58m = 5 feet 2 inches) so having a belt on that was so wide just didn’t suit me and made me look shorter, especially with such long fringing! Then the bra had collapsed and gone soft so it didn’t fit properly, the straps were badly designed for my body type… I could go on. I’m sure you understand now why I decided to take apart the old bra and belt and make something new. Also – the shiny fabric was awful to work with and I wouldn’t mind working with just a plain cotton fabric.  So that is a future project… I have ideas of what to do with the long fringe because it’s too long, but I don’t think I’ll say what the plan is until it’s done. Otherwise I might fail miserably and then be the laughing stock of all belly dancers ever.

In other news – Kash from Rhythm Nouveau Dance Company is hosting Heather from Tribal Angels up in Joburg for a few ATS workshops! I am unfortunately dirt poor so I can only attend ONE of the workshops – boo! – however, Maya has also been asked to perform at the hafla which is being hosted on the Saturday night. I will be performing my solo from the BellyRing Hafla last year and Maya will be performing Lunar which we also performed at the Oriental Festival last year. I just need to wait a bit of time and then I can upload our performance of Lunar at the Oriental Festival. It’s an amazing dance and we loved learning and performing it.

In preparation for the hafla and workshops, we are doing ATS  every week until the end of February. We haven’t done ATS in a while, and I had forgotten just how much I love it. I am the first person to admit that it’s not always exciting to watch, but performing it and doing the moves and having great interactions with the other dancers is AMAZING. I might be in love all over again! 😉

Well, that’s all for now. Hopefully I will be posting more and more… if there is a topic you would like me to cover or an argument you feel like having me rant about, then please email me or leave a comment! At the top of the page you will find a “contact” page and you can find my email address there. 🙂

Representing Bellydance

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we represent bellydance. We all know of one dancer that dances like she’s in the club, touches herself and gyrates like there’s no tomorrow! And every single one of us cringe at the thought that THAT is what the public is interpreting as “bellydance” – whether they see it on YouTube, Google images or at a performance. I think that before doing a choreography you have to ask yourself “am I representing what I do in a way that makes me proud?”

The reason I got thinking about this is because of this thread from http://www.bellydanceforums.net. I saw it and read through some of the comments while waiting for the video to load and thought “the video can’t be THAT bad!”

When I hit play and watched a bit I realised that they were right. In the first minute or so I just laughed at the ridiculousness of it – the fact that these woman thought that this was appropriate outfitting, etc. When Sadie and Kaya came in I was shocked. These are respected & good dancers! (Although I heard they got banned from a certain festival for lewdness) I’ve never been a big fan of Kaya’s stage personality (I can say NOTHING about her as a person, as I don’t know her – I’ve heard she is very nice) because it always made me think of raunchy dancing, never anything sensual or beautiful. To me, Sadie has always been technically excellent and somebody to look up to in terms of that – I’ve also never been a fan of her stage personality and never bought DVDs or anything like that. After I saw that video, my respect for both of those ladies as bellydancers went out of the window. I can’t believe that as PROFESSIONAL, well known dancers they would willingly perform in a music video where the whole culture and essence of bellydance is reduced to nothing more than some cultural cliché – a man with his harem ladies “entertaining” him. As professional dancers they should be educated in their art form and should know what is appropriate and not. I almost feel that random “sexy” ladies performing in a music video dressed up as bellydancers doesn’t matter much although it does have an impact on the bellydance society, it’s damages are limited. But having professional dancers (and well known to the non-bellydance community in that if you type “bellydance” into Google it comes up with Sadie’s video) performing like that in a music video (very public) can do irreparable damage.

Am I just over reacting or do you agree? Tell me your thoughts!

Loyalty to a studio

Hi all! This is just a quick post because I have to leave for class in an hour! It’s actually a topic I’ve been wanting to write about for a while, but never really found the inspiration/push to write it – until now! I got a phone call an hour ago and it was from somebody who got my number from a friend (which friend??)  & she wanting to hire me for a hen party (bachelorette party). Without thinking I told her that she would have to phone Frieda, my teacher, because she handles bookings. The woman then asked me if she couldn’t just book me through me? I told her that I don’t handle those things and proceeded to give her Frieda’s number. When I put the phone down, it struck me again how fiercely loyal I am to out studio.

There are often moments where I realise that I’m so loyal to my studio I think I’d feel guilty attending classes if I moved! haha! On Shira.net she writes about loyalty in a studio, and we don’t agree on this point. 🙂 I think that there is a certain amount of loyalty that a dancer has to show to the studio. In our studio, we’re asked to sign a contract if we move to an advanced/intermediate class and it simply states that we won’t attend studios within a certain amount of kms (kilometers) surrounding our studio while we’re still a part of Maya Studio (ours) and that the teacher will do her best to educate us correctly in Middle Eastern Dance, etc, etc. I understand if somebody wants to move because they’re not learning anymore but at this point, I’m actually learning with my teacher which is nice because although she’s been dancing for a lot longer, I feel more “equal” to her than any other teacher around. Also, we’re asked not to teach our studio dances to other people because that’s just NOT on!! I’m really keen to hear what your views are on loyalty to a studio — let me know in the comments!!

Also, my friend who wanted to join classes has joined! But with a studio closer to where she and I live 😦 When I started bellydance we never had a studio in our town, so I drive 20minutes to get to my classes. I’m a bit disappointed that my friend won’t be joining classes with us at the moment because we can’t choreograph together (what studio do we put it under??) or do costuming together because her new teacher is getting them to pay a certain amount and then they’ll get their costumes made. Which isn’t an idea I’m mad about because one style does NOT suit all! I think it would be nicer to have a colour scheme and then it’s up to the dancer how she makes her costume/gets it made. But my friend seems to be enjoying it 🙂 And she said that she does want to do fusion so she might come to us eventually. Personally, I think she wants a little bit of doing it on her own first without me. 🙂 Which I can understand because of the need to be independent!

On a happier note! 🙂 My grandparents are visiting for a while and my gran brought down some jewellery for me! A set of earrings and a necklace which are STUNNING!! I love them! I really do love this old vintage style stuff… And then I asked me gran if she has any lace tablecloths or something similar that she doesn’t want that I could perhaps use? So my mom says she has one that’s getting holes in it, so she gets it out of the cupboard and I immediately cut a hole in the middle and used it as a ‘floof’! 🙂 I am happy now… 🙂

The pretty necklace...

Pretty earrings!

Vintage floof - open (blurry pic because my mom took it!) 🙂

Vintage floof closed!

Let me know what your thoughts are on loyalty and my new things! 🙂

Also, tell me if there is a topic you want me to cover? Would love to know!

2009 Oriental Festival

I ran out of bandwidth in the middle of last month, so I did WANT to blog but I couldn’t. Sorry!

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Doing our ATS at the festival

My studio, Maya Dance Troupe, was dancing on both the Saturday and the Sunday. On the Saturday we danced at about 1pm, Sunday was 3pm. I was dressed and ready long before I even had to leave the house! I’m a bit weird like that, I can’t handle it when people are late, so I always try my hardest to be on time for everything — even if it means being early.

We actually had a music mess-up on the Sunday, the audio guy bumped the table and our music skipped! But just before that happened, we’d forgotten a set of moves, and thanks to the music skipping, it gave us enough time to jump awake and realise where we were in the dance! Besides that, it was a success and I got some brilliant outfit ideas from all the stalls and people!

I’m already working on my next outfit… it’s slowly coming together in my head! I got a few coins from my dad a while ago, and he wanted me to use them for a dance outfit. I put them away and never really thought of them again, until tonight. I have some fabulous material my dad got from one of his trips to Ghana, and I’ll use that as a “border” for the belt.

When I was at the festival, I saw some zills for sale — R300!!! They must be mad… I’ll look for them online, I can probably find them cheaper. Although I’m not too keen to learn zills, I think it’s a must for all belly dancers who want to go further to have as many “props” as possible. Such as swords, canes, zills, veils, etc. I’m also thinking of making some fan-veils, which were also for sale at the festival for a ridiculous price. But I suppose it’s right if you don’t want to make the things yourself… I’ll have to find some really, really nice silk or something as close to it as possible. I enjoy making dance outfits and thinking of creative ways to use all the different things I’ve collected over the last few years.

I’m in the middle of my final (final!) exams right now, but I’m still marching to my own beat. 😉 I have a haffla coming up this Thursday, and I’m writing Maths the next day. I thought hard about whether I should go, because I wouldn’t want to go and then only get home late. But I’ve decided to go! Which just shows you how I value my dancing over my school work, eh? It’s starting at 6.30pm, so it’s not too late. Besides, my troupe needs me! hehe! Well I’ve written one exam so far, Afrikaans (my second language), and it went very well! It was quite easy! I write English tomorrow, Computer Theory on Thursday and then Maths on Friday… haha! I will have no time on Thursday to study… Oh well! I’ve been prepping all of last week for this exam and am already prepping for the next Monday (which is Maths P2). I think I’m adequately prepared. Although after the pre-liminary exam for Maths I should be very, very worried!

At this point, I’m over it. 😉 Would much rather dance!

Love the purple one, really beautiful!

 

If anybody knows of any tutorials on how to make fan-veils, let me know!

Also, what do you think of my new bra? 😀 (first pic!)