Friday, June 18, 2010

Belly dancing away...

As I've mentioned, in July I'm going to be doing my very first belly dance solo at my instructor Claire's new studio hafla. I'm super excited, but also extremely anxious about the whole thing. In preparation, I've been choreographing and practicing my little heart out, and tonight is a bit of a milestone: prior to class, I'm going early to demo the solo for Claire so that she can let me know how it looks and determine if I'm making any beginniner mistakes; not traveling enough, better arm positions, that sort of thing. Even just having Claire watch me dance it (all by my lonesome...) is making me feel sort of nervous. I can't help it, it's the way I'm made :) Introverts: The Complete Inside Story...

What I chose for my song is a drum solo from Sabla Tolo III: Advanced Journeys into Pure Egyptian Percussion. The reason I chose it is because it's less than 3 minutes long :) For my first solo, I wanted something in the 2 and a half minute range. Always want to leave 'em wantin' more, right? Rather than being sick to death of you and praying for a hook. But I did want a drum solo, and the Sabla Tolo albums are excellent. I love the crisp, sharp beats of drum solos and the way dancers synch their movements up to them.

So, I then embarked on choreography. This was no easy feat. When faced with a blank canvas, I could suddenly only remember approximately 3 movements. Being a visual learner, I found that it helped me to write down the foundational movements and combinations that I knew so that I could reference that to spur my memory. I've also taken to watching quite a bit of belly dancing on YouTube during my lunch breaks which also gave me some ideas. Watching someone else do a movement that I had forgotten on my list (snorts; some things never change), or a slight variation on a hip drop or arm position, would really help stir my creative juices come choreographing time later in the evening.

Being a mother, my choreographing time comes after Hank goes to bed. So, this means lots of dancing after 8 pm. I've actually lost a little weight this way :) I'm dancing every night now, and working up quite a sweat. I'm now only 5 lbs. above my pre-Hank weight, and it's been a while since I've seen that number. It's all good.

I'm finding that my choreographing method is very much like my writing method. You want to just get something out there to work with, and craft and edit from there.

"Ok." *consults list* I think a set of bicycle hips will work here, and then maybe a 3 step turn. Oh! and then that little step ball change combo. Yes, good."

*grits teeth as practice about a dozen times*

"Hum. I'm stumbling on this turn, it's just not working. How about a shimmy instead? No, looks weird. Oh! The maya set. YES."

Our house isn't that big, so my kitchen cactus has seen a lot of me dancing lately. So has our first floor guest room/toy room. As long as the Rescue Heroes are cleared off the floor first, that is a bigger space for me to work with. While my in-laws were visiting, I was relegated to our bedroom, and that was a bit dicey.

"Hip pistons. Reverse undulation, should shimmy, try to smile. Travel to left with camel step. OUCH. What was that? I wish Mike wouldn't leave his backpack in the middle of the floor. Bicycle hips, turn. We really need to do a load of laundry, look at that pile over there. Mayas, good. Swivel and then hip shimmy with cute arms. Travel to right with step ball change. Oh, OH OW!! What?! The ceiling fan. Boy, that was unpleasant. That'll leave a welt. Where was I?"

Definitely, the biggest issue for me is demeanor. You'd think dancing is all about the physical movements. One would think. You'd be wrong. I've seen excellent dancers whose faces express that they are experiencing misery beyond our wildest imaginations and it's so distracting that I simply can't focus on their actual dancing. I call this the Angry Dancer. There are also Utterly Nonplussed Dancers, which are just as disheartening. If she doesn't care, how can I? Then there's Timid Dancer. *sighs* Yes, this is me. When it appears that she may run right off the stage like a frightened rabbit should someone dare to shift in their seat you just can't relax and enjoy her dancing. And this is what I've been working very hard on lately.

I find that the key is smiling, even if you're miserable. And let's face it, you're up in front of a group of people making yourself vulnerable by putting your skills out there and 95% of the population is going to be having a less than mystical experience. And not just a barely there smile. You have to be a beacon. Because when you *look* confident, people will *believe* you are confident. Even if, on the inside, you're planning your escape from the stage with the precision of a surgeon. You want to channel Confident, Successful Dancer. When you appear happy and boisterous, people will relax and enjoy your dancing. And if you make a mistake, they probably won't even notice. Because *you* are telling them with your expression that not only are you having a great time and have everything under control, you know that you are a good dancer and are making their night. Even if you believe that this is a total lie, you gotta sell it, sister. They're not going to buy it unless you sell it.

So, as I've been practicing lately, I've been pasting a beam on my face like nobody's business. I just have to avoid the mirror. If I see myself smiling, I will break down in hysterical laughter, because I look so ridiculous to my introverted eye.

Happily though, my costume is totally assembled. It consists of a wine-colored chiffon skirt that I have from another costume, and a black top and hip scarf that I acquired recently. This is the top, and don't worry, it's not nearly so low-cut in person, plus I'll be pinning it just for peace of mind. I got it in black with gold coins. It's very flattering. Covers what I call my "defective arm pits," that extra skin that hangs over, do you know what I'm talking about? I think that's actually extra breast tissue, which is ever weirder, so I like to keep that covered where at all possible. When my milk came in after I delivered Hank, I couldn't put my arms down for 2 days. I'm sure all my male readers are so glad they know this about me now. Moving on...

And so the hip scarf. I'm really, really pleased with it. I decided to keep the new coined hip scarf I originally bought to match the top just for practice in class. Because, well, it was so NOISY. I like a little noise in belly dance. The sound of tinkling coins is very dear to me. But I strapped this thing on to practice my solo, and good heavens. It sounded like a coin sorting facility had just detonated. I thought it might be a tad too *distracting*. So, I ended up ordering this in black. It came yesterday, and it's FABULOUS. It has some beaded flowers on it, and I love the fringe, which also contains some strung beads. It looks really pretty, and I think it'll serve me well. I put it through the hip scarf test: I tied it on and shimmed around the guest room, then did my solo plus our 2 troupe choreographies in it and nothing fell off and/or went flying, so it passed. Not real attractive to leak beads, fringe or coins while in the throes of performance.

Ok, back to writing an article. I'm taking Hank to see Toy Story 3 this weekend, and I'm sure there will be lots of anecdotes come Monday. Plus, the solo demo, oh dear. *sweats* I'll report in, (she says with a sigh). Have a great weekend everyone!


  1. Hahahaha defective armpits. That's a good name for those, I have them too :(

    That is so exciting that you're doing a solo! I don't know if I could ever do that. I've always wanted to try belly dancing, but Zumba comes free with my YMCA membership while belly dancing costs extra so I stick to my Zumba. We do some belly dancing moves in there too. Dancing can be so much fun!

  2. Chorography IS hard. I love going to youtube and watching other videos to get ideas lol I don't think anyone really gets how hard choreographing can be until they actually give it a try. Keep up the awesomeness!

  3. Glad I'm not the only with the armpit issue :) I do think it's somewhat common.

    Ooohh Zumba! I've heard excellent things about this. It's all the rage at the gyms around here, and I have a number of friends who take it. They love it too! I'd love to try some different things as well, but don't want the time commitment right now, with Hank so young. Someday :)


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