Monday, April 4, 2011
The pregnant belly dancer dances on, part 2...
So, there I am on my big night. :) (Photo credit to Pati Vito). Saturday was a workshop and an informal hafla. The workshop was *wonderful*. A dancer from Canada taught it, and she divided everything up into 3 separate classes depending upon skill level/experience. I was slated for the performance level group, and so she focused on performing skills.
Performing is something that although I know I've gotten better at it, I still need a lot of improvement. :) I do feel more confident now; not CONFIDENT, mind you, but *more* confident. I still have a long way to go.
She gave us some simple, but powerful tips. For instance, you should only perform what you feel that you do best. Performance is not the place to try out that quadruple axle that you've only landed successfully in practice twice, kwim?
Also, keep it simple. She showed us how to do a simple hip bump move with a succession of different arms and orienting positions. Combine that with a few other moves (my instructor calls this a "sandwich" which I love :) ) and then change up the arms each time and the direction you are facing, and voila! You have probably a minute or more of choreography, and to the audience, it all looks completely different and fun.
She also talked about strong arms, hands, feet, and shoulder/rib cage placement in performance, and for sure this is SO important. You need to have a "performance presence." If you don't take command of the dancing space, the audience will lose interest. You can't simply walk out onto the stage like you would walk into your local grocery store to grab a bell pepper for dinner that night.
"Walking is very hard, isn't it?"
That made me laugh, and it's so true. If someone is watching you walk, well, it's a lot tougher! And you want to walk confidently and with an in-charge attitude. So, we practiced that for awhile. Yes, we practiced walking.
My favorite though were her comments on facial expression in performance. Oh man. It is SO hard to smile when you are performing, because you feel self-conscious. I mean, let's face it. Why are we all so terrified of being up in front of a group of people? We're afraid of looking stupid, right? And so we're concentrating so hard on not looking stupid that we look like we're concentrating so hard on looking stupid. And that's not enjoyable to watch. :) If you look like you're having a great time dancing, the audience will relax and enjoy your performance. And when you're doing a solo, you can't "mess up." No one will know if you don't follow your exact choreography. And in fact, most if not all professional belly dancers never choreograph their solo work. They are familiar with their music, yes, but they improvise everything. As long as you keep moving, everyone is happy. And so my favorite of her comments was:
"Remember ladies, open your mouth when you smile as you're dancing. You'll notice that all Egyptian belly dancers always have their mouths open (I never realized this before, but she's right). Open mouth and jaw is an open pelvis."
Who's with me? CHILDBIRTH. This must be why they tell us to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth in childbirth relaxation class. I'm totally going to think of this when in labor. :)
I've gotten a LOT better with smiling and trying to look pleasant when performing, and Saturday I did pretty decent. I'm actually pretty pleased with the picture above.
But as you can see, I still need work on this. :) I actually just saw a video of us from Friday night. It was cute and all, but my thumbs weren't tucked in and aside from maybe 3-4 smiles, I wasn't smiling. When I'm home with the baby, I plan to work on my improvisation and performance skills. This is assuming that the baby naps, which may be a lofty goal. But if they nap, I'm going to work on improv. for 15 minutes every day, and I'm going to smile the whole time. Practice makes perfect.
So, the workshop was great. It was 2 hours, which was exactly how long I can go these days. I went home, ate dinner and put my feet up. 3 hours later, it was time to head back for the hafla. And thankfully, the hafla was uneventful. All of our numbers went well, including the cane, although Sweaty Palm Syndrome came back with a vengeance. And I got lots of nice compliments about being the Pregnant Belly Dancer. One of the visiting dancers commented to me that she loves seeing pregnant belly dancers, as it's just such a natural fit with the dance, and I loved that. I also met several very nice dancers from other areas of the state, and we're all connected now on Facebook. :) Love it.
I have lots of fun dance plans for my post partum self. I'm very much looking forward to it, but in the mean time, I'm so grateful for what belly dance has done for this very pregnant dancer. It's given me an appreciation for my pregnant body, and somehow, when I'm doing it I still feel graceful and beautiful even at 22 pounds over my regular weight. :) That's pretty priceless, if you ask me.