Friday, April 20, 2012
Here's hoping that I don't sever a toe or set something on fire
Last night was my first session in the 6 week balance class I signed up for at my belly dance studio. I was hesitant to add another course to my repertoire, since it means I'll be away from Mike and the kids an additional hour one evening, but this is only a short term specialty class and Mike encouraged me to go for it. So I did. I arrived with my hardcover coffee table book all eager and ready to practice balancing.
Belly dancers balance any number of props. The most common that you'll see in America is a sword. Dancers can also balance a cane, a basket, or a tray. The traditional Egyptian wedding dance (called a Zeffa) includes a dancer balancing a shamadan, which is a candelabra that she balances on her head. Do a Google image search. It's very...interesting looking. :)
Claire had a shamadan, and we all took turns trying it, and I have to say, I didn't like it. One would think that because it comes complete with headgear it would stay much more securely on your head than a thin sword, but one would be wrong. :) It's so tall that it pitches backward at the slightest inclination. And with a candelabra, it falling means setting yourself or the venue on fire. Not a good way to get asked back. It was neat to see, but my focus is the sword.
For the time being though, since I'm a baby balancer, I stuck with my book. And I didn't do too bad. The key is not moving your head, even if you change the orientation of your body. To look to the side, you should just move your eyes, which is kind of creepy. And any difference in the level of one foot over the other will make your prop bobble, which as you can imagine, is a bad thing. You have to stay totally level all the time. That doesn't mean you can't change your overall level - doing a quick dip or floorwork is common and lovely to look at when balancing a sword - but both of your feet have to stay consistent with each other at all times.
We practiced some basic movements and then moved on to the scary part: traveling. Everything was fine while I was standing still. Actually moving poses the real challenge. I did fine with flat footed movements. But going up on the balls of my feet presented some difficulties. I really enjoyed it though. We also explored balancing your prop on your shoulder and your hip. We all agreed that balancing your prop across your chest = a no-no. For so many reasons.
I tried Claire's sword toward the end. Belly dance swords are balanced to have a center of gravity over the blade and they aren't sharpened. Some of them have a sharp tip, which scares me a bit. I really would like to keep all 10 of my toes even if I do drop my sword while dancing. And the swords are *heavy*. I suppose that's good, but it's not what I expected. I discovered pretty quickly that everyone has a "sweet spot" where you're most easily able to balance something on your head. It's closer to the front of my head than I would have expected. Lots of work to do here, but I enjoyed it a heck of a lot.
I did some preliminary research on buying myself a starter sword. As is usually the case, I overdid it and have now seen about 20 different kinds of swords from a dozen different vendors. I found out that swords with a curvier blade stay balanced easier but they usually have a sharp tip, and warnings about potentially drawing blood caused me to click away quickly in fear. I'm leaning toward a thicker, blunter sword, without as much bend to the blade. We'll see.
I'll be practicing with my book over the weekend. I'll have to wait until Anne goes to bed since she's so short I knock into her when I can't look down. Only moving my eyes doesn't help me in that case. But I'm terribly excited. Maybe I'll be balancing weapons in no time. :)