For anybody that still cares :), after mulling over my Belly Dance Solo Crisis last night, and getting a little feedback, I decided that I really want to give it a go with my sword for the upcoming hafla. I gave the issue some careful thought last night plus I spent some time at lunch browsing the boards at Bhuz, the big online belly dance community that I lurk at, and I found some great words of wisdom there.
What I realized is that I am genuinely good at balancing the sword, and it's really important to allow yourself to recognize your strengths (and weaknesses, of which there are many). I'm good at balancing it on my *head* that is. I don't like to balance the sword on my hip (I saw a dancer do this once, and I swear it, my heart nearly stopped beating it looked so precarious and I was so nervous for her) and I cannot balance it on my shoulder without the skin there turning beet red, and that isn't exactly a pleasing sight for the audience.
And please, for the love of all that is holy, let us agree that one should never, EVER balance a sword across ones breasts. Never.
I've seen dancers who really enjoy the "lead up" to balancing the sword, lots of finagling with the sword, wielding it around. I really don't do that. I agree that there has to be *some* anticipation, it makes the eventual balancing seem more impressive. But I don't linger over this.
So, what do all of these ramblings mean? When a dancer performs, she should capitalize on what she is good at. I'm a good dancer, and I isolate well, and that's why I took to balancing so happily. My song has a nice introduction, and what I plan to do is let a little music go by prior to entering (I always do this when I solo, it's another way of building up some nice anticipation. The audience is waiting for YOU, not the other way around; one has to find their inner diva to be a belly dancer, trust me, you simply have no choice) and then "just dance" for a minute or so, enjoying my freedom of movement with no prop. So I can travel a lot, be real gooey, all that good stuff.
Then I can pick up my sword and dance with it for a short bit in my hands, the anticipation building thing. Then I balance, and there's maybe a minute and a half to two minutes left in the music. There is a part of the song that picks up a bit and this is a good time to do some shimmies while balancing and perhaps a spin if the sword karma is working in my favor. If I'm feeling at all nervous about it I do NOT spin with the sword on my head. Just not worth it. There is plenty of other things that I can do while balancing. Lots of hip and torso movement and I can do some gentle traveling.
For some reason it made me feel better to realize that I don't need to get fancy with the sword. I can dance well with it on my head and that is enough all by itself. Many dancers do floorwork with the sword, and while that can be beautiful, I usually choose not to do this, it's not really my thing. I don't really have enough time for the careful getting down and getting back up since I want to dance without the sword for a time prior to balancing.
I think that one important thing I have learned since I started performing is to cherish each movement. It's easy to think to yourself: "oh this is *boring*! The audience will be bored if I don't do something different RIGHT NOW!" If you feel confident and project that confidence into your dance even into the simplest hip drop looks amazing and beautiful to the audience.
Claire had a wonderful anecdote once that really stuck with me. She was hired to do a bellygram and the space that she had to dance in was very small. She busted out her best movements to try and compensate and balanced her sword with aplomb. But it was only when she stopped dancing and paused to simply gaze over her shoulder at her audience while merely sweeping her arm back and undulating her hands that she heard somebody say, "Oh wow, she's good."
So I'm going to practice with the sword tonight. I thought maybe I could start by crafting a few combinations that will work with sword and then I can try improvising later this week. As you can imagine, you cannot move your head quickly when you're balancing a prop and you have to be very careful with your arms lest you knock the sword off your own head.
Ask me how I know this.
But you can change level (very carefully) and travel a bit so I'm going to work on those things and build my confidence. I genuinely enjoy dancing with my sword, as opposed to my veil. I *want* to love my veil, but the whole time I know I'm sending hateful vibes its way such as "God, I loathe when you tangle like that" and "if I develop a case of static cling I will burn you in the backyard before nightfall."
I hope this goes well. But I feel better after writing this post, so thank you for listening. :)