This all collided into a pretty intense week of preparation leading up to last Friday, when Florence was set to arrive, and we would all be taking a veil technique workshop with her. Afterward, the troupe was staying behind to rehearse.
I had been practicing with my solo music all week, including quite a bit on Friday, so I had a good deal of nervous energy going strong even before arriving at the studio. ;-) I've been dancing for a long time, 10 years to be precise, BUT - I still get very nervous before I perform. And in some ways, haflas are more nerve wracking for me than professional gigs. Professional gigs =
Strangers. I don't know you people. I do want to do a really good job for you, but I'll likely never see you again, so in the grand scheme of things, you have no emotional power over me. :0
Whereas, haflas =
Family. Friends. Other dancers that I admire, whose opinions I seriously respect. My beloved instructors. 😬
I put more pressure on myself, no doubt about it. Each time I dance at a hafla, I want it to be better than the last. I want it to be ethereal, the best performance I've given to date. At professional gigs, I just want to get out without slipping on my veil into a puddle of hummus, or dropping my sword onto someone's foot.
When I dance solo, I do not choreograph. I improvise, and although it sounds counter intuitive, I do that by design because it's easier for me. I'm very comfortable with improvising, and as someone with a more reserved personality, improvising helps me to be more natural and spontaneous, and to convey that with my movements and facial expressions. So one would think that given the lack of orchestrated choreography, I wouldn't really need to practice much before a performance. However, when you're Type A Belly Dancer like yours truly, that is not the case. :0
Going into the long workshop/rehearsal/show weekend, I had already worked daily for 2 weeks with my chosen music. I pop it on and improvise, becoming as familiar with the music as possible. I do plan out accent segments. I don't always remember them ;-) but I put some thought into them. I work on pretending that my kitchen table is an adoring audience, and on what I want to project to that audience via my face, torso and arms. The feelings, the emotion, the energy. You're probably thinking right now that I make dance very complicated. :0 And it's true, I do. Because dance is art to me. You don't just slap colors up onto a canvas and call it a masterpiece, right? ;-)
So going into a long night on Friday, I had already whipped myself into a frenzy of non-stop improvisation. I show up for the 7 pm veil workshop all star struck to meet Florence for the first time. :0 And the studio was packed with women waving silk veils around. It's a good thing it's still freezing cold and hailing here to combat the generated heat!
*virtual high five!*
And Florence had *such* a beautifully refreshing style to her teaching and dance! We did one movement where we floated the veil back and forth over our heads, and she called it "painting the ceiling with the veil." Do you see why I love her so much?! And she has a DREAMY French account to boot.
We worked hard for 90 minutes, and then as other attendees had filtered out by around 9 pm, my troupe held a quick rehearsal of our pieces. So here was the issue:
(1) I'm the annoying dancer who always overpractices and thus always remembers the choreography. So Claire often puts me in the front to aid choreography synchronization throughout the entire group. BUT,
(2) Apparently that doesn't fully translate to when I'm falling on my face exhausted, which I was by 9:15 pm on Friday.
During Run Through #1, I was still OK, but by the second go-round, I was holding onto consciousness by a thread. :0 We got midway through "Leilet Hob" and I had a moment. I did an incorrect arm movement, and it threw me. I lost my place in the music. 😱
Immediately, a bad house of cards situation erupted. The entire troupe lost focus and our choreography collapsed like so much cooked spaghetti. Claire didn't seem worried, but I was. We had morning rehearsal for the special winter choreography class dance, plus a 2 hour workshop on movement fluidity, photos at 6 pm, and THEN the hafla at 7 pm. Chances were not good that I was going to be less tired the next day.
I woke up Saturday morning feeling a little better, but my body let me know that it was exhausted to the bone and would appreciate a little letup in the obsession-level dancing. But rest was not to be that day, that's for certain!
I was at the studio at 10:30 for rehearsal. The workshop ran from 12-2, and it was SPECTACULAR. I headed home, where I promptly fell asleep in a fort that Anne had built on the landing of our staircase. When I woke up, I felt even more tired than I had before.
This whole "getting older" thing is for the birds, let me tell you. Though in my defense, even dancers ten plus years younger then me were also struggling with tiredness by Saturday night. Oh good, see? I feel better now that I remembered that.
Mike and I head to the studio for the hafla, and I was having to work hard to keep my energy level up. My first dance was the winter choreography, and I was focusing on trying not to sweat in our new, light colored, long sleeved, gowns. :0 All glamour, all the time, over here.
Before we went out, somebody's homemade hip belt exploded into a pile of loose beads on the floor. So not only was I trying not to sweat, but I was doing so from a squatted position on the floor, scooping up tiny pink beads. Once we got that situation under control, we danced, and it went well. That's a beautiful piece.
My solo was in the second set, and I changed into my baladi gown with trepidation. I was still ridiculously tired. But I shimmied my nerves away, and danced out to my lovely music. About a quarter of the way into the song, I started noticing that my dress felt *different* on my right leg than it had before. This was my first time dancing in this costume, and it's never a good sign to have it feel *different* right in middle of your performance. I popped in a movement wherein I could position my right hip to the back wall and then swoop over there to look at what it was doing like I had planned that all along. Gulp. The split in the gown had clearly moved from it's original location closer to my knee, and was now higher up on my leg than before. It wasn't anything scandalous, but I was paranoid for the rest of the song, because I didn't want it to move anymore!
|During the disaster. :0 It's not bad, but costumes are supposed to stay where you put them!|
I was happy with how it went, but my biggest worry still lay ahead: "Leilat Hob." I did *not* want to mess up that dance and let Claire down. And my troupemates were sweating it a bit as well. It's a new dance to us, and that's when the potential to forget things is at it's highest:
"TIFFANY. You have to remember 'Leilet Hob.' If you don't, the rest of us are in big trouble."
No pressure. 😨
Let's just say I brought my "Leilet Hob" A game. My focus was akin to that of a surgeon prepping for the biggest operation of his career. I had gone over where my arms had gone astray, and honed the movements into my memory. The music started, and I busted out the most exact rendition of the piece I've ever done. And I enjoyed dancing it, the focus brought a refreshing intensity with it. 😁
Everything went great, but this was one hafla I was glad to successfully navigate to the end. Naturally, as our final drum solo wrapped up, I was wide awake and couldn't fall asleep until 1 am. Because, you know, that's how these things work. :0
I'm glad to be back to posts like these! How was your weekend?!
A link to the magnificent Florence's YouTube channel if you'd like to see her dance!