Friday, December 29, 2006

Going Solo?

I've had the urge for a while and I've finally gotten off my butt and started to do something about it...

I want to be a solo dancer. NO, that does not mean that I don't live my tribe or intend to keep dancing with them... but I also want to cultivate my dance on a personal level too. Now that's not to say that I haven't done Solos before- with my troupe, I've done more than my fair share of solos... but I mean dancing alone, no girls to back me up and give me that amazing TRIBAL energy...

This brings out the research aspect of the BrookeBrain and has sparked many questions in my head-

1) How do you get started as a solo dancer? What's the first step?
2) What makes a good solo?
3) Where do you premiere your first solo?

My first step is choosing the music. I have a few songs that I'm throwing around "Asilos Magdalena" by The Mars Volta , Thom Yorke's "Black Swan" and then I feel like I should find something else instrumental that doesn't suck...

Opinions? Does it matter if it's got lyrics? do they kill the solo?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

2007 Dance Goals

My Goals as a Dancer:

*To develop myself as a solo tribal fusion dancer.
*To hone my improv/ATS skills and become a tighter dancer with my troupe.
*To develop my own personal sense of style.
*To study with Caroleena and get certified in ATS moves.
*To find mentors/friends to help shape me and cultivate my own style.
*To spend more time dancing, less time talking about dancing.
*To work to facilitate a Tribal Collective in Baltimore so more dancers get recognized.

What I'm going to Do:

*Take my practice up from 4/week to 6.
*Get up early every morning to do some drills. Saturday/Sunday off.
*Expand my musical collection and experiment with what I like best.
*Hit the streets to find dance venues.
*Take private lessons with area teachers, focusing on solo work.
*Network, baby!

OK... now, let's see how many of these I can live up to. The challenge is ON!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

dancers and criticism

I have been oddly surprised at times how Bellydancers in particular seem to have really weak skins when it comes to criticism. Now look, I KNOW that what I just said is a broad and sweeping generalization. So, I'll amend it this much- I have met many bellydancers who respond wonderfully to critiques of their dance and even a big handful that welcome them. However, looking at my past experiences in dance/theatre, my experience is that Bellydance is the one art where I've encountered the most delicate skins when it comes to criticism.

I've seen it in almost any class I've taken- a person is doing a move incorrectly or is just not getting an aspect of it and the teacher calls them out in class... then, the response? A contourted face, a stiff lip and maybe, in its worst (and to me most immature phase) a snippy comment back to the teacher. This is escalated even further when peers/classmates remark on something that this student is doing incorrectly and usually illicites similar responses, though sometimes even ends in the offended party talking behind their critic's back.

Why is this? My first thought is because Bellydance is marketed as this expression of your own body, no matter its shape and, therefore, attracts those with positive and negative self-images alike. Now, this is one of the many things I find positive about Bellydance- it helps those with healthy body images flourish while supporting and correcting those with negative ones *because we're ALL hot!*

However, those who come to dance with already low body-images are probably more sensitive about their body in general and thus, they take personal offense to criticism. AKA- not seeing the comment, "you really need to have your hip movements clean and strong before adding embellishments, like a bellyroll or you look sloppy" as a good piece of critique to help your technique, but instead hearing something like, "your hips look bad and your bellyroll is awful."

Now let me get this clear- I have been criticised in EVERY form of art/expression I've done- dance, design, singing, theatre. I can't say that sometimes it doesn't sting- some teachers are a lot better than others at tactfully telling you that you're not doing something right. And it can especially be hard when compounded with day-to-day stressors.

However, there's a right way and a wrong way to take criticism. First off, if you trust your teacher (and I really think you should or why the heck are you paying them/taking their classes), you should know that they are telling you these pieces of advice because they want you to be a better dancer. They aren't trying to take you down a peg or get some weird twisted personal satisfaction out of harassing you in front of your class (though I'm not saying some teachers aren't like that... AGAIN, if this is really the case LEAVE THE CLASS). Most teachers are actually teaching dance because they want to mold, shape and harness the potential of dance in other human beings, not because you're just another paycheck. And also, they're there to make sure you're not going to hurt yourself, which is something to be thankful for!

If they say something that hurts your feelings, don't snap back at them! Talk to them after class and tell them how you feel- more than likely, they'll apologize but also let you know that criticism is just part of the deal. It goes with the trade. And in all honesty, would you rather be doing a move wrong and looking awful in a performance, or would you rather deal with some humbling words and then perfect your movements? I know which one I choose.

Though, sometimes, it's just an interpersonal problem. And yeah, I get that too. People rub each other the wrong way and yes, we have all sorts of personalities in our community- the know-it-alls (which I'm sure I'm lumped into!), the passive-aggressives, the meek, the loud-and-flightys... I, for one, believe it's the difference and amazing variety of personalities that make Bellydance so fun- it takes me out of my norm and lets me see how our differences complete each other... but I won't deny that sometimes I suffer from "urgh! why don't you think like ME" syndrome. Anyways, there are times when you just see personalities clash and that, I believe, is the hardest to combat.

But to wrap this all up with my final opinion- if you want to be a professional Bellydancer, a professional performer in ANY vein, then you've got to get a thick skin. Sorry, honey, but it's true. There should be no pussy-footing around the honest truth- if someone looks bad or may be potentially hurting themselve you SHOULD tell them- and they should be able to take it. A true sisterhood/brotherhood, as is so often the catch-phrase that sells Bellydance, includes care, honesty and respect- and that only comes by taking a good look at yourself and saying, "I'm human, I'm not perfect and I trust my sisters/brothers to be honest with me and to help nurture me as I should nurture them."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I've been a dancer since I was born- I was known as the Family Ham, the resident Butt Wiggler, Singer Extrordinaire, Jukebox Choreographer, Creator of Skits and Pageants such as the likes of Olney had never seen.

My formative years saw me enrolled in the Triumverate of Girls Dance Rituals- Jazz, Tap and Ballet. I never got very far in tap, besides annoying relatives, however Ballet and Jazz soon lent itself to modern dance, which culminated in my choreographing of Very Important Pieces done to Bjork, Tori Amos and The Smashing Pumpkins... all of which, sadly, have been lost in time and ephemera.

Then I got into High School and was swept up in a world that strikes fear in many hearts- Musical Theatre.  Yep, I was all-singing, all-dancing and, by the end of my reign, all-choreographing.  Thank god I don't have any videos to commemorate this dark period in my life.  My contributions included The Musican Man, My Fair Lady and The Pajama Game.  Yeah, so don't dare try to challenge me to a jazz diamond face-off while singing, because I'll jazz-hand you into next Tuesday.  This coincided with my other axis-of-evil: English/Scottish/Irish folk dancing at the Renaissance Festival...oh yes, oh yes... I delved.

Then college came and, though I tried to shun my dancing roots, I soon found myself taking both ballet and modern dance class.  Now, I didn't really perform or anything, just put myself through hours of arabesques, floor rolls and pilates-inspired ventures into negative-space.  It was really fun and at the very least it helped to expend my all too abundent energy flow.  I played around with the idea of being a professional dancer but, much like my brief journey into being a pro-gymnast, my height was a hinderance.  I was told by more than a few teachers in the realms of acting, dancing and gymnasting *is this a word?  i think not* that I was too tall to really make any drastic impact on my chosen ventures.  

Don't fear though- I love being an amazon... it's the best.  I can reach everything.

Then, one fine day a few years back, I stumbled onto bellydance.  Really this started when I was fifteen and attended my first Solstice Ritual in Olney, Maryland.  Amid all of the chanting, the assuming of different goddess forms (I drew Amaterasu from the selection of Goddess Cards), there was a lady in her mid-thirties doing Egyptian style bellydance who scooped up my friend Julia and I and decided to teach us the art... well, I didn't retain much of "the art" past my brief foray into Wiccanism, however I did find that the intial spark still existed about 10 years later when I got into a bellydacing class.  

I'll admit it- I was mostly there for the laughs.  My friend Katie was taking a class from Lisa Zahiya at the Avalon Studio in Catonsville and told me I should come along.  I was convinced that, though I knew my friend Michele was friends/co-workers with Lisa, that this would be some sappy and stupid Woman Power Womb Hour type deal.  

Boy do I have to eat my words.  Almost two years later, here I am- spending all of my free time *that isn't eaten up by my awesome husband and/or knitting* practicing my mayas, undulations, hip drops *which I am HORRIBLE AT*, taxims and any ATS stuff I can shove in.  I have also found myself being a member of an awesome Improv Tribal Bellydance troupe of 8 (and sometimes 9) women and currently cultivating ideas to be both a solo performer and teacher in the somewhat near future.  

But why do I really do it?  For the costumes of course.

It's odd to think that Bellydance, something that I really did mock for being one of those cheesy dance forms for women with body-issues and/or exhibitionists who are just looking for sexual affirmation has become my salvation, my favorite sport.  And oh, don't you forget it- it IS a sport, my dearies.  

So, where does your inspiration lie?