I've been reading the thread on The Indigo's tribe about lesser known tribal fusion belly dancers and been watching some of the videos.
This has caused some introspection in me. That introspection has been going on actually for the past month or two. I think that Kat nailed it on the head when we were chatting about belly dance during our trip: it's like the goth quandry... am I goth or not? I'm often plagued by that very question, actually. Kat's plague is, am I a belly dancer or not? Or rather, me? A belly dancer? Nooooo... Yes? For me, it's: am I tribal fusion or not? What am I?
While I don't think that cornering oneself into a specific genre is necessary, I felt like I needed to explore the question. Well, and given that I bill my classes as an intro to tribal and tribal fusion, I kind of had to, yanno. :p
My heart very much lies with tribal fusion for my personal style. But I've been watching those videos and thinking that it's not me... I don't dance like that... but then again, in workshops, I CAN dance like that... So what gives?
Well, my rational brain kicked in and made me look at my latest performance captured on video. I managed to look at it objectively and dissect it (not tearing myself apart but dissecting what that dancer was doing and what I liked and what I didn't like... as if it was someone else). I generally liked the moves. My arms were all over the place, though. I mean, they were moving too much. It's fine for arms to move but I felt like they were cluttering my dance. I think that I need to control them better. They need to stay still for a bit... actually, for a lot longer than they do. So it ain't as bad as I thought...
I also analyzed over the past few months what I like about the different styles that I have learned and practiced. With tribal fusion, it's the control. I love how controlled everything is. What I like about cabaret is partly the happy joy joy but also the travel (tribal sometimes tends to stay in one place... depending on who you see dancing) and the deliberate execution. As for the dark/goth side, well, I do like dark themes, dark humour, and drama.
Can all that mesh together? I think so. Rachel's choreography at the Golden Opportunity did have quite a bit of travel and that's probably at least partly why I liked it so much. I think also that controlled moves mixed in with some released moves (i.e., where the control is a bit relaxed, if only for a split second) and deliberate execution can be cool.
Interestingly, in my very first classes with my beginner students, I tell them about mixing the speed of moves like "slow, slow, fast fast fast fast, slow, slow, fast fast fast fast." So I do preach correctly per what I like and want for myself... I just don't do it! :p
So, this year (2008), close to half of my year has been spent on remembering my cabaret moves for the restaurant gig. It's been a very good exercise for multiple reasons. And, yes, I still like cabaret very much and probably always will. But I've practiced enough for now that I can go back to doing things for me.
I'm at this point where I feel like I have a armful of valuable things and it's a case of, All right, I've got all this. What do I do with it?
Here is what Jeff told me this morning in an IM message: " bellydance wise you have been scattered this year and I think that you are experiencing stuff and I think that you are going back to what you think is yourself... and I am not sure what it is but you are getting toward it." He's totally right.
I feel like I am striving for cohesion nowadays. As weird as it sounds, the best case in point was my latest cabaret costume (which I wrapped up last Thursday): I sought cohesion, got it, and felt very satisfied. I then decided that I will do the same with my other cabaret costumes and with other things too.
It also feels like I am bucketing things... like cabaret is becoming a separate bucket... ITS (Improvisational Tribal Style... i.e., the tribe stuff) is a separate bucket... and I look at my personal style bucket and there's a big question mark in it for now... feels like it is empty, actually. I very much feel like it is time to fill it up.
I have one more cabaret costume that I have to finish... oh and one that I need to mend (the dangly stuff is falling apart so I have to repair it) and then I will work on some costumes just for ME! I have so many ideas in my head, sometimes I feel like it's going to explode!
Now, working on my personal style is a bit too vague of an objective (I guess that work taught me well: objectives should be measurable). So I have thought of things that I will be working on. I feel like next year, my first focus will be on 'control'... I need to reintegrate control back into my technique. I especially need to control those damn arms. And, interestingly, as Ariellah pointed out, arms (well, and head but definitely arms) will deliver the drama, the darkness.
Posted by Celeste at 1:17 PM 6 comments:
Comments I had received:
This is a really interesting point - it seems that because of gigs, whether teaching or performing, we have to "package ourselves" into what the job wants, or the market wants, but it's not just us dancing the way we want to dance. I feel "used up" by my bellydance career, that most of my time & energy has gone into delivering the promised goods - and not much left over for the bellydance artist in me to work with -
But I think that's what happens when you take something you love & turn it into your job - ?
January 19, 2009 1:58 PM
From Jennifer Rose:
I've been watching that thread too. I have a clip up on the Bellydance Feedback tribe awaiting some criticism (tribes.tribe.net/bellydanc...6c24725702 ) I've watched the clip numerous times and I can see where I've really blended a lot of my cabaret into tribal fusion....yet I'm still left wondering was this performance technically tribal fusion?
January 19, 2009 1:58 PM
You bring good points. I've only recently realized that I am now a professional belly dancer: I teach, I direct a troupe, and I have gigs. And I'm sure that what I'm feeling are the growing pains of the professional side.
I am lucky, though, that most of the hafla organizers in my area know me for my personal style (which is different than the troupe and from the restaurant gig) so they expect me to go to their hafla and do my version of belly dance with funky music and dark themes. I've been contemplating throwing them off and doing a very happy cab piece. lol
My former teacher in Indy didn't like to be cornered into being a tribal instructor. I personally don't mind. I'd rather be reknown for something. ;) And that's something that I know very well so it's easy for me to teach that. I'm lucky, though, that my students do tend to be very 'alternative' in their style so I can throw in some drama and some goth stuff and they love it. ;)
Yeah, I'm one lucky dancer in many perspectives. I have certain duties for certain engagements (and I don't mind having them) but I can use haflas for my own personal artistic endeavors.
January 19, 2009 1:58 PM
I actually watched that clip last night! Which reminded me that I wanted to nominate you on the aforementioned thread. I loooooooooooove your style.
One thing that I"ve recently come to the conclusion is that, fundamentally, belly dance moves are mostly universal whatever the style you are dancing. What will differ is the execution, the arm placements, the costume, and the music. But, at the core, I think that it's the same. Hence why I think that fusing tribal and cabaret is doable: it will just have a slant towards one more than the other, that's all. Tempest hit it on the head, though, when she asked what is predominant? Her example was with fire... is it Fire Belly Dance or Belly Dance with Fire?
The execution of the moves in the clip is very reminiscent of the tribal fusion workshops that I took over the last year so I dare say that your piece is as tribal fusion as those workshops that were billed as tribal fusion. :D
On Friday, interestingly, some of the tribal fusion moves that I've learned recently naturally came out (probably because I've been practicing them) but my execution had a cabaret slant, my costume was cab, and the music was Greek... so no one batted an eye and noticed that it was not pure cabaret. lol So, again, I think that the styling is in the execution and all that goes with it.
January 19, 2009 1:59 PM
From Jennifer Rose:
Thanks Celeste - but I'm not really sure I deserve a mention at this point. I'm starting to recover from IT band problems that affected both my hips and while my performances are getting stronger - they're still inconsistent quality wise.
BUT!!! I want to talk about why your blog is resonating with me.....
I wanted to hit something you said about buckets. I understand what you're talking about - I went through something very similar a little over a year ago - I had an absolutely terrible performance at a show in Columbus - you know the kind where the audience just sits there dazed as if they just got punched in the face by Muhammad Ali and are wondering if their noses are bleeding and you practically crawl off the stage directly into your car and drive straight home....yep, one of those. Thus began a very challenging road to finding where my passion lay. Things felt off kilter and I was directionless.
I can't say exactly how I overcame it - but I did have a period of introspection...call it a time in the wilderness. Where I tried different things - I knew I had hit pay dirt when what I was doing felt authentic - where I was happy and where I felt safe in what I was doing. Look for a comfort level - are you comfortable? Does what you are doing make sense to you? I found my bliss in storytelling - I noticed that when I was actively trying to convey something to my audience that something very deep within me clicked.
It's almost like shoe shopping - keep trying on ones that appeal to you...when you find the right fit, it will FEEL right.
January 19, 2009 1:59 PM
You have very good points. And I guess that's where I am with my personal style. While the other shoes are pretty and I love wearing them, I haven't found my comfy pair yet. lol
Actually, my own bucket analogy was a deep one for me.. when I realized that my personal bucket is empty, it created a reaction in me. It feels a bit like when my kitty is looking inside something, her paws on the rim of the container, and wondering what she will see inside. It's very much like that, actually.
It also was like a wake-up signal when I realized that I used specific terminology saying that I don't dance for ME. I do feel like I am giving a lot to everyone else. And I'm okay with that. I am a very giving person. But it's time for me to give to me too. I just don't know what it will be exactly. I think, though, that it may simply be a cohesion between everything else. I guess I'm in the process of fusing everything... quite literally... lol
And, btw, I'm damn glad to know that I'm not the only one wondering about these things! ;)