Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What will you do with your dance?

As the end of the year draws near and it's time for pondering on what happened over the last year and making New Year's resolutions, I invite you to ponder a few things about belly dance... or if you are an artist who does another form of art, you could easily substitute "belly dance" for "your art". ;)

Several years ago (about 4, to be precise), Sabrina Fox (then from Atash Maya) had posted on tribe some questions that left me pondering... and I'm asking them to you.

Where do I want dance to take me?
This one was interestingly hard to answer. I mean, to give an honest answer requires you to dig inside of you and see what you want... what you really really want. (And I'll stop there because I'm starting to sound like a Spice Girls song. :p) "Where" here is obviously not a physical location... although it could be.

Where will I let dance take me?
This one initially totally highlighted how much of a control freak I can be. "What do you mean, let dance take me somewhere? I'm in charge here!" It actually ended up being the start of me realizing that, oftentimes in art, you have to let go of your heavy grip on things and allow the art to take over. If you don't practice art daily, that can be real hard to do. I promise that it gets easier with time, though. ;) But the question is also more than this... explore it.

What will I do with dance?
This one, I'm adding to the mix. It wasn't part of the original set of questions... only the first two were. So you've been taking classes for a while and have been enjoying them thoroughly. You've watched a few shows and have been amazed at what you saw. Now... what will YOU do with dance? Will you join in the ranks of performers? Or keep it as a physical activity without the performing aspect? PLEASE note that neither answer is right or wrong... it's right or wrong for YOU... and the answer might be different depending on the moment.

Fun in dance... NOW!
Performing is loaded with so many heavy things... but, please have fun with this dance. That's really what it is about. And don't push out when you'll perform based on some silly notion that only exists in your head (if only I was 10 lbs lighter... if only I had these many years of experience... if only I had this piece of costume... if only...). There is nothing like RIGHT NOW to get you started. Don't wait!

Write down thoughts/feelings
Do feel free to grab a notebook and pen and write down thoughts on these questions and your feelings around dance and performing and whatever else you feel like writing about. Vent your heart out on paper. Or you could do it electronically. I find that, oftentimes, writing down my feelings, especially if they are heavy, helps me get rid of them and gain better clarity.

Remember to DO!
For all that I'm inviting you to ponder and write and all that, don't fall prey to what I do: I tend to overanalyze, overthink, over-whatever... It took SEVERAL times of being told by both Ariellah and my yoga mentor that it's time to do stuff instead of thinking before it finally sank in. Now, I know better how to keep a balance between all of it. Why, yes, you need to actually dance in order to dance. :p

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tips for preparing a performance - Other considerations

So this is essentially part 2 from the last blog. Again, I want this to be at a high level so I won't go into like choreography 101 or things like that... I'll cover those more detailed things in other blogs at some point.

All right... so you have figured out your music... what else do you need to think about?

You want to think of your costuming early. Sometimes it takes time for the ideas to fully develop and will morph as you're working with the piece. But thinking about this earlier rather than later is a good idea... b/c you don't want to be scrambling at the last minute to find costuming items or make them. As I've talked about in a previous blog, remember that the costume should ideally work synergistically with the performance to enhance the mood and the overall aesthetic of it all.

Remember practical considerations:
  • Will the venue allow for bare bellies? (Most do.)
  • Will you be using a prop? If so, does that mean that things are off limits because of it? (e.g., be careful with anything protruding like spikes if you're doing veils)
  • Will you be doing floorwork? If so, you need to make sure that your costuming is something that can allow you to go down and off the floor without hindering. Also consider whether you would wear kneepads and, therefore, whether the costume hides them well enough.

Those are just some ideas of things to keep in mind.

What accessories will you put with your costume? I'm putting this as a separate category because, sometimes, we forget about those. ;) Also think of the level and style of bling you want to wear. Do you want to go for mega sparkle? National Geographic look? Minimalistic? Just like everything else, it all should work in synergy. If your costume is already very sparkly, maybe your jewelry doesn't need to be... or you could go for the 'disco ball' effect (not necessarily bad... it depends on what you do).

Hair and Makeup
Again, in that blog on synergy and all that, I mention considerations. But, yes, think of those things early too... what if you need to learn a new technique for something specific that you had in mind? Or you need a certain product?

Shoes or barefoot
Sometimes it's a stylistic choice... sometimes it's a practical one... and sometimes people can only do one or the other. But think about it proactively. It may modify your costume and your moves if you do one versus the other. So keep that in mind. Also keep in mind that, for all that you were thinking of dancing barefoot, sometimes it just won't be possible. So have an idea of footwear that you could wear. For example, I did a performance a few years back where I had planned to be barefoot but the stage was really in a bad shape; I ended up dancing barefoot anyway and got a splinter... not fun...

Make decisions
There will be times when you will be faced with options and ideas that are of equal values... they will fit but it will give a different slant or just a smidgeon of a different flavor... or they could even be drastically different but just as good. Then you just need to make a decision. There's no right or wrong oftentimes so it's not uber easy to just pick (though it gets easier with time) but you just gotta do it. Listen to your gut feeling. It will rarely stir you wrong. And if that gut feeling is conflicted, just pick. ;)

Time and its pitfall
Say, you are preparing way in advance of a performance or you don't even know yet when you will be performing or whatnot so you have a loooooooot of time to get ready. That's both good and bad. It's good because you do have time. It's bad because you will have a harder time making decisions, fooling yourself that, since there's so much time, you can choose later. Then your progress may end up being slowed because you aren't making decisions that you should. So don't fall prey to that.

Another consideration is that (and that's my issue often), I end up not working on things that I should be working on because I have plenty of time... and then suddenly it's crunch time. One day, maybe, I'll learn. Though, I've come to realize that I work better under pressure so maybe a part of me is putting myself under pressure purposefully. The pitfall with that, though, is that life will interfere at precisely the wrong moment... thus putting even more pressure (and less time to work with).

Things that you want to do with this performance
I will talk about this in more details in a future blog but one thing that you may want to think about proactively is what you want to do/accomplish with this performance. Here, I'm not talking about the message that you want to convey but 1 or 2 simple things that you want to work on to make your performance skills progress. (This tip comes from Miss Tempest. I used to have too many things that I wanted to do with a performance and she wisely advised in the workshops in Indy to pick only 1 or 2... more than that is too much to process.) For example, it could be things like 'Not look down.' or 'Remember to smile.' Again, more on that in the future but it's something to keep in mind as you are developing your piece and, specifically, when you get close to performance time.

Past performance playlist
So I talked about the 'Performance ideas playlist' in the previous blog. The 'Past performance playlist' is a list of all the pieces that I've worked on in the past. The reason why I keep it is mostly for a convenient and quick way to find a past performance music piece (my music library is rather large). I keep it in chronological order. And it's fun to look back and see what you have worked on... you may eventually notice trends about your work and what inspires you. And that is information that can be very relevant for future performances. In addition, should you want to revisit a piece, it's right there! ;)