Monday, January 17, 2011

It's < You > Belly Dance!

It took me years to shake off all the labeling and angst over which style of belly dance I'm doing. It's a very normal process... but don't let it bug you. The earlier you can shake all of this off, the greater freedom you'll feel!

Personal Style/Artistic Voice
This is a loaded term: your own personal style. Every single time I mention this in a blog or to my students, there's an immediate recoil from some folks. Again, it's very loaded. I think that we have made it more than what it really is. I actually now prefer the term 'artistic voice' instead of 'personal style.' It seems less loaded. ;)

With the term 'artistic voice', it seems a bit clearer that all that it is really is your take on this dance using a given piece of music. It's your viewpoint on a topic. In a Zen fashion, there's no right or wrong... it just is. And it can change through time.

The truth is that all that isn't necessarily pre-planned. I mean that, for all that you may be on a quest for personal style/artistic voice, what will emerge as such is dependent on what you put out as a performer and what sticks with you. What I mean by that is that you will do different pieces and then common themes, ideas, moves, etc. will start to emerge. And then you're edging towards that Holy Grail of artistry. But you can't know it until you have done enough performances and experimentations with your art. And even then, it doesn't have to be set in stone.

(I'll most likely expand on this whole personal style and artistic voice concept in a future blog... I can't write everything here... but you have enough to get my gist.)

So I'm saying to not even bother with that at this point (unless you are an experienced performer/artist). It will come all on its own. Don't fret.

A big pet peeve of mine is when dances are misrepresented. For example, you say that it's belly dance but there's only a chest circle in it. Or you say that it's tribal but all that's tribal about you is the costuming... or vice versa if we're talking cabaret/raqs sharki. I think that that's what prompted some of my pondering on which style of belly dance do I normally do.

If you look back at some blogs that I posted on, you'll find a good chunk that have to do with me wondering which style I'm doing. Am I more fusion? Or downright tribal? Or cabaret? I think that it's a normal process also because we are all somewhat seeking some sort of appartenance. If you don't fit neatly in a bucket, it can feel a tad lonely... or so you think! Mwahahahaha!

All kidding aside, this was what plagued me the most for a while. And, with Tempest reminding me on a regular basis of how pointless this was, I finally let go of it. So I do whatever sub-style of belly dance... so what? THE most important thing is that it's belly dance and that it's MY take on belly dance!

And, yes, people will try to bucket you. Whatever. Let them try! A prime example is Tempest who is dubbed (by different folks) tribal, tribal fusion, gothic, steampunk, oriental, North African, raqs sharki, etc. belly dance. (Oh and never mind that she's not tribal at all... although she's very tribal friendly.) People feel safe putting others in neat buckets but, truth be told, very few people really fit neatly into just one. ;)

And the answer is...
Well, if you don't have reading comprehension, you may still remember the title of this blog: it's "you" belly dance. So that means that the true style of belly dance that I do is simply "Celeste Belly Dance". This is really the most important thing: to be true to your art and your heart. And, as such, everything else will fall into place.

So don't fret over the style of what you are doing. Don't fret about whether it's like anything that anyone else has ever done. Don't fret about being as good as so-and-so. For all that so-and-so is good at their style (so "so-and-so" belly dance), they can't be good at "you" belly dance the way that YOU can be.

What makes a belly dance performance interesting and entertaining is seeing someone's take on the whole thing. Again, be the best that you can with what you got! And everything will be A-Okay!

Workshop offerings

I now interrup this usually introspective blog to do some self promotion.

Please see the link for my current workshop offerings:

Contact me to get me to teach workshops in your town! And feel free to spread the word! :D

Much love!

Monday, January 10, 2011

There's enough to go around for everyone!

I know that I must not be the only person who has ever felt like that. I am a woman (no revelation here, I hope). As such, I can be competitive as often unfortunately happens to our gender. And I can be real hard on myself. So there have been a number of times when, if I go in a show after someone who has had tremendous applause that I feel like I will fail, be boring, blah blah blah... insert negative comment from my stupid inside negative voice. There have been a series of experiences that have made me realize that, really, it's not because someone had success that I won't.

There's room for all of us!
Well, one night, a couple of years ago, I was watching two local dancers whom I really love (Amirah and Gabriela) and I mused that it was so neat that there was enough room/space for all of us. I meant there that we all had something very different to say with our dance and it was great to see all 3 different perspectives and aesthetics.

The audience wants to be entertained!
Truth be told, the audience wants you to succeed! Mira Betz mentioned that in her intensive I took with her a few years ago and it was a revelation... as silly as it sounds. Seriously, the audience wants to be entertained from start to finish! They don't want to be bored! (And don't let that statement make you nervous!) They want to see what YOU can do with the dance. That is really what they want. And for those who do funky stuff (I most certainly am funky), the audience may have some preconceived notion of what they want but, hey, you can shake that up. Sometimes, we don't know what we want until we see it.

And, again, it's not like they're looking at the program, pinpointing at a (random) name and say "I want to be entertained by THIS person." Well, they are bound to say that of the main act in a belly dance show... that person at least better be entertaining. But they also want the rest of the acts to be entertaining as well.

It takes many different acts to make a circus!
I was talking to my student Adriane and my tribe sister Kat (while at the airport on the way back from 3rd Coast) about this concept and I found a good analogy. It's less intuitive because you may not perceive the competition as much because they are technically different disciplines but, say, for a circus, there are magicians, trapeze artists, contortionists, jugglers, etc., and they all have their place! We need to have them all! Adriane is the one who came up with this: THEY make the circus. So, yes, they might be competing each for a place in the show to begin with but we need all of them to get a circus show. And it's the same thing for belly dance: we need all acts to make a belly dance show!

Focus on what you have to bring!
I started to come up with that whole concept right around Tribal Revolution and I pulled from it also at 3rd Coast. At Tribal Revolution, I was going after Sarabi who had brought down the house. At 3rd Coast, Raphaella did a splendid job (for as much as I could tell from backstage). So I focused on what I had to say with my dance. Those ladies did their thing and presented what they had to say. Next was my turn. I was presenting what I had to say. It was most certainly different than what they had done. But it's a case of neither is 'right' nor 'wrong'... they're just different... period. It's kind of like having a differing viewpoint. Or, actually, one has nothing to do with the other (except for being in the same show).

Do the best that you can with what you have!
Tempest often mentions in her workshops and in her blog posts that you should do the best that you can with what you have RIGHT NOW and under the set of circumstances of the day. So do the best that you can with your skill at the level that it is right now, with the body that you have right now and under the day's circumstances (e.g., if you're tired, do the best that you can given that you are tired). You don't have to be the next best thing since sliced bread to be in the belly dance show, you know! Just do your best!