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 tribe.net, 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!