Monday, February 21, 2011

Belly Dance ADD

When we start performing, it's quite frequent that you'll be going through pieces like you're going through tissue in the midst of a bad sinus infection-inducing cold... which is what I've dubbed Belly Dance ADD. I've been there too. Let's explore this phenomenon, which is rather common.

Shiny New Toy

Whenever you pick up some new music, start coming up with ideas for the moves, the costume, etc., it's like a shiny new toy. It creates excitement and inspiration in you, at least for a while. You could view it as well as a creativity high. And then you work on it for a while and it's losing some of its newness, of course. I often hear from new performers that they can't wait to have performed the piece and be done with it. And that is actually sad but it does happen. And you'll find this more common in new performers than experienced ones. If you're in the category that does that, when you'll be thinking of your next performance, you'll want that rush again so you may switch if only to get your (momentary) high again.

Music Choice

One thing to contemplate is that the music choice may not have been the best one. In previous blogs, I've mentioned how you need to ensure that you are madly in love with your music because you will listen to it A LOT! And I do mean A LOT! We've all been guilty of choosing music that we thought we loved a lot but, really, it wasn't enough for the listening requirements of a performance. I've also been guilty of choosing some music b/c it made sense... i.e., it was a choice from the head... not the heart. That's another mistake.

Within Black Rose Caravan, there's one piece that we have dubbed the "unmentionable piece." It was the one for our very first performance and we have practiced a lot to it and have performed it a few times. There came a point at which at least one member said "I can't bear to hear it one... more... time..." Granted, in this case, the music was chosen for us. Still, it can happen that the music starts annoying you.

So make very good and conscious music choices!

Disappointment Factor

Another thing that could have happened is if the performance didn't go exactly as you wanted or didn't convey the mood/feeling that you wanted exactly. So you may assume that the music choice was wrong and you should move on to the next one. One thing to consider here is that the music choice may have been perfect but maybe the dancer and/or the dance wasn't perfect (i.e., the age-old "it's not you, it's me"). It may have been a disconnect with the piece. Generally speaking, though, it will be fear that held you back and you probably didn't obey some instinct. Nevertheless, you'll totally feel like not rehashing that piece. Understandable.

Exploration of Style

Very few people have a clear idea of what flavor of a style they want to perform from the get-go. Whichever style is your preferred style for performances, there are micro-differences within these and, for a while, you'll be trying to pinpoint what, exactly, floats your (creative) boat. As you're doing that, you'll need to explore those micro-differences and I think that it's one of the, if not THE main reason why people jump from one piece to the next. I think that it's an exercise that needs to be done and it's usually best done through actual performances, though you can get a feel for which flavor of a style you are more inclined for through your practice.

Redoing the Same Piece

At first, this will seem very boring to you. Why the hell would I redo the same piece? (Especially when I could move on to the shinier pasture over there!) There are many reasons, really, why this is a good idea.

Time efficiency
In 2009, I started having a number of performances in a short amount of time (happened a few times throughout the year). I absolutely did not have time to work, on, say, 5 different pieces. So that's when I started redoing the same piece. So having a piece/set ready to go will make your life so much easier than trying to come up with something in, like, a week.

Last year, I didn't heed Tempest's warning about Tribal Fest: she had said that she prefers to do pieces that she had done before for Tribal Fest. I so should have done that! I felt like my performance fell flat. Well, I didn't repeat this mistake for 3rd Coast: I ended up doing a piece that I had done a number of times before and it went super well.

There's definitely something to be said for the familiarity of a piece... it has a soothing factor. Also as another example, my latest piece is named Noir and I did it for Sans Sheriff. I did a different piece two performances in a row and will be doing Noir again for a few performances (yes, including Tribal Fest ;)). I'm actually very excited about working on Noir again!

Stress Relief
In line with the concept of familiarity, there is an element of stress relief attached to it. So if you know the piece really well, it will lessen your stress considerably. Again, totally speaking from experience! I was extremely nervous for 3rd Coast Tribal (given that it's a bigger festival) but the fact that I knew my piece inside out was totally helping! I knew what I had to do. I just had to deliver. Much less pressure than trying to remember what to do AND trying to deliver. ;)

Digging Deeper
So you do the piece once, have some satisfaction from it, see pictures and video, and can assess the tweaks that you need to do. And you get the option to dig deeper into the piece. You get to ask yourself what else is missing, what could you do more of or less of, etc. It's a great learning opportunity. Also, most of us have had a moment or two of remembering after the fact that we forgot to do XX for the piece. Well, if you redo it, now's your chance to add it back in! ;)

Strategy Around Redoing Pieces

So there is somewhat of a strategy around redoing pieces. Like you ideally won't redo the same piece in the exact same city... ideally, not even in the same state. But the key is really figuring out who will be at the event. If you know that it's the exact same crowd as the other event, then you may want to do two different pieces. If you know that it's in the same state, let's say, but people attending the event are totally a different crowd, then go for it: do the same piece.

I generally juggle two pieces at a time to help with that strategy. Usually, one will be a piece that I've done before and just needs to be dusted/brushed on and one is a new one that I'm working on. I also generally know which events I will be going to way ahead of time so I will create pieces according to that schedule. For example, I knew that I was going to Tribal Fest and was going to need a piece for it... so that was Noir. Next up is Tribal Revolution. I will want something different for that. I have this other piece that I started working on and will perform at the Festribal in Quebec City (and maybe other venues in-between).

Favorite Song by Artist

One other way that you could view re-doing the same piece is like your favorite song by a certain artist. You know, you go see the artist live and the show isn't complete for you until the artist has played your favorite song. So it's a bit the same way with pieces. I distinctly remember seeing Tempest and Ariellah several years ago and they each did certain pieces that I had seen on video but never live. I got so excited each time that happened! And, for Sans Sheriff, the lovely Carrie Meyer was hesitant to perform a solo because she didn't have any new material but the piece that she had done at The Belly Dance Show With No Name. I insisted that she do it again... because we all loved it and would love seeing it again! So don't be afraid of doing the same material!

Bottom line

So do consider giving yourself a break and re-doing the same pieces, recognizing that the urge to do new material will be there... but it's a good exercise to really dig fully into a piece... and, heck, you'll be ready to perform at the drop of a hat. ;)


Gnomebody said...

After reading your post and Tempest's post today and having a bit of think, I'm gonna re-visit a recent performance I did that I consider sub-par. Thanks for the the ideas!

Matthew said...

I understand why people hesitate to redo their pieces. I sometimes feel the same way about photos.

There's an instinct to do something new each time. To avoid repeating yourself, like it's lazy or lacking creativity. But it's best to remember that you're building on your experience, taking advantage of all the hard work you've done previously. Done right it's something to be proud of!

Lilith Noor said...

Lots to think about here. I'm guilty of the 'done, done, onto the next one' mentality, but going back and revisiting or reworking pieces is such a good way to expand your knowledge and become a better dancer