Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Don't be a clone! Be yourself!

There was a thread on tribe (yes, it's still alive) asking if something was plagiarism. The gal fell in love with the music and costumes of a performer and wanted to use both elements but do her own choreography. I've written here and there plights to do your own thing, not be a copycat, etc. This is a more specific exploration on the phenomenon.

I've seen countless performances where it's like a copy of Rachel Brice or whoever from Indigo... or some other famous belly dancer(s). Unfortunately, what happens then is that your identity is let go of in favor of someone else's. I've even heard audience members dismiss performances on the grounds that it was the clone of something they've seen before (*insert sigh* "Oh... another Indigo clone.") While it's not a bad place to start (don't we start anyway by somewhat doing whatever our teacher does?), at some point, it's not enough anymore. Essentially, at first, the audience (including fellow belly dancers) will cut you some slack for doing what someone else did... but, at some point, we'll want to see YOU shine through.

But I loooooooooove this!
Okay. So you're madly in love with something. Instead of re-creating the same thing exactly, assess instead what you love about it.

So you like the music? What is it about the music that you love? Identifying that will help you maybe finding a different piece of music in the same style. By the way: if you use the exact same piece of music as someone else, your performance will automatically be compared to that other person's performance... hence why I'm recommending finding some other piece of music. However, sometimes, you may have a totally different take on the music and it's totally justified to use it.

So you like the costume? What is it about the costume that you love? You can work from there to tweak so that it will fit your body better or just be different enough that the audience's mind won't wander to that other dancer.

So you like the movements/choreography? What do you love about it? And how can you tweak that to make it your own. If we're talking about a specific movement, you can actually kind of replicate 'as is', just make sure that it looks good on you (e.g., leaning forward [or sideways] is a bit tricky on me as I have a belly; there's a sweet spot that works but anything beyond that creates too many ripples in the flesh). Now, for a choreography, I would recommend not re-doing the same thing exactly but rather parcel out moves here and there. And consider analyzing the choreography to gain insight as to how the artist had interpreted the music... and maybe that will help get YOUR creative juices going.

Put your thinking cap on
Even if you will recreate one element 'as is' (especially if we're talking about the music), it's really important that you assess what it is that you liked about the element. The reason for that is that it will give you important insight as to what your aesthetics leans towards. It's especially important, actually, if you are in the early stages of figuring out what you want to do with this dance. For all that dance is about visual interpretation and expression, putting some of it in words will be extremely beneficial. It will help focus your thoughts and your creative direction. What I'm getting at here is that you can't just say, when asked why you love something "just 'cause". ;) You need to have a more articulate than that.

Consider also not doing the exercise just for the items that you like but also for what you dislike. For example: So you didn't like costume XX. What was it about it that you didn't like? You can do that for any element of a dance. That will also give you another set of insight.

And, sincerely, go through the exercise. You'll find extremely important information that will help make you find that proverbial personal style!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fabululous post! So often I will LOVE something and be too scared of being labeled a "poser" for using it that I don't. Now I think I can dissect exact what I liked and make it my own! :)