Interestingly, I was thinking of writing a blog about enjoying the process (and it's going to be the next blog) when I read one of Tempest's last blog posts (http://darklydramatic.blogspot.com/2011/06/inspiration-artist-audience.html ), which reminded me of a feeling that I've had lately when thinking back on when I started doing solo work... and it fits as a good preamble to enjoying the process. See, the "process" is different when you're in different phases of your journey.
So, yes, belly dance is a journey, especially if you are putting in art in your belly dance. And it feels a lot like growing up. Yes, again! Note that the length of each of the phases may differ from one person to the other but the ball park figure should be about right. I got the time estimates cited below from Tempest in a workshop and it kind of made sense at the time but not nearly as much as it does now that I can look back upon my growth as a dancer. Since the times and accompanying attitudes line up so well with different phases of our life, it made sense to dub them that.
Baby (0-1 years of dance)
The "baby" stage is when you've just learned your first few moves. A little bit like the babies in the picture, you'll have a mix of uber joy and dread. Like, "Oooh! This is fun!" and "You want me to do what?" At that stage, you are actually just trying to wrap your brain around the technique of the moves and everything seems so wonderful and whimsical. You're bombarded with information and probably don't know what to make of it... yet... so that part may seem overwhelming. But, generally, it's a happy place. ;)
Toddler (1-3 years of dance)
This is a time when you love absolutely everything that you do. It's so cool! You just love it all! It's a pleasure to dance, to perform, just going up there and doing your thing, whatever it is, is really blissful and enough of a reward.
Looking back upon it now that I'm further along my growth, to me, that time feels like I was a toddler doing finger painting, paint all over myself (as the picture depicts), flicking paint everywhere, hoping that it makes nice shapes. Also looking back at videographic evidence of those performances, I now shudder. Understanding that I was still a new dancer helps but it is still a bit of a reality check now... and, in a way, a cool reminder of how far I've progressed.
But progress you will or rather should. This stage is fine for a while but you have to move on and work on delivering more refined performances. I've seen dancers stuck on this stage... it ain't pretty... :s
Teenager (4-6 years of dance)
Teenage years are different from one person to the other. In the case of dance, it will be the self-loathing, "I hate everything!" version. This is a period where you will hate what you're putting out. Now, whether what you are putting out is bad or not is totally debatable... or, actually, more often than not, it's actually not bad at all. There's just something missing... it's not quite what you want to present... it's not quite as spiffy as you'd like, not quite as technical, not quite as intense, not quite as < insert whatever thing you desire in your
dance >. In reality, this is the moment when you are finding your voice in dance, your artistic side, your personal style, etc. It's probably THE moment when you are going through that belly dance ADD that I mentioned in a previous blog post the most (see http://celestesmusings.blogspot.com/2011/02/belly-dance-add.html )
These years will feel like they take forever to get through. Believe me! It's really disheartening at times! You'll be disappointed in performances, sometimes right after you're done, sometimes days later... You'll feel like hanging your tassels a thousand times over. A lot of people actually will quit during that time. I danced for about 5 years while in Quebec before taking a 4-year break. Now, it's a long story but I think that I was mostly in that "toddler" stage the whole time or maybe had just entered the "teenage" period but I still did quit (and started the process all over again ;)).
You will greatly miss the blissful ignorance that you had in your toddler years and yearn for a similar feeling of being happy with your dance again. Teachers, mentors, fellow dancers will keep reminding you that it will get better and that what you are doing is good... it will be hard to see that there is an end to that period... but, yes, it WILL get better. Trust me! I just got out of that period!
Adulthood (6-?? years of dance)
Once you're through 'the dark years', you'll find a freedom to have fun and do whatever you want. It's quite blissful. As I mentioned already, I'm in this phase now. And I can tell you that there's a whole lotta fun to be had!
You will put out performances that you do like. Are they perfect? Of course not! But you won't be flustered/frustrated with the little hiccups as much. You'll keep refining your pieces, your general style, your eye, etc. But you'll generally be happy with your dance and where you're going. Will there still be pieces that you'll hate? It's possible. But, by this point, you'll have had enough training and experience to work out kinks in the studio and be prepared for the actual performance so that there should be few disappointments. In trying new things, also, you may hit a snag. But, again, you'll generally be happy with your dance and will find great freedom. (It's pretty exciting too, lemme tell ya!)
When I started writing this blog post, I asked myself "What is there after the 'adulthood' stage? Is there anything? Is there another step or just retirement for dancing?" And then I remembered Artemis (who I've met many years ago and see at least yearly), Lee Ali (who I met at Tribal Fest this year), and Amel Tafsout (who I met at Tribal Revolution this year)... and I realized that that was the answer! These ladies just have fun. They don't have anything to prove to anyone anymore (not that it should be the basis of your dancing but there is some element of that whether you admit it or not) so they just do whatever the hell they want to. I picked this lovely picture of Amel because it shows a serene bliss that I sure hope to attain one day! ;)