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Developing your dance…

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I was tracking linkbacks and blog followers this morning and through a series of clicks I ran across a post by dancer Heather Sara from Newfoundland. She was writing about solo’ing, but more generally about how to bring her dance to a new level of polish and professionalism. I really appreciated her thoughts on it from the perspective of one doing solos or choreography, and have included a cut of a portion of this detailed blog post herein. The full post is at the link.

By Heather Sara:
“I read a snippet from an interview with Zoe Jakes recently and all of the things she said really stuck with me:

‘Develop yourself as a soloist. Find your own creative voice and practice, practice, practice. Also, Find ways to get comfortable onstage, do haflas and renaissance faires. Make your own costumes, or at least have a heavy creative hand in the process. And try your hardest to not lose sight of why you are dancing, getting too wrapped up in a goal can sometimes make you forget to enjoy the process.’

I guess there are three things here that I liked. One, I have been realizing lately that to develop myself as a dancer in any context (group or solo) I need to be a better soloist. A group of dancers all dancing together without emphasis on their personalities has a time and a place and we do that sometimes in more serious pieces. But given that belly dance already looks different on every individual body, most of the time we wear totally different costumes that emphasize our personalities, and we barely even bother to body match, I think it would be weird on OhMaya if we tried to be the same in every way. We look our best when we’re out there, totally nailing the choreography but also blatantly being ourselves.

Two, I’m trying to be more conscious of what I wear and how. I am realizing that not only does it seriously impact how people perceive me, it has a huge influence on how I perceive my own dancing. Not just wearing black and silver and my sad face to dance a piece with a tsiftitelli-vibe, but it’s also a big part of getting into character. Am I a vaudeville vixen tonight? Or a mysterious snake charmer? Am I going with coins, chains, kuchi and tarnished metals? Or fringe, feathers, velvet and lace? When I’m feeling strong and powerful I go for the former, and when I’m feeling girly and flirty, the latter. It’s not everything, and I should be able to dance technically the same way no matter what, but it’s part of a mindset.

Finally, I love the idea of not getting lost in search of the elusive “success”. Maybe I’ll be one of the big five or ten, or however many tribal fusion dancers everybody’s heard of someday. Or maybe I won’t. But a teacher who I harass for advice regularly told me that a path would open up in front of me as long as I wanted (to dance) and that all I’d need to do was be open for opportunities, and that I needed to be present on that journey. I need to enjoy this part of my dance career. I’m young, healthy, learning, happy. This is great!

The technique related items I am working on in terms of solo-ing are (in no particular order and many inspired by teachers):

* learning to stay still from time to time and let everyone breathe
* hand management
* occasionally repeating myself (to make the audience feel smart)
* incorporating combos I’m comfortable with into improvised numbers
* not getting my picture taken mid-shoulder roll, chest drop or pelvic tilt
* enhancing my costumes so that they suit my music more specifically (I must be the world’s only belly dancer who finds the costume thing utterly overwhelming, which is totally baffling considering my general love of clothes and accessories; I am working on it)
* mastering the entrance (first impressions count!)
* portraying what I’m actually feeling instead of filtering it through what I think I should be feeling, or what I feel like showing the audience (although sometimes that’s ok) or what I’m comfortable showing the audience
* using my “power moves” to my advantage and making the most out of the things I do well”

Thanks, Heather, for sharing your list on your blog! So, dear readers, do you have a list of your own? What would you put on it?

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Shay Moore is the director and primary instructor at Deep Roots Dance in Seattle, WA. She loves writing, movies, costuming, knitting, cooking, and bellydance to the moon and back again; and loves her amazing husband and doggies even more than that.

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