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Fusion as dessert

posted in: fusion, performance | 3

I was musing to my husband recently about musical choices, and how our troupe went from a good mix of folkloric and funky, to straight up funky, and is now trying to bring back in some of that folkloric. I compared funky music to dessert–you would have this really great yummy sweet unexpected thing to cap off the “meat” of the performance. He agreed and said that with the use of primarily funky music in recent years, our sets had maybe become a little one-dimensional. “It’s like all you’re giving them (the audience) any more is dessert!” And we all know what happens when we eat too much dessert. We get sick of it!

I know when Chris agrees, I am onto something. Heh He has a keen eye, and is not critical without constructive feedback.

This is definitely what I have been feeling in watching bellydance performances these days, as well. From haflas to festivals, it seems everyone wants to jump right to dessert, and is skipping out on the equally delicious, but far more hearty, main course. All night we are fed sweets after sweets after sweets, and it gets artistically nauseating before too long. And one starts to crave a nice juicy steak, hold the whip cream please!!

And there is something else to the dessert analogy: “additives and preservatives”. So many of these sweet desserts are made up of artificial sweeteners and coloring. So little organic, natural expression is coming through. Everyone wants to clown it up so much, hoping to bury the chemical taste of contrived art under a heavy scoop of confetti and laughter. Why are we all so eager to jump to the easy sell, instead of getting to the root of the dance and just sharing it from our hearts? I think a lot of artists are truly afraid of being “boring”–and jaded audiences sure can be dismissive if they see anything that looks even remotely like something they have seen before. Blame it on television, blips and boops, the daily one-upmanship of the media.

I know I am victim of this mentality at times. Just the other day I was talking with some fellow dancers about how we often hesitate to adopt “yet another FatChance move” into our vocabulary, because we don’t want to look too much like them or be compared to them constantly. Of course we want to speak with our own voice, and not appear to be banking on the work of another artist. Yet I have always felt that choosing NOT to do something because someone else is doing it can be just as limiting as choosing to DO something because someone else is doing it. In either case, we are allowing someone else’s choices affect our own. We are locking ourselves off from artistic possibilities that are open to us, out of what? Fear? Jealousy? What is really at the base of these choices? Why can’t we be humble in the face of others’ great art, and if it is offered to us and we love it, why not embrace it? Conversely, if we are given something and it doesn’t feel quite right, we should just as enthusiastically change that which needs changing to suit our true expression. And ultimately these questions should be asked! Is this new idea really “me” (or “us”)? Am I doing this for attention/fame, or because it resonates with some integral part of my being? Why am I itching for change so much, when what I am doing and creating now is still beautiful and relevant and entertaining? Were the changes I have made in the past god choices, or do they need reevaluation?

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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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3 Responses

  1. Amy
    | Reply

    Sometimes I think about how we are 90% FCBD moves and 9% other stuff (that 1% being there for the weird “Uh, what were you doing there?” “I don’t know, my mind went blank and I just went with it.” But I figure it’s like this: FCBD comes up with these moves, road tests them, tweaks them and if they stick around it’s for a reason, because they work. Why reinvent the wheel? Sure, we don’t bother with moves we don’t like that much, what is the nice part about not being ATS. We’ve dropped lots of things we’ve learned that just don’t fit us anymore.

    As for funky over folky music. I find that though I like funky music for fun it calls for movements and vocabulary that usually does not fit our style. We can “funkify” our current moves a bit by playing around with timing and intention but what we do is to, mmm, formal for a lot of funky stuff. Unless we want to come up with a whole second vocabulary or set of variations to fit that music it just won’t work out that well. As it is one 2 hour rehearsal a month is not enough to get in what we want, so I can’t imaging trying to build a vocabulary just to fit the music that is not the main meat of what we do. On the other hand, we’re fine with our dancers doing solos that break out of our style so that does give a place to break away from the usual stuff.

  2. alexisyael
    | Reply

    I think partners of bellydancers who pay attention can be our best critics/ sounding boards, sometimes…

    And I totally agree with your assessment re:music… the funky stuff was so much FUN b/c in the beginning (hahahaha all of fifteen years ago, maybe ten?) Tribal music was so Same in it’s folkloricness… and then we found all this new funky music and it got exciting and was fun and fabulous but then it started to feel (imo) Same in it’s funkiness… so maybe now we’re all trying to find the balance or (in the case of some, the next funkiness… I’m just not that into Oompa oompa music, unless it’s really killer, and even then, oy! It gets a bit much…)

    I myself am being drawn more and more towards Indian and Persian music these days, dunno why…

  3. Amy
    | Reply

    Let me amend that to say “one 2 hour rehearsal a WEEK”.

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