I’ve been rather quiet on this topic for the last several days. Not that I haven’t been working – just, it gets a little boring to report on my fairly routine training day after day. “Did same thing. Improved.” or “Did slightly different thing. Not feeling well.” kinds of updates don’t yield much insight for me. Getting stronger and better prepared is surprisingly the same, this year or 5 years ago.
Training does ignite flashes now and then, though. Friends were sharing beautiful videos to watch, too last week, which led me to spend some more time in study. And! There have been live dancing humans to observe tons this week!
I tend to take away from observation specific things I love and want to do or loathe & vow never to repeat. Seeing many dancers in rapid succession, though, I started to see a few things that stand out as differences between bad, good & brilliant dance; I was stuck by the consistent threads across performers of different genres and taste.
- Stillness. Every great performance I can think of exploits stillness, even if only tiny pauses, to pull you along with it. Bellydancers seem to make less use of stillness and silence than most performers (I suspect it’s for love of shimmies and rhythms that seem to ask for movement), but when we really get it, the results are striking. Dancers who know Johara, for instance, know how powerful it is to watch someone who can shimmy like a madperson just stop on stage for 5 seconds.
- OMG YOUR NECK! I tend to lift my chin somewhat ridiculously, which leaves a little tension in my neck – with the probably subconscious intent of being regal, I end up making my whole posture sloppy. I’ve been hyperaware of this in other dancers as I watch them, because having a poorly raised head and compressed neck (whether it’s from slouching or from delusions of grandeur) gives us all floppy noodle arms. [ETA: By the way, I saw video of myself later in the week that proves exactly this point. Poor soba noodle arms. You're going to Alexander class for sure now.]
- Extradaily posture matters. A lot. It doesn’t have to be any specific posture (case in point: Spoon, whose postural choices are varied and often far from bellydance convention), but assuming a dance “character” in your body infuses the whole performance with intent and focus. This week I also watched a series of videos of myself dancing (over the past 5 years or so) for the purpose of showing a colleague, and this is so very true for me – without ATS posture to fall back on, I fall apart. Schadenfreudian that I am, I feel much better having seen other good dancers look “meh” when they disregarded carriage.
- Caring and intent. Which are not dependent on having a Deep Inner Feeling. The performances I’ve most enjoyed recently – Cattleya, who I got to see live, or these videos I’ve watched and re-watched from Isidora Bushkovski (Izzy does that thing I mentioned with her neck, and is still so awesome to watch) and Asharah – share little but the dancers’ skill and passionate engagement in the performance.
Cross-posted from i'd like four tacos, please.