(Pic: Niama Tulsa, OK 01/28/06)
I took a speech class when working on my AA at a local community college a few years ago and I remember thinking how similar the basic principles were to bellydance. The introduction, meat of your speech, and conclusion as well as your eye contact, whether or not you used visual aids, “Is it in context?” where all touched upon. My teacher took the first few classes discussing how to handle anxiety in front of an audience and how, over time, your confidence will build as you become familiar with being in front of a group, etc.
Luckily, I had been dancing previous to taking this class. Otherwise, I think I would a completely failed. Speech class only requires you to open your mouth. You can hide behind a podium, read from your notes, use handouts or video and divert attention away from yourself. BD requires you to put your whole self out there for scrutiny. Your movement, expression, costuming, and music choices all reflect back upon you. As this isn’t difficult enough, throw all of your self doubt, body issues, and butterflies on top of that. Speech is a piece of cake! I made an A.
Since the studio closed, we've have been taking turns teaching class. I am next up and I was asked to teach, for lack of a better term, “staging,” how to use your space, interact with the audience. You know all the stuff going on in your head beside technique and choreography. I’ve been thinking back to my speech class and really trying to draw from that as a template because I’m not entirely sure how to explain staging or audience interaction. It’s one of those things you have to experience in order to grow from and become comfortable with. Not to mention, how do you teach this without it being a lecture? I mean, I can yak about my past experiences all day long but how do you practice staging? Is there a way to drill it and not loose the creative essence of your dance? I feel for the dancers out there who have beautiful lines and perfect technique but have those Vaseline smiles plastered on like they’re head is going to split in two from all the “fun” they are having. You can almost hear their thoughts, “1, 2, 3, and turn. Roll up and smile, walk right and smile, walk left, repeat.” They have drilled their facial expression in with the choreography. In my opinion, a good dancer isn’t one with flawless technique and a perfect body, but the one who can look me in the eye when dancing without any pretension and leave me knowing exactly what that song is all about without even moving. I don’t know, maybe that sounds too artsy-fartsy, but really, what good is performing if the interaction, the “meat of your speech,” is lost somewhere when you are too wrapped up in Left, Right, Left, smile…
Anyway, I have decided to focus on Intros/Outros and audience interaction according to a generic BD performance. This doesn’t really count interpretive pieces like you would see on a modern dance stage or even with some Tribal Fusion. We’re talking old school enter stage, dance, exit stage. And let me tell you, it’s been real hard not to mix this up with music interpretation. Staging, music interpretation, and technique are 3 very different things but each one blurs into the next. I’ve concluded the most important parts of a BD performance are Personality, Respect, and Posture. I won’t go into detail here but this is it, yep, all you need to know. Naima has spoken! LOL!
On a side note, my hubby helped my beat all the case files on Dead Rising last night and opened the “Overtime Mode.” Yee Haw! Killin’ Zombies is fun!