Thursday, January 24, 2008

To Dance or Not to Dance?

Now watching: Farscape, season 3
Mood: takoyaki

I read the following on another dance blog, and I was leaving a comment but it got kind of long. So I decided just to respond here so I could ramble on as much as I wanted.

-excerpt from post at Bellydance: Experiences

...I'm so indifferent to performing. I mean I don't dislike it, since obviously I do perform occasionally. And I work on my performance skills, since I don't want to look like a doofus when I *am* on stage. But at the end of the day, if I never performed again, I wouldn't miss it. It's not why I dance, it's not the "fun part" for me. When we do have group performances and stuff, I always enjoy the rehearsal in someone's basement the night before *way* more than the actual show.

I know I'm a little bit of an oddball in that respect, since there's a common pattern: If you're a good student that shows some promise of talent and you fall in love with the dance, then the natural progression is to get out and perform, to get paying gigs. Which is great for people who want to perform, but I'm not in love with that part of the dance. (And then they end up teaching... whether they are good teachers or not. And plenty of great dancers are crummy teachers - it's a different skill set.)

I love it as a social dance. I love that it's danced by whole families at home and at parties. I love learning all of the ancillary folk dances, that are just that - folk dances. I love hanging out with my classmates, having fun, eating, and just getting up and dancing like normal human beings.

Of course, I suppose that's not as glamorous as being a bellydancer...

I believe stage performances really only serve 2 purposes. First, is to show off what you've learned (and I don't mean be a show-off, but to demonstrate). Second, is to make money in some fashion.

Bellydance grew from folk dance. It has never lost that aspect or appeal. I bet if you asked every dancer you could, dancing for themselves/fun/social would be at the top of their list. Not stage performances. I feel stage performances and "pro" dancers just fill a business need. So when you dance with a troupe/tribe (or even solo,) on stage you are usually filling a business need, i.e. "See what you can learn at Studio X. Learn about another culture. Come take classes here, etc."

But having some talent and/or loving the dance doesn't mean you want to be an entertainer, doesn't mean you should be an entertainer, doesn't mean that is the only natural progression for dancers.

From another point, so many of us come to bellydance through the "business end". We get interested and join classes. We dance in troupe numbers, at student nights, workshops, etc. to support the studio/troupe. We refer students, we carry business cards and flyers . We dance at fairs and expos to "educate" and support. We volunteer (drag) our spouses to events so there are warm bodies at performances. We buy CDs and costumes and videos. We try very hard to support the structure which has brought us into the world of bellydance.

Then we find ourselves not wanting to dance at every event. We don't have the time or money to go to every workshop. We fight with our families over time spent with them and spent in class. We become resentful spending money trying to fit into every costume we hate and come to every practice even when we just want to stay home with our family and vegetate. We begin to feel guilty because we aren't "supporting" the studio/troupe anymore. We have been brought up with the business mindset and now just want to dance, for ourselves, to have fun.

And suddenly, it's not fun anymore.

Our ideas change. Our goals change. Our needs change. And never at the same time as everyone else. How do you tell your dance-mates you don't want to wear that costume? How do you say you don't want to dance that number that you just learned, can't really remember, and don't want to look lost on stage? How do you say, "I don't feel like it," and not feel like you are screwing everything up for everyone else? How do you support the business and not go crazy?

Well, sometimes you can't. Sometimes your personal dance goals just don't mesh with those of a studio. As time passes you may find you don't want to be a "stage performer" as much as you did when you began dancing, amongst other things. And that isn't all that bad.

Sometimes, we get our emotions about the dance twisted up with where we think our allegiances lie (or are supposed to lie.) Your allegiance should lie with yourself and your family but you have to be honest with your dance-mates about your goals. If your goals change, tell them. Don't worry so much about hurting the business. The business will go on. There are other ways to support the BD community and your dance-mates. that I'm off and way beyond where the subject of the post started...

Yeah, I know what she means. There have been SO MANY times I've danced when I didn't want to. Didn't really feel like it. Not that I'm worse for wear, or that I was forced to dance.

But yeah, I feel you.



Lorna (aka BellyLorna!) said...

Loving your blog. well done.

Interesting and fun and almost all bellydance- I certainly haven't managed to keep mine all dance- but you might be interested in having a look anyway ( I live and work in Cairo , Egypt) .

I am writing something to recommend other bellydance blogs just now and your is def. going to be in there!

Amy said...

I would say that showcases and stage shows are not just for business, but for the students to say, "Look at me. I worked really hard and learned all this stuff and I'm really proud and I want to share it with you."

My troupe is super slackers, so usually if one person isn't keen on a gig it's the same for the rest of us. But we also have no problem saying, "Ok, people who want it take it and people who don't want it stay home in their PJs".

Naima said...

I agree with you Amy, not every troupe or dancer is the same. I was focused on exploring one tangent on the subject.
Things like this always very depending on environment and even style of dance. I think many dancers find the right niche that makes them happy, on or off stage.
But for all dancers, I recomend them making sure they assess their goals often and not let the pressures of performing on stage or supporting a group to dampen their own dance personality.

Amy said...

I'd definitely agree that there is this almost unvoiced but assumed thing in belly dance that there is a straight shot from learning to performing to being professional, and it can be hard for people who don't want that. Which is sad, because it should be fun just for the hell of it.

I got to dance around just for the fun of it last night, and I NEEDED it!

Young Vic said...
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