mood: Pringles and fudge-striped cookies.
I received the following comment
"I was wondering if you could watch this girl belly dancing on Britain's Got Talent and tell me if she's any good.
I thought she looked a little sloppy but I thought I should ask your professional opinion."
Before I say anything, I wanted to find out more about her. But after 200 Google links of "see Sophie Mei make Simon drool!" I gave up. All I know about her is that she dances at a restaurant and is 19 years old. I have no idea what kind of training she has had. With who and where she takes classes? If at all? Does she know anything about BD history and development? etc.
I don't like to critique other dancers for a few reasons. First, some performances are good, some suck regardless of talent, and this is a youtube video. Second, my critique would be no more than opinion. And an opinion is just that, an opinion. Third, I am a firm believer there is no such thing as an expert on bellydance. I will say that again.
THERE ARE NO EXPERTS ON BELLYDANCE!
Don't get me wrong, there are the good, bad, and ugly but if you want to hold BD up as an art form then there can't be a right or wrong. Only what is tasteful for the situation. I mean, you can bitch and moan about how some dancers discredit BD by throwing on a barely there costume and dry humping the air trying to pass it off as BD. And I would agree with you. Because I DO believe BD is an art. Which also means I must uphold the definition of art.
"Generally art is a (product of) human activity, made with the intention of stimulating the human senses as well as the human mind; by transmitting emotions and/or ideas. Beyond this description, there is no general agreed-upon definition of art. Art is also able to illustrate abstract thought and its expressions can elicit previously hidden emotions in its audience."
So critiquing BD would be like critiquing any art form. It would be based on personal opinion and taste. A "professional" critique can only really have any merit if you are looking at the art form in a specific cultural context. Even then it is only conjecture. And I am NOT a professional, LOL!
First, this is a get rich-and-famous-quick TV game show. That right there is enough to throw this discussion out the window. Listening to the judges "critique" they obviously don't know anything about BD, what it is or where it came from. All they know is she is hot and jiggles good. Which is unfortunate. If people are emphasizing, "You're so beautiful!" It could really stunt her as a dancer. The judges talk about her only in light of her looks, how hot and sexy she is. And yeah, she's hot. She'd make a great BD Superstar, but they tack on "talented" at the end as an afterthought. So really, the judges have no idea what they are looking at. Slap a hot 19yr old on stage in a hot costume, doing a mix of restaurant BD and club dancing and who knows what you will get...Brittney Spears maybe? And we all know how that works out.
However, if you want to look at it as her doing restaurant dancing contorted into a stage performance dancing for a few brief minutes in order to woo some judges who know NOTHING about BD as an art to win some recognition. Yeah, she did that hands down.
Ok, so what is my actual opinion?
Well, I've seen better.
One, she is a restaurant dancer (part time I think). Anyone who has ever danced between tables of people eating know there isn't so much art in it as there is looking cute. It's mostly walk, walk, jiggle, boobs and hair, jiggle, walk, jiggle, walk, boobs, walk, hair... It's a lot different then a stage number. Not to mention, WTF is up with the shirtless boy toys in the background?
Second, I thought her moves where WAY TOO BIG. Alright, I know she was nervous. And when you get nervous the first thing you do is go too fast and get sloppy with the moves. Which she did both of. The technique was pretty basic with just a few big accents here and there, (like you do in a restaurant), and a sloppy shimmy or two. Her legs were too far apart for her frame. It seemed she had little stability there. I didn't care for the English cover of the Tarkin "Kiss Kiss" song. If she was going to dance to a pop song, she could have used the original, you know, for cultural reference. She kept turning to the side and I felt like she was performing some crappy BD workout video choreography that bored housewives do when they want to reclaim their youth by pretending to be a sexy spunky bellydancer. Then again it was only like a 1min. choreography. Go figure.
Third, the Isis wings where kind of dumb. I know Isis wings take practice and look cool but they are just there to distract the audience. Same thing with swords, trays of fire, veils, and other stupid human BD tricks. People look at the Isis wings and forget all about watching the dancer. It was sort of a cop out. Bamboozle the audience with shiny things! But the audience fell for it, boy toys and all.
Sophie did EXACTLY what her audience and judges wanted to see. PLUS! They really didn't want to see a thicker older women making faces to 8 minute Arabic taxim. (I do, but I'm not a judge).
She did keep her crotch away from the audience when she did her back bends. PLUS!
She smiled and made eye contact. PLUS!
Her arms looked pretty good. PLUS!
She wore a simple modern costume that flattered her figure. PLUS!
She also is bringing BD to a broader audience (not the perfect audience but broader none-the-less). PLUS!
Then I went and found this video.
Better than the other performance but still not great.
She talked very briefly about posture and keeping her shoulders back. PLUS!
She danced to music that was still pop but not in English. Yea, some culture! PLUS!
She made the face, which shows she feels the music. PLUS!
Like before she turned to the side and used her legs a lot, not her torso muscles. Not So Much
Like before her moves where still really big. Not So Much
Like before her feet where wide and her whole body waved and bounced around instead of the focus on her hips. Not So Much.
I DO think Sophie has talent. I just don't think it is perfected. She could have taken classes with a Turkish style dancer. Turkish moves are bigger and showier than others. I still think she needs more muscle control. More muscle control would make her big moves look cleaner. It would keep her from swaying and bouncing so much. You know, not so floppy. Her dance vocabulary seems limited to some basic moves and accents. But she was dancing to pop music not intricate Middle Eastern style 3, 5, 7, or 9/8 rhythms, so I have to take that for what it is worth. I think she could be a better dancer and still be hot. Jillina needs to get a hold of her and clean up her form a bit.
I can't really look at a few seconds of Sophie Mei on a game show and determine her abilities as a dancer or artist. Watching BD on video probably does her a disservice. I am sure she is much more fabulous and entertaining in person. Every awesome dance I've ever seen is always 1000 times better in person than watching it again on video. The camera looses all the energy of the room, the audience, the dancer. I think it is sad that the focus of the show is on her being barely legal and sexy when she could really do better. She is only 19 and despite sounding jaded, she is too young to put any real feeling in her dance yet. I heard another dancer say that 5 or 6 years ago and thought, "She is just old and jaded." Well, she was right. BD gets better with age and experience. Unfortunately by then, you wish you still looked like a 19 year old, LOL!
And you know, I don't see any other bellydancer out there representin'