Weekly Challenge for 5-13-13
I hope all the mothers out there had a lovely Mother’s Day! But now it’s Monday, and that means it’s time for another weekly belly dance challenge!
Let’s add the drama!
Dance is an art, and art calls to our emotions. Our left brains (the logical, analytical side) don’t always get art and don’t always understand emotion. Our right brains (the creative, emotional side) do understand both. Most of us spend all of our time, in regular life, in our left brains and very little time in our right, so when we dance, we tend to only think of the analytical, left brain portions of the dance. What count are we on? What step comes after this one? Where am I on the stage? How many minutes of dancing do I have left? All of those are left brain questions, because they are questions about numbers, space, time, and logical progression. Have you ever seen a performance that looks like a drills class? I have. It means they aren’t using their right brains enough. So let’s work on fixing that this week!
Beginner: At this level, the emotion behind your dance is probably the very last thing on your mind. For now, that’s okay. BUT, and this is a big but, are you having any fun? If your dancing is nothing but drills, memorization, and squats, what fun is that? Of course, if you are just starting, you need those drills, the endless repetition of movements and choreography (or combinations), and leg strengthening exercises. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be fun! And starting NOW, here, at this level, by making your dance fun, you will carry it through as you progress, and it won’t become just a bunch of drill exercises on stage.
What’s the challenge? It’s going to seem so totally easy you just might yell at me. But I bet you that this will be harder than it sounds.
When you are drilling this week, smile. When you are struggling through learning those mayas, smile. In your combos class, smile as you dance, even if your eyes are rolling back trying to remember the next step.
This will make a HUGE difference. Just by smiling, you are telling your brain (both halves) that this is fun, and that you enjoy it. Later on, this will come through in your dancing. You won’t look like a deer caught in headlights, frantically trying to remember your choreography. By merely smiling while you drill, you are telling your body and brain, “This is fun, I like this, and I can relax and be happy because this is not stressful, awful, or painful.” And when we are relaxed, we learn better, we retain better, and we perform belly dance better (remember that post on slowing your dance down and being relaxed when we perform?)
Intermediate: Smiles aren’t the only emotion we can put into dance. Sure, belly dance is (usually) happy and fun (depending on your style). But it doesn’t always have to be, and it’s not always appropriate to have a slap-happy smile plastered on your face while you perform. You can convey other emotions, too.
For your challenge this week, pick an emotion…any emotion. Or, if that’s too hard to choose, pick a song you like and figure out what emotion that song is conveying (and it can be easy…pick death metal for anger or a blues song for longing or sadness…whatever speaks to you, and there is no “wrong” answer). If this is hard, this week, go back to this challenge from last year and try it first.
Now, add that emotion to your dance. Overexpress. If you are dancing sadness, cover your face with your hands, shove those brows together, and PROJECT that emotion. Feel it every time you practice this week, every day. Figure out what you need to do with your movements. Should they slow down or speed up? Soften them or sharpen them? Should the movements be weak or strong? Play around, videotape yourself if you have to, and see what you can express this week.
Advanced: We’re going to work on some acting skill this week. When we are on stage, even with makeup, expression and emotion can be lost due to the distance between performer and audience. Unless you are right on top of the audience (which is not unheard of in belly dance), it may be difficult to express only with your face the emotion you are trying to convey. So, this week, work on expressing the emotion through your movements.
How do you make mayas sad? Or confused? Can you make mayas confused? I don’t know, why don’t you try it and find out. What happens when you tilt your shoulders forward and to one side? Can you look down without tilting your head all the way down? (hint: yes) How would you express anger without using sharp movements? And don’t just think of how to make movements express emotion. How can you show–with your whole body–the emotion you are expressing? What are your arms doing, what is your face doing, what position is your head in?
Really stretch your right brain this week. Video yourself and see if you are really expressing those emotions. Overwhelmed? Take acting classes, or watch stage actors (not TV actors…their methods are a bit different because the camera is right in their faces). Project those emotions to the very back of the room, so that someone sitting in the nose-bleed section can see what you are expressing without resorting to opera glasses. This can be tough, but your weekly practice is the time to sort these sort of things out. Play with expression and see what you can’t do.
Happy (or sad, or angry, or confused) dancing!