Better (almost) Late than Never!
Whew! These past few weeks have been really tough, and my blogging has suffered. But here is your weekly challenge! I made it!
And no, we’re not talking about your moral fiber, here, but your belly dance character. Do you have one? Do you think you need one? Have no idea what I’m talking about?
Like all dance forms, belly dance is an art. It happens to be a traditional folk art, but it is also a growing, evolving dance. Many dancers know the value of having a “dance character,” a person they become when they dance. They are no longer themselves, but the beautiful, elegant dancer. Some take stage names and use acting techniques to get into character.
In belly dance, in my opinion, we don’t always *need* a character for our dance. Our own personalities are usually enough. Have fun, smile, relax, and the audience will see who you are naturally. But in the more artistic pieces, in the more theatrical pieces, this may not be enough. And people like me–shy, reserved introverts–may need the extra help of a character–almost a second “personality”–in order to be more comfortable dancing. Kamrah is my belly dance character, and I become her when I dance. I am no longer myself, but her. Kamrah gives me the freedom to be someone else, to put up a mask between my true inner self and the audience; she is an extra layer of protection between the scary world and my tender heart. It sounds fake, but it really isn’t. If Kamrah wasn’t real, was completely fake and not a part of my personality at all, she would not be believable, and no one would enjoy watching me dance. She is part of me; she is my wildness, my freedom, my creativity–all the emotions and parts of me that I would otherwise find hard to share–all coiled up together into my performance self. She’s the one who gets to dance and express herself, while my inner self stays nice and safe while still experiencing the thrill of dancing for an audience.
So what’s this week’s challenge? Let’s find your inner dancer, your inner wild, free, beautiful, unrestrained dancer.
Beginner: Every day this week, write a little bit in a journal–your personal journal, your dance journal, a file on your computer, whatever–about those emotions, those parts of you, that you find hard to access. Don’t worry about expressing yourself, your inner self. No one will see this. If you fear someone finding it, delete the file afterwards, or tear up and/or burn up the paper once you are finished (but try to remember what you wrote, because we’ll be using this later!). This is getting into some deep stuff, and it can be very, very hard to share. Write about your fears, your strengths, what makes you…you. Don’t be critical, don’t judge, just write. We’re not going to do much with this yet, but hold onto it for next week. This will be challenge enough: write about yourself every day this week, even if it’s only a sentence.
Intermediate: You are also going to journal this week (so go back and read the Beginner section if you skipped right to it). As an intermediate dancer, you may already be somewhat comfortable with showing yourself on stage. It may be the I’m-smiling-only-because-I-might-cry-or-run-away self, but at least that’s a start (and it’s okay!). This week, in addition to your journaling, you are going to work on thinking about how these personality traits, fears, weirdness, etc., can be translated into a character. Who is this person? Does she love to dance, but fears the spotlight? Or maybe she’s a beautiful, demure lady with a wild side that comes out when she hears that song, that rhythm, that singer? How could that be translated on stage? After you write your entries, brainstorm some ideas (and remember the rules of brainstorming: no idea is stupid).
Advanced: Your regular dancer character is probably set pretty well by know. You slip into your performance self–whether she is really you or the mask you wear in order to perform–quite easily and are comfortable. Great! But that’s no fun for a challenge! Let’s get theatrical! This week, we’re also going to journal, but in a much different way. If your dancer personality is you–meaning you don’t need a mask, you just get out there and dance (we’ll call this the “you dancer”)–this week, journal about how you would make a dancer character. Someone who is NOT you, NOT the “you dancer.” If you want, try the journaling exercises in the previous levels and see if you can’t come up with a character (and maybe even a choreography piece?) that is completely NOT YOU. Remember, this is theatre now, not just dance. If you have a dance personality or character–we’ll call it the “mask dancer”–that isn’t you, how would that character dance to something that made her uncomfortable? This is deep–how would your dancer character, your “mask dancer,” put on a different character? How would a new character be expressed through the old? Would it work? Too confusing? Try it and find out. Brainstorm some ideas, maybe pick a piece of unusual-to-you music and see what you can come up with. And hey, tell me about it! I love getting feedback!
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