Weekly Challenge 9-30-13
We have a different sort of challenge this week. Are you ready?
As dancers, we have a intimate relationship with the floor. It’s what we dance on. We worry about it when we perform. Is the stage flat? Is there water or glass or somebody’s popped beads on it? Is it clean? What type of floor is it: wood or stone or asphalt? It gives us our support and literally IS our stage.
As belly dancers, we have a complex relationship with the floor. Some of the most impressive and entertaining parts of belly dance are done on the floor. Sword work, back bends, Turkish drops… But some dancers will never go to the floor, because it is illegal for them to dance there, or because of the costume they are wearing, or because it’s a hookah bar and who knows what’s been spilled down there… !
And then there is the floor, our security blanket. When we concentrate, we stare at the floor. When we are shy, we stare at the floor. When we are not confident, we stare at the floor.
Dancers, when we are performing, the floor should NEVER be more interesting than our audience.
Yes, there are times when it is okay to look down, at the floor. Character pieces, or a particularly inwardly focused taxim, or as an accent, or a hundred other reasons. But you need to acknowledge your audience at some point. The floor should not be more interesting.
So what’s the challenge?
Beginners: It’s hard not to look at the floor when you are concentrating, but this week, you are going to try. When you are drilling, or when you are practicing a new or difficult move, don’t look at the floor. Instead, find a particularly interesting painting on your wall, or look out your window at something across the street, anything to get the chin off your chest and your gaze out towards your imaginary audience. Do this everyday, every time you drill. Check in once and awhile and see if you are keeping that chin up!
Intermediate: When is a good time to look at the floor? And how do you do it right? It’s time to ask your teacher! Find ways to look at the floor without seeming to stare at it. BUT, always remember to look up again. Looking at the floor conveys certain emotions (sadness, contemplation….think of any others?) but not if you look at it throughout your whole piece. That conveys only this: fear and lack of confidence. Not what we’re going for (well, yes, there might be some pieces, but there are other ways to convey fear than staring at the floor your whole dance). And keep this in mind: it’s not just your chin that needs to stay off your chest. Your eyes need to look up too.
Advanced: If you are performing at this level, you really should know to keep your eyes and your chin up. No audience wants to watch a professional dancer staring at the floor. Watch videos of yourself this week. Are you looking at the floor? Are you meaning to look at the floor? If so, try the previous exercises to help. Also, build your confidence. As apes, we find it difficult to stare at people’s faces–especially people we don’t know–for very long. It’s rude, and it’s also a dominance game. As women, we may have been trained to never stare at people, especially men, as it’s an invitation, pleasant or otherwise. While we don’t want to stare people down in a performance (okay, maybe sometimes!) we do want to be able to make eye contact, look at our audience, and feel confident. Go to your trusty mirror and try looking at yourself. Do you make weird faces? Does it get hard to gaze into your own eyes? This week, concentrate on building your confidence and making sure you are comfortable looking at your audience and making eye contact.