If you're still reading, Esmerelda, there's a vibrant and varied bellydance scene in Manchester, so anyone who can't find a bellydance class there has not even started to look.
Originally Posted by EsmereldaDancer1987
Let me recommend Tracey Gibbs, of Taste of Cairo, who is an excellent teacher, and who runs a bellydance performance agency, and can therefore give a realistic appraisal of your readiness to perform.
Bellydance Workshops/Classes Manchester with Tracey Gibbs*-*Taste Of Cairo (The UK's premier belly dance agency)
But honestly, Google is your friend, just search for "belly dance classes Manchester"- it brings up loads of options.
As a student of this dance, the thing I want most is to be respectful of it. I am not a professional and it is unlikely I will ever earn my living as a dancer -- I came rather late to the dance. But here are a few things I have learned that seem relevant to this discussion.
Respect the dance. As a westerner from a small rural town I did not grow up in a culture that produced this dance form. The natural subtleties and history of it were not part of my growing up and must be learned as well as I can learn them. There are many, many teachers and dancers and musicians out there who have a lifetime of experience studying this dance and they are willing to share what they know in order to help me better understand and learn. There is no 'perfect ancient history' of belly dance. I can't presume it to be the way I imagine, just because that would be cool.
Respect the music and musicians. This is not western music. It has its own nuance and meaning and it is not something I can 'just dance to'. I have to learn it and try to grasp things that are not intuitive to my western mind.
Respect the teachers/dancers. These people have paid their dues. They have worked for years and decades to learn what they know and if they are willing to share their time and knowledge I would be a fool not to learn everything I can from them. This is a community full of generous women and men who love this art and WANT people to understand it and love it too. They want to teach and offer great advice and honestly help those who truly want to learn. If they tell me I need to work on something, there is wisdom in heeding that advice.
Respect the audience. Without audiences, who would dancers perform for? And you never know who is out there. A friend of mine in West Virginia of all places, walked into a Homedepot (Large hardware store) last week searching for something to pad out her Shemedan. She had the candelabra with her. Everyone looked at her like she was nuts until one man in his 60s from the plumbing department said "Oh you're looking for something to pad the headband on your Shemedan. Right this way!" (His mother danced in the 70s.)
Respect myself. Seriously. Respect myself enough to allow myself to become the best dancer I can. This means giving myself the time to learn things well. To work hard and do it right, to learn technique and musicality and stagecraft. I own myself the best teacher I can find -- I travel 80 miles each way every week to see her. If I respect myself I will take the time so I can present myself as the best dancer I can be. I will not rush ahead and let ego or fear or jealousy stand in my way. It's a hard road to take, to enjoy the journey and work long, but if I want to do what is truly best for myself in this dance, I will take that path.
I am doubtful, at this point, that the original poster is still following this thread, but I hope she is. It is a brave thing to put yourself there and ask to be evaluated. It is hard not to hear the answer you want. That does not make the answer invalid. If you are brave enough to post here, be brave enough to take a deep breath and give yourself and this dance the respect it deserves and go back to work. Learn everything you can. Find a great teacher or two, or four. Don't disrespect yourself by offering something half-a**ed as the best you can do. Work hard. Work long. Do it right. You have to potential to be great. Let yourself.
Last edited by Kartane; 01-17-2013 at 02:50 PM.
Kartane, even if the OP has left the building, that post was inspirational. Thank you. (And how cool was the shamadan part?! ).
ETA - I especially need the Respect Yourself paragraph. Permission to cut 'n' paste into a little poster for myself?
Last edited by Aniseteph; 01-17-2013 at 06:44 PM.
I'm still following along, just been busy, busy, busy...
The main thing I've learned from all this is how peoples worldviews and understanding of culture and history influence the way that people develop their dancing styles. Those parts of history that we feel drawn to and the schools of thought surrounding those periods obviously shape what we perceive to be right and wrong when it comes to dancing style.
So I feel it's best if I share my world view just so you know my understanding of it all and can get an insight into my motivations and purpose for dancing. For me dance isn't just about performing or learning a particular style. Obviously learning to be a great performer is one goal but it's not my only motivation for learning this.
So although I've felt compelled to dance to all types of dance since I was young. I was pulled to belly dance specifically through learning about tarot, kabbalah, esoteric mysticism, alchemy etc. And it's ties to ancient egyptian culture. The book of thoth for example, now known as the tarot deck, the high priestess within that deck and it's connection to the tree of life. In my research the preistesses in egypt would dance as a way to worship the egyptian goddess hathor, the goddess of fertility and wisdom who gave birth to Ra the sun god. By understanding the principles of alchemy taught by the ancients it's easy to understand where the movements of belly dance originated from in this high form of art and their purpose for moving their bodies in this way. It's my belief that belly dance for women was the feminine equivelant of nei kung or other similar ancient martial arts that the men would practice. The beauty and wisdom of the matriarch balancing out the power and strength of the patriarch in ancient culture.
The high preistess card in tarot is largely connected to the goddess hathor and encoded in the imagery of that card is the tree of life. The tree of life, kabbalah, is all about mastering and balancing out the various energies within the body as a way to lead to a greater degree of self mastery in all forms of expression. The same goal as pointed to in the tarot as represented by the world card. So to me Belly dance is a form of art and expression that leads us into heightened states of spirituality and awareness as the shamans and priests would have done in antiquity.
Like everything in life it's an evolving dynamic artform that shouldn't be constrained by specific right or wrong ways of doing things, as long as it helps us connect with the goddess within and helping us become more confidant and effective in how we relate to our lives and the world around us then it's having the desired effect.
Alot of people talk about having rapport with the audience in order to be a good performer but for me the only rapport that really matters is the rapport that we have with the deepest and most profound aspects of ourselves. And once we connect to that part of ourselves then we give off a natural vibe and confidence that allows people to tune into our world, it creates a state shift in them which enables them to feel what we feel as we dance which is passion, playfulness, sensual earthiness and emotions. The elements being brought together in an expression of movement that inspires those around us.
That's what I aspire to at least and look for dancers who have embodied these four elements into how they dance. For example I really love the fiery passion and playfullness of alla kushnir.
or the sensuality of someone like Yana Tsehotskaya
Ideally, i'd love to learn the principles of dance and allow the technique to refine itself naturally over time. With classes I personally feel as though the emphasis is too harshly focused on perfect technique without really getting in touch with the principles that drive those movements.
I know my philosophies are probably a bit backwards to most people lol but this is the only way I learn effectively without getting stressed out and frustrated by working myself too much to achieve that perfect technique.
Nothing wrong with your philosophy - but the dance you are drawn to is lost in the mists of time - and it is not belly dance. Belly dance is a specific dance form that has a number of characteristics - technical and cultural. It is not a dance of priestess, tarot, ancient Egypt or any of those things you are drawn to. It is a folk dance which also has a performance arm.
What you are interested in is often call "Pharonic Dance" - and it is a total fantasy as far as historical accuracy goes. Do read Irena Lexová if you really want some accurate idea of how dancing was done in Ancient Egypt (as recorded in the tomb paintings). Feel free to make up any dance you like - just don't call it "belly dance" - it isn't.
The thing is they are showing excellent rapport with the audience. The clip you posted of Alla Kushnir she is playing with the audience and being flirt with them. That is the playfulness you are getting from her, not a rapport with herself.
Originally Posted by EsmereldaDancer1987
I will qualify this with saying that I have never seen you perform I have just seen you demonstrate a very good technique in that video you posted. When you aren't interacting with the audience you have a 50/50 chance of losing them and in a restaurant or more casual situation that can turn very bad because the audience can see each other and if they start noticing that others aren't paying attention then they will wonder why they should pay attention as well. If you can't connect with the audience you do need almost flawless technique to make up with it, if the audience feels involved or a connection with you they can be very forgiving of technique. This just comes from my personal experience as a performer in other dances and demonstrations for 5+ years.
Last edited by Munniko; 01-17-2013 at 09:05 PM.
Reason: for some reason the quoting text went funny
Esmerelda, here is a different way to think about all this. Technique IS freedom of expression. When your body, your muscles, know how to execute a move perfectly, with intention and crispness, or smoothness and flow, you are free to lose yourself in the music and not have to think about every move you make, or plan 4 steps ahead or worry 'did I do that hip drop or chest slide with grace and precision?' Dancers of this art form to not train toward 'sameness'...they train toward more and more freedom of expression. In allowing yourself the time and work to be precise, know the history of the art, learn the moods and nuances of the music, you open new worlds to yourself. Technique does not box you in...it sets you free.
Originally Posted by EsmereldaDancer1987
Last edited by Kartane; 01-17-2013 at 09:26 PM.