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  1. #41
    Member AndreaSTL's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade View Post
    What would you expect a Serious Dance Student to continue to study, outside of movement?
    Technically nothing. When I first heard of dancers entering competitions using someone else's choreography it felt like they were cheating. I thought the real measure of a dancer was how she could interpret the music. I've since changed my thinking on this. Dancing and choreography are two different skill sets. It's great when one person has both, but it's not necessary. I wouldn't expect a principal ballerina to do her own choreo, and knowing that she didn't while watching her performance I wouldn't think less of her dancing ability. I don't think less of Samia Gamal or the Reda dancers for not creating the work that they execute so well.

    I now feel that to be a good performer you should be able to execute the movements correctly and have stage presence. Perfect execution + dead eyes = me not being drawn to watch. We've become accustomed to having to do everything ourselves - training, choreography, promotion - because our dance form isn't mainstream. While that's a reality that isn't likely to change soon, it doesn't mean that someone who doesn't do all three well isn't a serious dancer.

    Once a dancer makes the jump to instructor I feel like she should work in the other areas that have been mentioned such as cultural awareness, music interpretation, and choreography creation. I wouldn't want a teacher who thinks dancing means only following the drum and counting to four. Those are fine starting points, but a good performance is made up of so much more. Unfortunately many groups are formed by people who have a shared interest but limited ability. It's fine for them to get together and have fun, but when they start marketing themselves as professionals it's not always good.

    Since most of you don't know me IRL, I should state for the record that I'm not a professional dancer. I am not conducting a business as a performer. I say that because I don't want you thinking that I'm upset with substandard "professionals" because they're taking away revenue. I'm upset with them because what they present to the GP is often half-assed at best. If someone only sees that one performance that will forever be in their mind what a belly dancer does. I hate that people outside our community feel like we are sluts after having seen the Kaya & Sadie video or completely inept after seeing a group of six week wonders at a public event.

  2. #42
    V.I.P. Kashmir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndreaSTL View Post
    I thought the real measure of a dancer was how she could interpret the music. I've since changed my thinking on this. Dancing and choreography are two different skill sets. It's great when one person has both, but it's not necessary. I wouldn't expect a principal ballerina to do her own choreo, and knowing that she didn't while watching her performance I wouldn't think less of her dancing ability. I don't think less of Samia Gamal or the Reda dancers for not creating the work that they execute so well.
    There are two differences. One is that Samia Gamal and any of the Reda dancers could dance - and dance well - without someone else's choregraphy. And many of the latter are more than capable of creating their own choreography.

    But more to the point, belly dance is at its heart an improvised dance. If the only thing a dancer can do is follow someone else's choroegraphy then s/he is falling short of what I'd consider an essential skill set as a belly dancer. However, I would not fault them as a belly dancer if they could not follow choreography but were able to dance to a range of music themselves. However, I wouldn't hire them as part of a troupe.

  3. #43
    Member Roshanna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kashmir View Post
    But more to the point, belly dance is at its heart an improvised dance. If the only thing a dancer can do is follow someone else's choroegraphy then s/he is falling short of what I'd consider an essential skill set as a belly dancer. However, I would not fault them as a belly dancer if they could not follow choreography but were able to dance to a range of music themselves. However, I wouldn't hire them as part of a troupe.
    This. Improvisation isn't a traditional or integral part of ballet or other Western theatre dances AFAIK, but it is the absolute heart and soul of bellydance. That is one of the reasons why bellydance can't be compared in a straightforward way to these other dances. It's not really about just movement. You have to be able to feel the music, 'get' it on a visceral level, and be moved by it. Which means, realistically, that as a Westerner you will have to actually study the music because you haven't grown up with it, and study song lyrics and cultural nuances because they don't come naturally to you as a non-native.

    This is fudamentally a social/folk dance, and if you can't get up and dance without somebody else's choreography then you are seriously lacking as a bellydancer (and not fit to be a professional IMO).

    (by 'you' here I mean general you not specific you!)

  4. #44
    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    What Kashmir and Roshanna said, absolutely.

  5. #45
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    I'd agree, improvisation is important in bellydance. It's also the thing I find the hardest. I've tried twice to learn ATS and the thing that throws me the most is the need to improvise, take the lead and then give cues to others and then follow improvised choreo. I'm instinctively more comfortable being given a choreography and learning it. Accordingly one of my objectives for the year is to attend a choreography course to try and understand the theory and learn to put the steps together because I know I need to get beyond following other peoples' choreo.

    I don't know I'd call myself a serious dancer. I'm a student, a social dancer, an amateur dancer but it's not my profession.

    Returning to the original question I've never known shouting, agressive correction etc in bellydance classes and I wouldn't stay in a class that did that. It's not like school PE where I had to tolerate being yelled at. Most of the ones I've taken have been led by incredibly positive, bouncy people. That said I don't mind being corrected, as long as it's done courteously and also recognises that there are some things I physically can't do (like a lot of floor work with back bends) because it hurts my back and neck. I don't mind being gently adjusted if my posture etc is incorrect.

    I also dance a lot of tango and the teachers there are more inclined to adjust students in terms of posture, moving a foot where it should be. I've had my teacher come up behind me and move my shoulders. Then as it's a close partner dance, I tend to expect more physical contact than I do in bellydance.

  6. #46
    V.I.P. Kashmir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yorkshire Lass View Post
    I'd agree, improvisation is important in bellydance. It's also the thing I find the hardest. I've tried twice to learn ATS and the thing that throws me the most is the need to improvise, take the lead and then give cues to others and then follow improvised choreo.
    That said, "improvisation" in ATS is a completely dfferent kettle of fish. First, you practice the thing to death. Second you have to memorize cues and a fixed movement vocabulary. Third, there is little, if any, musicality. Improvisation in raqs is about feeling the music and becoming one with it - while making it interesting to watch if you are performing. You have the added difficulty of predicting where the music will go if you have never heard it before - but at least you don't have to worry about people being able to follow you so you can use any move you think fits.

  7. #47
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    To be fair. I think any "lack" of musicality in ATS has a lot to do with whoever is leading it. There are a lot of not very musical groups out there. But it's not true to say ATS innately lacks musicality, though obviously the form has its limitations.

  8. #48
    V.I.P. Kashmir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zumarrad View Post
    To be fair. I think any "lack" of musicality in ATS has a lot to do with whoever is leading it. There are a lot of not very musical groups out there. But it's not true to say ATS innately lacks musicality, though obviously the form has its limitations.
    Basing the comment on material on the FCBD site. Basically potential students are told to stick to certain types of music and rhythms. Basically what I think of as "musicality" in belly dance does not translate into ATS due to the inbuilt restrictions of the cueing and training. It isn't a matter of experience or skill it just isn't a part of the genre.

  9. #49
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yame View Post
    But is it really a question we should be asking? Is it a comparison we should be making?
    That's the real question, and sometimes I wonder. I mean even if our art form was totally mainstream, and taught as a 4-year major in colleges, would it still be an accurate comparison (Oriental versus Ballet or Modern.) ?

    With us, we have to make it all happen. We have to pay for our own training if we want to keep going.
    Also to the point, we really have to PAY to actually perform, if you think about it. Where are the ballet dancers who are out there creating their own venues?

    However I think I can answer for myself as an individual... for me, I think it does require extensive training. Because whenever I ask myself the question of what I should be doing to get better, my answer is always "more." Whether I'm going through a lazy period where I just take all my classes but hardly ever practice at home, or whether I'm going through my motivated period where in addition to my classes I'm also practicing daily. It doesn't matter how much I do, I always feel like I should be doing more.
    I love this, and I hear you. Sometimes I ask myself, "why am I working so hard to get basically nowhere?" There are no "jobs" here -- nothing pays enough to live on. What keeps me motivated is, like you, the desire to improve and the sheer love of it.


    So even if we don't actually NEED the extensive training... I want it anyway. Because I want to dance, all the time. And I don't mean dance by myself at home (I've been REALLY unmotivated to practice on my own lately). I mean actual classes with other people, plus rehearsals, plus performances, plus dancing socially. The few times a year I get a chance to take workshop intensives where I am dancing for 4-8 hours a day for multiple days in a row, that's when I am the happiest. I wish I could have that in my life, all the time.
    ITA.


    Practicing by yourself in front of a mirror is something, but it's not the same as being in class constantly being corrected by a strict teacher for hours and hours everyday.
    But again the question is -- do we NEED that kind of extensive training? I mean, not just you and me and the people who eat sleep and breath this because they CAN. But do even the highest quality professionals NEED this? Do the touring pros train like that?

    So I think no matter what you'll do, it'll still be laughable from the perspective of someone who dances ballet or modern professionally. That's why I don't think we should be using those comparisons at all. We should still set the bar high for ourselves... in areas like mine, certainly the bar should be higher than it is right now. But I think we need to find our own balance, not try to base it off of these other dances that are so different from ours.
    Fair enough. And I can actually agree with everything you wrote. Thanks for the comments!

  10. #50
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    I asked: What would you expect a Serious Dance Student to continue to study, outside of movement?

    Quote Originally Posted by AndreaSTL View Post
    Technically nothing.
    Really? Not even music? Not culture?

    When I first heard of dancers entering competitions using someone else's choreography it felt like they were cheating.
    Me too -- but then I got to thinking about the nature of live bands and improv, and with the virtual death of the live bands, how dancers HAVE to rely on CDs. And when you rely on music that is the same each time you play it, I can how choreography starts to become the norm, and then I can see how since choreography is the norm, you have to sort of "extreme-ify" it, with more tricks and more layers and more props, and then suddenly it's evolved into "Competition style" dancing, where you actually do perform everything you can do, and dance everything you know, in 7 minutes.

    I thought the real measure of a dancer was how she could interpret the music. I've since changed my thinking on this. Dancing and choreography are two different skill sets. It's great when one person has both, but it's not necessary. I wouldn't expect a principal ballerina to do her own choreo, and knowing that she didn't while watching her performance I wouldn't think less of her dancing ability. I don't think less of Samia Gamal or the Reda dancers for not creating the work that they execute so well.
    Well, therein lies the major difference between say ballet and Reda troupe, and your basic belly dancer: Barbie Bellydancer is a soloist, and doesn't have to take into consideration any kind of group stage dynamics, where Reda and ballet companies do. You need someone skilled in choreography in order to get the group to embody your visual picture, rather than just the soloist.

    And actually, there have been ballet dancers who DID choreograph their own solos. Or improved them. During the Balanchine years at City Ballet, he let Suzanne Farrell do some of her own choreography -- or he would give her the idea, and she would execute it her way. It's not common, but it's not totally unheard of for a pas de deux that's not essential to the narrative to be left unchoreographed, for either the artistic director or the dancers to make themselves.


    Once a dancer makes the jump to instructor I feel like she should work in the other areas that have been mentioned such as cultural awareness, music interpretation, and choreography creation.
    I don't think I can get behind the idea that musical interpretation is something that should be left until the dancer evolves into a teacher -- or is that what you're saying? I mean, if the real measure of a dancer is how she interprets the music, then it seems she would be really handicapped by not having a good and thorough understanding of it. Ya know?

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