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  1. #11
    Member Selene's Avatar
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    Ohhhh I love this subject!!!

    Last year while I was creating my first choreography (first choreo for myself, but I've made group ones before. Strangely making one for myself was much more difficult! back to subject!!) and when I presented it to my teacher, to get some advice and pointers first thing she mentioned was that I needed to breathe, and second that I was rushing a bit. More importantly, she said that by solving the first problem (not breathing enough) the other one would be easier to solve. She suggested that I could choreograph breath. Maybe not in the whole piece, but that choreographing it would make me more conscious about it, and will also help me take my time to make juicier moves.

    Well that helped soooooo much!!!! now even when I'm just practicing I try to incorporate "choreographed breathing" when Im repeating a sequence, and of course when I'm dancing to very soft music I consciously breathe to help keeping it slow (as a baby dancer this is the most difficult thing!!)

    I love everything Shams said about the emotional component of breathing!

  2. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Selene View Post
    She suggested that I could choreograph breath.
    Love this!

  3. #13
    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    I'm coming down hard on the side on not choreographing breath. How on earth can belly dance be an honest expression of emotion when one cannot even breath naturally? I once said that one of these days, western dancers would carry choreography to the point of inserting "breath here" into dance notations, but I was kidding.
    "Well, now that we have seen each other," said the unicorn " if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you."

  4. #14
    Member Shems's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shanazel View Post
    I'm coming down hard on the side on not choreographing breath. How on earth can belly dance be an honest expression of emotion when one cannot even breath naturally? I once said that one of these days, western dancers would carry choreography to the point of inserting "breath here" into dance notations, but I was kidding.
    One would think! But I have to admit, when I became more thoughtful about my breathing, it actually helped me get out of my head and put me in touch with my emotions. It let me be more authentically in the moment.

    Of course, in this dance form, for those of us that learn it through classes and not our own cultural upbringing, we have to sometimes take another door to do something that comes absolutely natural to a native. Then we have to practice at home a lot to get those things in muscle memory so that when we get to the stage we don't have to think about it all, we can just dance.

  5. #15
    Member Roshanna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shanazel View Post
    I'm coming down hard on the side on not choreographing breath. How on earth can belly dance be an honest expression of emotion when one cannot even breath naturally? I once said that one of these days, western dancers would carry choreography to the point of inserting "breath here" into dance notations, but I was kidding.
    Even though I tend to prefer improvisation and I feel that many dancers are over-reliant on choreography, I actually don't think this is a ridiculous idea.

    If you're working on using breath in dance, notating breath for certain points in a choreography seems like one good way to get the use of breath into your muscle memory. It would be weird to do it for a whole dance, but I can totally see the use of specifying that you were going to inhale on a dramatic arm raise, for example, or reminding yourself to take deep, slow breaths whilst holding a particular pose.

    I'd argue that the aim should be to eventually *not* need to specify it and to make it unconscious, but doing this could probably help you get there.

  6. #16
    Member Selene's Avatar
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    I can totally understand why it can sound like something that could prevent the authentic emotions to flow during a piece. Actually, it never crossed my mind to choreograph breathing before my teacher suggested it (and I repeat, she suggested to choreograph it in SOME parts of the piece). But now I see it the same way I see drilling a specific move or combination until my body builds muscle memory for it. My dance isn't less expressive because I drill the moves or steps. It is just the way I can learn this dance that isn't part of my culture, that I didn't grow up seeing everywhere. I compare learning how to dance with language acquisition, I write and write and write and read the same thing dozens of times, and even practice whole sentences of greetings and things like that, I practice diction when my mouth is not used to certain sounds, and eventually it all becomes natural, even if at first I "choreographed" what I wanted to say. After enough practice it starts to flow.

    Also, I do love improvising and I am building my movement vocabulary and learning as much as I can so that it can become more and more natural to me to improvise. However, I love choreographing and "consciously"dancing too, and choreographed breathing can even be part of the drama, to empathize a move, to help the representation of pain or happiness in a moment in the piece (like Roshanna mentioned).

    Something to note too: many new dancers, either because of stage anxiety, nervousness or many other factors, actually do forget to breath normally while dancing. This tenses their muscles, can even be a distraction, makes them even more nervous and in rare occasions can even cause an accident, so reminding students to breathe, even if that means choreographing some breathing until they get used to it, is not such a bad idea, IMO.

  7. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roshanna View Post
    It would be weird to do it for a whole dance.

    Even this I would consider doing - for practice. I can see how working on a choreo in different ways, focusing on different aspects each time, would help improve it. Just like doing the dress rehearsal. One of the rehearsals can just focus on the breathing... I can see how that would work for me. I love this idea.

  8. #18
    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    Using breathing to control one's mind and emotions is a separate issue from choreographing breath as movement in dance. Middle eastern dancers don't choreograph their breathing; why would doing so make a western dancer's performance more authentically middle eastern?

    Learning anything at a young age may be easier than learning it as an adult, but most adults are capable of learning dance as children do: by watching and doing. No one is born with atavistic memories of shimmies, pas de bras, Opbnvk Haco, or waltz steps. We can learn, early or late, by watching our mothers and sisters dance or by watching a teacher or other dancers as they stand in for those female relatives.

    Over the last four decades, I've watched changes take place in belly dance in the west, some of them very good (such as more emphasis on understanding cultural context) and some not so good (such as intellectualization of movement and choreographing everything from a smile to a deep breath). The former gives us depth and appreciation. The later produces highly polished results that may appeal to media-driven western tastes but that bear little resemblance to the ease and insouciance of older, less determinedly sophisticated and showy styles.

    Shrug. There's room for it all and whatever improves one's art is acceptable, but dancers sometimes think too much thus making it all much harder and more mysterious than it needs to be.
    "Well, now that we have seen each other," said the unicorn " if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you."

  9. #19
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    Leila Gamal teaches breathwork. She's very awesome and you should totally take with her if you ever get the chance. She refuses to have footage of herself online apparently, but she is a really engaging and special dancer.

  10. #20
    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    Leila Gamal who was in the movies in the seventies? Cool! When did you get to study with her, Zumarrad?
    "Well, now that we have seen each other," said the unicorn " if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you."

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