Am i good enough to start performing at restaurants?

BeatriceC

New member
... but dancing in small restaurants to middle class white people in the middle of Manchester, UK. ...
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.

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.
 

Kartane

New member
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.
 
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Sophia Maria

New member
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.)
:dance: This is adorable. I also go to home depot to get wooden dowels for cane practice, but no one has come up to me so far.
 

Aniseteph

New member
Kartane, even if the OP has left the building, that post was inspirational. Thank you. (And how cool was the shamadan part?! :cool:).

ETA - I especially need the Respect Yourself paragraph. Permission to cut 'n' paste into a little poster for myself?
 
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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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWfEcbjU25Y

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.
 

Kashmir

New member
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.
 

Munniko

New member
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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWfEcbjU25Y
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.

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.
 
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Kartane

New member
I
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.
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.
 
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Kartane

New member
Kartane, even if the OP has left the building, that post was inspirational. Thank you. (And how cool was the shamadan part?! :cool:).

ETA - I especially need the Respect Yourself paragraph. Permission to cut 'n' paste into a little poster for myself?
Certainly you may! :redface: I am flattered that it moved you.
 
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.
I'll read Irena Lexova if you study some Manly P Hall lol In this day and age the term Belly dance is an umbrella term for various styles of dance that fit within the category of moving your belly to dance. In the same way martial arts is an umbrella term for about a thousand and one different types of fighting styles, maybe being more specific with the kind of dance within belly dance your referring to would prevent the semantic clash you seem to be pushing us up against. The problem with people who study the past is that it's all just imagination and conjecture, unless they have a personal time machine then no one ultimately knows the real truth. Apart from Manly P Hall because he seems to have read every book, written by every philosopher in the history of the world ever lol about as close as a thing to a time machine as you can get lol
 

mahsati_janan

New member
The dance form you are describing and the dance form you are asking about performing are not the same thing. This is not a spiritual dance form intended to connect with any outside force (deity, nature, etc.). Dancing for spiritual reasons is fine, but calling it belly dance is not. Belly dance, even in its broadest interpretation, is based on the movements, music, and artistic expression of cultures in the Middle East, North Africa, and the Mediterranean. It is a social dance with many folkloric and stage components. As a performer, it would be your *job* to not only be aware of these things, but be able to navigate those cultural boundaries with nuance and integrity.

Many of us have felt called to dance throughout our lives; some found dance early, some late, but that does not negate the need for respectful study of the art form you have chosen. As a performer, you would need to have that technical and cultural background to be successful in addition to your personal love of dance.

I will mention here that there is no evidence for your claims of the antiquity of this dance as a point of worship or martial art. If you have found legitimate and credible sources for this, please share them because as an academic with a special interest in ancient and modern Egypt, your statements do not match with currently accepted theories of that cultural history and I would be interested to know what research supports it.

We hear your rationalizations for why you don’t want to take classes, but they don’t change the fact that you would need the knowledge from classes to be successful. You don’t need classes to dance in your home, for your friends, or at your celebrations and ceremonies because you won’t be presenting belly dance. Once you are being paid to present belly dance, well, you have to know what it is to present it properly. You don’t currently have that skill or knowledge, so you are not ready to be a professional belly dancer. It is no judgment on your belief system; it is as simple as the knowledge that if you do not know a subject, you are not competent to be a professional practitioner of that subject.

You have movement talent. You may become very good at producing the movements used in belly dance in the future. However, if you don’t learn the artistry, musicality, and other important facets of this dance, you will not be a belly dancer. You will be a dancer who can perform belly dance movements. I often use the language analogy. Let’s say dance moves = words. You can memorize the vocabulary list for a new language and string the words together, but to anyone who knows the language, you make no sense. To a poet or a writer who paint elegantly with their words, you make less than no sense. To use a language well, you have to know the words, the sentence structure, the grammar, the meanings and the meanings behind the meanings, and much more to be proficient. Dance is just like this. You can string together movements, but your movements won’t fit the grammar and structure of this dance form. No matter how pretty you think your sentence is, it may be completely lost on your audience because they are not listening to pretty sounds as you talk; they are listening for meaning. When the audience (especially an informed audience) watches a dancer, they aren’t just seeing pretty movement; they are seeing the ‘Egyptian-ness’, ‘American-ness’, ‘Turkish-ness’ of your interpretation of the music. If your music, performance, costume, and movements don’t match up, they will simply think you are a bad and/or clueless dancer.

I wish you the best of luck in both your dance and your spiritual practice. You have talent and I would recommend classes so that you can grow that talent within the structure of what is belly dance before going outside of it. If you would prefer not to do that, then please continue dancing, but I would recommend that you not market yourself as a belly dancer.
 

Kartane

New member
I don't know that much about Hula, but my first thought is NO. The dance form comes from a different culture. The music and the meaning in the moves are different. Hula is its own art form specific to the Hawaiian Islands.
 

Zumarrad

New member
The problem with people who study the past is that it's all just imagination and conjecture, unless they have a personal time machine then no one ultimately knows the real truth.
That's why a lot of us focus our studies on the dance during the 20th century so that we have actual proof of how people actually dance. By the way, you are interacting on this website with a LOT of people who have researched this dance form at a high academic level, and worked in the industry for decades - not to mention at least one person for whom this dance is a *real* part of her culture, not a Hathor tarot card fantasy figure with a few Arabic words thrown in - so you're on extremely shaky ground telling them what they should read and how much more you know than they do. I suspect MizzNaa knows more about raqs sharqi, a 20th century creation, than you do.

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.
You've never taken a class. So how would you know this?

It seems that you would rather live in a fantasy world of tarot and antiquity than engage with the reality of belly dance in the here and now. Good luck to you. Please, by all means, go out into the dance world in Manchester and try to get some ongoing paying work.
 

teela

New member
Esmeraldadancer: It appears you are quite set on your definition of what should be classified as belly dance. It is not just an umbrella of "moves of your belly to dance". It is so much more than that. I will guarantee that if you threw in some hula moves, jive moves, tahitian moves, and other such moves with the label of "Belly dance" you would offend people. You cannot separate culture from the dance itself. If you took time to do a bit of research you would know where the term belly dance comes from and what it specifically refers to in terms of geography and cultural entities. I can also tell you that Manly P Hall was into the esoteric and occult, not history. You have to know the past to know where the future is. I will also support everyone who has said that you need to take lessons and it does not matter that "there are no teachers in your area." I take workshops and online classes to advance my dance and I am two hours by air from the closest teacher. If I had the guts, I would post a video for feedback from these wonderful teachers. They have experience and know their stuff. At some point your lack of cultural knowledge is going to create a problem when you put in the wrong hand position and offend people in your audience.
 

Darshiva

Moderator
I too live hours away from my nearest teacher. So I learned from DVDs and also went to as many workshops & private lessons as I could afford (at least 3 hours away, sometimes a lot further!) to make sure I was on the right track & to keep my creativity well fresh & deep.

I still do - there's no point to thinking you know it all. You don't. Nobody (not even our resident gurus Morocco and Shira) knows everything there is to know about bellydance. It's sheer arrogance to think that you do. But it sure is fun to try though. ;)
 
Ahhh, a 20th century creation, that's why i'm not really into that modern style...I'm more drawn to the older ways as I've already told you about. For an academic study (by the way etymologically, the word academia derives from the word trivia which means 'theoretical, not practical, not leading to a decision'). Study the works of people like Don Tolman, Manly P Hall like I've said already, hermeticism, study the ancient alchemists, study the field of nei kung and taoism and how that dates back to pre-history civilisations, study the science of buddhism and the process of enlightenment (Bill Bodris work), Santos Bonacci has some great youtube videos based on the ancient sciences. Once you've done a full multi-disciplinary study into ancient cultures and pre-history civilisations then we can talk about what's fantasy and what's only just been created in the last 100 or so years.

mahsati_janan, that's actually a good point, if I was to dance in specific restaurants that had heavy tradition for specific cultures then I would take the time to learn about that style of dance before I danced in their. The point I was making is that I'm just in the stage of learning the principles of dance at the moment so once I've built a wide and large vocabulary then when I get out in the field it'll make it easier to begin speaking in different languages. Maybe not fluently at first but after time that fluency will come.

On a side note this is the biggest belly dance restaurant in Manchester where I live

Video | Efes Restaurant & Taverna, Manchester

As you can see, tradition and proper belly dance etiquette is the last thing these owners seem to be worried about lol the men are doing better dancing than the women lol. it would be nice to have a proper cultural belly dance restaurant to work up the skill to work in my area but as you can see the standard for class isn't exactly set very high, wish I did live somewhere with a stronger tradition for this sort of thing. But what you can do, just got to adapt and roll with what you've got.

This is the kind of restaurant I had in mind with my initial question in this thread just to build up my experience dancing in public before finding somewhere with extra style and sophistication.
 

Pleasant dancer

New member
The problem with people who study the past is that it's all just imagination and conjecture, unless they have a personal time machine then no one ultimately knows the real truth.
Bugger. All those weeks digging in the Eastern Desert for nothing. All those years of studying and teaching archaeological theory for nothing. Should have just used my imagination. And yes, there is a more than a hint of sarcasm intended. :rolleyes:
 

Zumarrad

New member
Ahhh, a 20th century creation, that's why i'm not really into that modern style...I'm more drawn to the older ways as I've already told you about.
So wait. Earlier upthread you said you didn't want to do baladi - a dance you'd never actually heard of till you posted and read it here - but raqs sharqi instead. Now you say you are drawn to "the older ways", dance that predates raqs sharqi - but the only influence you cite is Sadie, who is an excellent example of a contemporary American show-dancer with influences from hip hop.

It's great that you are so in touch with your occult studies and your body, but might I suggest you step outside that bubble briefly and do some reading about bellydance as well? Even Wendy Buonaventura - whose research is really bad - paints a more accurate picture of the dance over the centuries than you seem to have. If you really want to be a bellydancer, you should learn some things about bellydance. If not, perhaps you should create a new label for what it is you are doing.
 
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