Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Who's your favorite?

Who is your favorite bellydancer? She (or he!) doesn't have to be famous or very well known, and can be tribal, cabaret, or anything in between. She just has to be the person who you can't get enough of - whose dancing makes you happy and inspired and encouraged to be a better dancer yourself. Who speaks to you that way?

My favorite is going to sound cliche, I'm sure, but it's Jillina. And no, it's not just because she's a Bellydance Superstar and I've fallen for the hype. It's because I think she is the dancer who I most relate to, style-wise, and who most embodies everything I think a good dancer should be, and everything I strive to be.

A lot of people (Middle Eastern dance purists?) give Jillina flak for being too "jazzy." Personally, I've studied jazz since I was two years old, and I don't see the correlation between Jillina's style and any style of jazz I know. But, I think I do see why they say that. Jillina, like myself, comes from a diverse dance background, and didn't begin bellydancing until later in life. The fact that she was classically trained in ballet is evident when you watch her graceful movements, particularly her arms. I don't think the actual moves she does are "jazzy", rather, her delivery is one of a dancer who has been trained to dance, and to carry herself as a dancer.

Ask any of my students and they will tell you that my ballet background makes me a stickler for things like graceful yet strong arms, good posture, and fluid movements. To me, Jillina embodies these characteristics in a bellydancer, and makes her a joy to watch. Another reason she is a joy to watch is that her facial expressions are priceless - you can truly see how much she loves this dance while she is dancing. To me, she is entertaining in every sense of the word. Not to mention, she has kick-#ss shimmies!!

So, who's your favorite bellydancer? Why?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

What to wear....

I have a gig tonight, and I'm trying to decide what to wear. I'm leaning towards my red lycra number (see picture) because it only made it's debut at the show the other day, and it's super comfortable. I have a long drive to Brooklyn for this job, and I'd prefer to sit in the car in a strechy skirt than in a tight and uncomfortable bra and belt combo.

But, my costume conundrum has got me thinking - do we, as bellydancers, become so caught up in what is trendy and cool in "our world" that we forget that the general public doesn't know the latest fashions of bellydance? If I show up in a sexy and sleek lycra costume, is my audience going to wonder why I'm not wearing a flowing skirt and tons of beaded fringe?

When the general public hears the word "bellydancer", what comes to mind? I think it's the image of the dancer in a fringe laden bra and belt, layered over a flowy chiffon skirt. I think that's what they expect, because it's the typical "harem" costume from hollywood sultan fantasies. And those hollywood fantasies are probably the only exposure to a bellydancer most people have ever had.

Do you think audiences appreciate that bellydance fashion, like all fashion, changes over time? Or do you think they expect us to be stuck in a fashion rutt, wearing the same costumes for all of eternity, because that's what they wear in the movies?

Are fashionable lycra costumes better saved for haflas and other bellydancer-friendly events? Or is the general public ready for a change?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Not to be a party pooper, but.....

...I just want to remind everyone what the purpose of this blog is.

It is to foster a greater discussion about the dance that we all love, and to create a community that goes beyond the classroom.

I've received some comments which were not very constructive; in fact, they were downright hurtful to the person they were directed towards. That's not what this blog is about. Some of those comments contained criticisms (legitimate ones, too!) about the recent show, but I couldn't publish them because they contained hurtful statements about other dancers. I'm never going to publish a hurtful statement about someone else, so please stop trying.

Constructive criticism is good - it helps us become better dancers. Sometimes it can be hard to hear, because no one likes hearing criticism at all, but it's a necessary evil if we want to grow as performers. But there is a fine line between constructive criticism and nastiness, and we have to be very careful not to cross it.

As a matter of fact, here's some "constructive criticism" for readers of this blog - please try to keep your comments related to the post you are responding to. I understand that lots of you want to talk about the show, but the show discussion belongs in the show thread, not in the thread on hand flicking, etc.

See, that was a criticism, but it was constructive. You'll all be better bloggers because of it. ;-)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The show was a success!!

Whew, that was fun! After all the months of hard work and preparation, the show has finally come and gone, and it was GREAT!!

I can't even tell you how many compliments I've gotten from people in the audience. Everyone thought the dances were great, and those who were there last year say that the quality of dancing was even better this year! Audience members noticed the improvement in individual dancers from one year to the next, and thought the group numbers looked more polished and professional than ever before.

I was a nervous wreck for the week leading up to the show - not because I was worried about my students or the dances, but because of all the "behind the scenes" stuff that ultimately fell on my shoulders. I was worried that things wouldn't come together like I'd hoped, and that we wouldn't have a smooth and seamless show that the audience could sit back and enjoy. But, of course, the show could not have gone any more smoothly. Everyone who helped out behind the scenes did a great job with keeping the show moving along like the well-rehearsed production it was.

I am truly happy with the success of the show. I couldn't have asked for a better result, and all the hard work, late nights, and gray hairs (I swear, I've found some, and I blame the stress from this show!!) were worth it.

So, my wonderful students, how do you feel? For those of you who were new to the stage, was performing everything it was cracked up to be? For those of you who were in the show last year, how was this show different? Was it better or worse for you, and why?

And finally, the most important question - are you ready for next year????

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Can't stop the flick!!

Those of you who are my students will know that I am in constant battle with flicking wrists - I hate them, on me, on you, on ANYONE! Flicking wrists have no place in bellydance! They turn an otherwise graceful and elegant dance into what appears to be a fight with an imaginary mosquito. To me, a dancer with flicking wrists (myself included!) looks like she is trying to get something off of her hand, and I spend the entire performance watching the wrist and waiting for it to stop flicking!

When I say flicking wrists, I don't mean the occasional dainty flip that coincides with a coy look and cute shimmy. I mean the constant "I don't even realize my wrist is doing this" rolling that creeps up on even the most seasoned pro.

The problem with the subconsious flick is that, even though you don't want to do it, you can't stop yourself, because you weren't aware you were doing it in the first place.

I first realized I was a flicker after last year's student showcase. I was watching the DVD and could NOT stop looking at my hands. Where did this come from?? Did I always do this?? What the heck was wrong with me?? Make it stop!!

After that, I started noticing the flick in my students as well. This got me worried - did they learn this from watching me, or is it a subconsious habit they picked up all on their own? I've spent this past year trying to help them break the habit, and trying to break it myself - or so I thought.

Last night, I was practicing my solo for the show, and I asked my fiance, Joe, to watch it. After I was done, Joe said "That was really great. But - didn't you say last year that you wanted to stop flicking your wrists?" Of course, I said. "Well, I did notice that you were flicking your wrists a lot just now."

What???? I was??? That can't be!! I abhor wrist flicking! I teach my students not to do it, I point it out when they are and encourage them to fix it! I am the anti-flick! I can't possibly still be flicking!! But, according to Joe, I was....

I just finished practing my solo for tonight (wait, it's 12:50 in the morning...what the heck am I still doing up and dancing?!). I tried doing the solo once through while consciously paying attention to my wrists and not flicking them. It felt like I had sticks strapped to my hands. My arms felt so weird and restrained, but, looking in the mirror, they looked the way I wanted them to look. The non-flicking wrists I had tried so hard to ingrain into my dance felt so foreign to me. Which led me to only one conclusion - I am still a wrist flicker. My subconsious completely takes over when I dance, and I happily flick away.

So - do I continue to fight what is natural to me? Or do I give in to the dreaded wrist flick? I think I have no choice but to keep fighting.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

9 days till showtime!!

The show is almost here!! In a way, I can't wait for it to get here. I know it will be a success and it will be nice to get back to "normal" life (and to get back to bellydance class where I can actually DANCE, rather than just critique my students dancing to my choreographies). But in a way I feel like I need more time. I'm not ready!! I just finished my solo, surely one week is not enough time to perfect it, right? And my students, don't they need more time to practice?!

Of course, we don't need more time. We have been getting ready for this show for months. Some of the choreographies were even started last summer. We are as ready as we will ever be.

For some reason, no matter how much time I have to prepare for a show, there is always a little something inside me wishing I had more time. I guess that's a natural part of pre-performance jitters, right? The logical half of my brain tells me that we are so very prepared for this show, and we are all going to kick *ss. But sometimes my neurotic, not-so-logical side gets the best of me.

For those of you who are in the show, how are you feeling right now? How are you dealing with it? For those of you not in the show, have you ever had pre-performance jitters? For what? How did you deal?