What are you saying?

In my time as a dancer, I’ve gone through a lot of phases, and I expect to go through many more.  I remember when I was still a relatively new dancer, and I relied mostly on technical ability and “tricks” in my performances… but now, as I look back, I realize that those performances were blank and said nothing.

Recently, I’ve seen a few performances that seemed to be more about the dancer showing off a series of “tricks” than actually dancing, expressing, and emoting.  You know those performances… the one where the layback/backbend into a drop is gratuitously placed in the set, or the dancer does several drops in one performance (and I’m not talking about FatChanceBellyDance, or the other master dancers).  Or the one where the dancer is ticking, locking, and popping all over the place, but lacks any sense of expression or grace.  Or the one where the dancer shimmies her way through a 10 minute set when she could be accenting her very interesting music in very beautiful ways. So, you can move your body in fascinating ways, but what about that makes you a dancer and not a contortionist, acrobat, or just another entertainer?

Now, I’m certainly not saying that a dancer shouldn’t have a few tricks up her sleeve.  I love showing off my backbends, belly flutters, and shimmies. Those moves are crowd pleasers, and I’m totally aware of that.  As dancers we also must entertain, and frankly, it’s fun to show off our tricks.  But when the performance becomes all about the tricks and less about the dance, then I begin to wonder, “who is this dancer? What does she have to say? And why isn’t she showing us what’s really inside her?”

I think the use of tricks indicates a few things about the dancer: She’s afraid to dance as herself, and she’s hiding behind her “Wow Factor”; she’s not aware that dance can be an emotional outlet as well as a physical one; she believes that the tricks will gain her more recognition, praise, and attention (which, sadly, is often true).  What really bothers me is that after seeing a performance composed mostly of tricks, there will be a host of audience members lavishing praise on that dancer, telling them how amazing they are.  Seriously? Is that what this dance, particularly in the vein of that which we call “tribal fusion”, become? A series of crowd-pleasing movements set to electronica or neo-Balkan brass? I certainly hope NOT.

I ask of you, dear readers, that the next time you find yourself out at a bellydance show, ask yourself, “is this performer really dancing, or are they relying on their tricks?”  And a few tricks are fine, and some take great skill (balancing and layering, for example), but don’t let yourself be tricked by the tricks.  Each of us has so much to say when we’re on stage, and I believe that we must start saying it, even if that means that we won’t be as “impressive” to the layman viewer.  Dance is not a series of tricks set to music. It is moving art, and moving art can also be dynamic entertainment.

 

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Thank you so much for this!
You have written well, what I have said often and thought so many times.

 

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Lovely article. Thanks for articulating that…..I have been thinking about that for days now. It really hit me at the right time.

 

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For the last few performances, it seemed like I always had to throw a Turkish drop in there. At first, I did it because I was so proud I had learned the move but as time went on I began to rely on it as the “crowd pleaser.” I love floor work and that was my favorite way of getting down to the ground. Now, I have been consciously trying to either modify or change moves that were my “tricks.”

I think the best dances are the ones that are performed simply and deliberately. It allows the audience to easily follow along with the movements and gives the dancer the space she needs to slowly work in the emotional layer. I remember one video of Ava Flemming dancing along with Djinn. She was doing simple hip locks, shimmies, and undulations, nothing fancy. Because she stuck with the basic mastered moves, she was able to play up her stage presence, getting up close and “personal” with the drummers. No tricks, just Ava being Ava.

Great post! This is exactly the sort of thing I’ve been thinking about lately. Keep on dancing girl!

Erin

 

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I really enjoy reading your blogs because they’re frank and to the point. This is something I’ve been noticing and rambling about off and on myself. When the dance becomes less a “dance” and more of a “pose-n-stunt” experience.
I’m beginning to enjoy performances that are simpler, and often not even in my “chosen genre” because of this. Showing off can be fun and when done right, it’s great to watch, but when big moves are used in place of dancing itself, the moves lose their power.

 

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“I think the use of tricks indicates a few things about the dancer: She’s afraid to dance as herself, and she’s hiding behind her “Wow Factor”; she’s not aware that dance can be an emotional outlet as well as a physical one; she believes that the tricks will gain her more recognition, praise, and attention (which, sadly, is often true). What really bothers me is that after seeing a performance composed mostly of tricks, there will be a host of audience members lavishing praise on that dancer, telling them how amazing they are. ”

I may be off base here, and I don’t mean to put words in your mouth, but my guess is you mean “OVER USE” of tricks in a performance indicates these things about a dancer, not the use of ANY tricks. Yes?

Wonderful post, as usual m’dear!

 

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    Ahh… yes. The OVER use of tricks… when most of the performance is just meant to wow the audience, then I get truly annoyed. :)

     

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[…] What bores me?  I don’t like watching a dancer who has no story to tell.  I don’t like watching a dancer who is just showing off technical skill with no meaning behind it all.  I often find performances that are just energetic and fun dull.  Performances that have put more thought into their presentation than the overall idea of their performance leave me cold.  What’s the point?  What are you trying to tell me?  What is your story? […]

 

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[…] post:  ”What Are You Saying?” is an interesting post about what I refer to as robotic dancing – pulling out tricks […]

 

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