What makes a great bellydancer great?

I had the best belly dancing experience this past weekend while attending two workshops by two great, great, oriental dancers: Jihan Jamal and Valerick Molinary. More than choreographies and technique, they shared how the dance should feel, how dancing is about telling a story with the body, and how the movements that make up the dance are created out of a memory, an emotion, or a feeling.

I found that the really great bellydancers enchant us not with their crisp hip work or power shimmies, but with their soul. It is the honesty in her /his movements that engages us, is that primordial story she/he dances what moves us, and what stays with us after the performance is a feeling, not a memory of a hipdrop with a kick.
I have seen many belly dancers who have great technique, they hip drop, shimmy, and backbend, they play the cymbals, and balance swords on their heads, and they do it well, but they bore us. Some of them even add all kinds of face expressions, hand gestures and dramatic poses, but they still feel phony. It is not about collecting gestures, and poses, and moves… you have to own the feeling, you can’t just fake it with the body.

Valerick taught one of her explosive drum solos, full of raw emotion, tension, dynamic combinations, and playfulness. I recorded it with the intention of learning it to perform it someday. However, I realize that that dance is so hers, that there are parts in it I can’t make my own, I can’t deliver that choreography the way she does, that is her dance, her emotions, her own life experience. If there is one thing I learned from these two masters is that every dancer needs to dance her own dance.

My first performance

My first performance

What failed: 1. Short Hair I thought I could pull off the short hair, after all Samia Gamal and Tahia Carioca performed with short hair. However, didn’t look glamorous enough. Perhaps, if I learned how to style and accesorize it, … Continue reading

Week 25-31 March Practice

25 March 2013

26 March 2013

This week I am practicing this choreography by the Bella Donna Dancers of Houston, who are my current teachers.
This choreography is from their Bella Donna Ya Helwa DVD, and you can see the Bella Dona Dancers performing it here:

Hair like the Romans

I have been obsessing over my hair lately. I have short hair, and with my first bellydance performance coming up in less than two weeks, I have been looking for short hair styling options that work well for bellydancing. Long, flowing hair is part of the expected appearance of a bellydancer, so even though I am letting my hair grow, I need something that will make do for now.

So far, I haven’t found many short hair styling options for bellydancing, but in my search I discovered some marvelous how-to videos, which show how to recreate authentic ancient Greek and Roman hair styles. The looks are recreated by Janet Stephens, a hair archeologist, and her tutorials are complete with the tools used to create and maintain these intricate and fascinating hairdos, as well as the background of the women who wore them. I loved a few of the styles, and I can’t wait for my hair to grow to try them out.

Day 2 Practice: Getting my bellydancing practice in first thing in the morning

Day 2 Practice: Getting my bellydancing practice in first thing in the morning

After skipping practice for 3 days, I figured the best way to make sure I get my daily bellydance practice in, is to do it first thing in the morning. That way no matter what comes, I will have done … Continue reading

Classes are not going to make me a bellydancer, I will.

After hundreds of classes, about a dozen DVD’s, and a handful of workshops I cannot call myself a Bellydancer, yet. I have learned physical technique, travel movements and turns, but play a piece of Middle Eastern music and without a teacher to follow or a previously memorized choreography, I don’t know what to do.

Something more is needed, and I am not sure what it will take, but this is my journey to become a Bellydancer.

Right now, I don’t feel taking the same beginner/intermediate level classes I have been taking for the past few years are going to do the trick.  And, after attending Sadie’s workshop last month, I realized that I not at the level where workshops are truly useful.  I need to improve my technique, sharpen my accents, learn more combinations, become better at memorizing choreographies, and most importantly I want to listen to the music and just dance.

So, I am going to practice everyday; I am going to learn a new choreography every month; and I am going to try to improvise to a song after every practice. This, using YouTube videos, instructional DVD’s and any resources I can find. I feel it is time I stop depending on classes, and start investing in practicing on my own. Classes are not going to make me a Bellydancer, I am.