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.