Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Essence of Bellydance - so I remember... (reposted from 2/10/09)

(another entry originally posted on tribe.net, February 10th, 2009)

Ah, that nearly decade-old question of is GBD bellydance? Wrote this up as a response, and I think some parts are especially worth keeping around for later, so I save it here:

Before I ever took my first lessons in bellydance, I spent months studying it online and in books. Reading about the do's and don'ts, about the folkloric dances, reading interviews with Morocco, Carolena, Artemis, and more. And I distinctly remembering at some point coming across Dalia Carella and her "Dunyavi Gypsy" and thinking - wow, she has her OWN style of bellydance, how cool is that? I would love to do that!

That all went out the window once I started taking lessons, I couldn't even imagine how it would be possible, not for years and years and even then! So I never created my performances with that in mind, rather I just had ideas I wanted to express in my dancing, through my costuming, music, and presentation. I didn't consider it a specific type of bellydance - just bellydance, as that was the only dance form I had ever studied. Rather, it was after doing bellydance for a couple of years that other people remarked about how my dancing had a different feel. It seemed somewhat more "dark", more theatrical, perhaps Gothic? ( All this without the aid of fangs, fake blood, giant rosaries, and graveyards! This was even before boots and fishnets were applied!) So ironically, it was the bellydance community itself, its veteran crew, that dubbed what I was doing as "gothic bellydance", long before it became a common name.

What was so "dark" about those early performances? The costuming could be best described as tribaret, the movements were bellydance, the music was mostly bellydance. The stories in my head to remember the moves and to express something through my moves were about avenging angels, silent film stars, lost love, folkloric/ethnic myths and fairytales, metamorphosis, tongue-in-cheek wickedness, hidden beauty, and the merging of cultures. If you consider all of that "dark", then there you have it.

To me, "darkness" is about revelation, uncovering and exploring mysteries, weaving stories that are often hidden, enchantment, and particles of memory. It's about the ability to express your soul fully, even if that leaves you exposed. I believe that bellydance, in it's myriad forms, celebrates life, and that a celebration of life takes hold of all of its aspects - that includes joy, passion, love, pain, and sadness. Love can be light and it can be dark. You really can't have one without the other. So perhaps Goth can be defined as the obsession to find balance between the light and the dark, and appreciate the differences between them. There is beauty to be found in all things, if you know how to look for it. And frankly, I'm a hopeless optimist in most things.

No, I'm not a "stereotypical" Goth, but frankly, none of the people I know who have identified themselves as Goth for years fit the stereotype either. The folks who focus only on the fashion don't have a clue. Same goes for the folks who think if they latch on to a cliche (heh, wanna start a thread on the cliches of GBD?), that means they're doing it right. There's doing something because it would be terribly cliche and a lot of fun and silliness, and then there's doing a cliche seriously because you don't understand what's behind it. There's a wealth of art, literature, and music produced by this subculture, which within itself is quite diverse, full of different minds. That's why I love it.

Now that years have gone by, I think I have been able to develop my own style, because I let go of the idea of trying to do it. I just focused on expressing what inspires me. And I'm excited to go back and re-do some of those early pieces, because I've also realized I traveled far as a dancer (and continue so). One of the greatest frustrations of being an artist is having an idea and not being fully capable of expressing that idea - whether it's because of your skill level, money or depth of exploration. But that doesn't mean you cease to try, or that those early attempts were wrong. Rather, it's the process of trying again and again, building better technique, stronger awareness, getting all of those skills together...and while I feel I'm much better now than I was 6 years or even 6 months ago, I'll still continue to strive to improve. I continue to study the older forms of this dance and find inspiration. I feel what I do is bellydance, and I believe the essence of what is bellydance is still there, depending on the project. Whether others consider a piece bellydance or not, I suppose that all depends on their own journey to it.

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