Thursday, February 3, 2011

Excellence, Experimenting, Excrement.

Woohoo! Things that begin with "ex!"

Let's face it, besides regular bellydance done poorly/lewdly/wrongly (and usually in insufficient costuming, but not always), the other bane of bellydance existence is badly done "fusion."  Of course, "badly done" is subject to opinion and personal interpretation, but I'd like to look into the most common causes of these performances and how they can be addressed, so here they are in no particular order:

1. Desire to Perform Overrides Sense
What it is:
This is the dancer who will perform anywhere at the drop of hat, regardless of whether it fits their style, level, genre. 
How to fix it: Ask yourself, is this an event that you really should be performing at?  What do you get out of performing at it?  If it's a lack of performance opportunities in your area, consider how you can help create more by hosting a hafla, restaurant night, party, etc. Don't crash someone else's event if you're not a good fit for it, because it will reflect badly on you.

2. Half-Arse Syndrome
What it is:
Usually a part-two of the above - ok, so you're performing at something that's not up your alley and perhaps you are mildly aware of it, but instead of making a real commitment to try and fit in with the theme, you make a half-hearted, half-arsed effort to make it right.  Doing ATS moves in a bedlah doesn't make for oriental, nor does donning tassels and doing Hakim make for Tribal, nor does a visit to the Spirit Halloween store make it Goth. 
How to fix it: Ok, so you've committed to doing something that's not really your thing, and let's say you can't gracefully bow out of it.  Take the time to make some serious effort, do real research on the costuming, music, movements, and philosophy - don't just go on what you THINK it is.

3. Delusion
What it is: This is a rare one, thankfully. Usually it involves some sort of actual mental unbalance and warped sense of reality.  Basically this is someone who gets up on stage and takes the dance somewhere it shouldn't go, poorly executed, and thinks everyone is a hater because they don't get their "art."  When you push boundaries, it's not uncommon for to get a negative response, but this isn't that time.  This person doesn't see a need for more education, nor will they listen to any advice because they staunchly believe they can do no wrong.
How to fix it: Seek professional help, both in the studio and in the head.

4. Ignorance is Bliss (and then Bruising)
What it is: This is really the most common oops, and I think nearly every dancer has a moment of this (I can count several of my own).  The dancer sincerely wants to make a good effort in their presentation - they're SO enthusiastic about the dance, but they haven't had enough education or experience to pull it off well - and basically, taking it to the stage way too early. 
How to fix it: Unlike the Delusional Dancer, this dancer figures out there's a problem fairly quickly, or if not right away, at least in retrospect, as they continue their education and gain more experience. When the dancer realizes the problem, this is where the bruising comes in, but it will heal and make for better performances in the future.

5.Working It Before You've Worked It:
What it is: This is what happens when the dancer wants to experiment, but really hasn't taken it far enough yet to present it in stage format.  It needs a lot more work in the studio.  This dancer tends to be ahead of the game compared to Ignorance Is Bliss, because they tend to consider themselves more developed and educated, but are in that dangerous zone where they're afraid to ask for help because it may make them look bad.  .
How to fix it: Videotape your work and get critical.  If you're unsure or can't be objective, ask some trusted/respected friends to look at it, and ask them what they think is going on, before you tell them what you were trying to accomplish.  Sometimes things can seem totally right in our own heads, but it doesn't translate it to anyone else that way when you get on stage. Don't be afraid to ask for feedback or help.  The best dancers keep growing and aren't afraid to be humble in order to keep getting better.  If anyone thinks lesser of you for it, they can kiss their own arse.

In Conclusion:
I don't mean to frighten anyone away from performing fusion by bringing this up, but I would like folks to exercise their brains as much as their hips.  And by exercising your brain and experimenting with consideration, you can confidently move from giving an excremental performance to an excellent one!


  1. I'm sure I'm not the only dancer to recognise herself in there!

    I've certainly learnt my lesson about performing too soon, both in terms of experience and readiness of piece. Fortunately for my ego, it was a relatively gentle learning curve, but not everyone gets that lucky, critics can be, well, critical!