Spring Caravan in NJ, on the heels of just getting back from Tribal Fest in California, and I need to override my tendency to be a workaholic and take a bit of a break (though I'm already looking forward to Tribal Revolution in Chicago at the end of this month).
During the course of both of these events, it was asked/discussed "What style of bellydance do you like to watch the most?" and "What were your favorite performances?" A lot of people assume that for me, it must be Gothic, or some sort of fusion, etc - but in the same way, most people never know what I'm going to do next, what I like is also not predictable. Or is it?
When I was younger and newer to the dance, I had my favorite styles to watch. I looked for the dancers my instructors and friends recommended, listened for music that would catch my ears, and the rest seemed a blur. Thousands of dancers/performances and a dizzying multitude of events, festivals, shows, and haflas later, things have changed - not only personally for me, but the community as well. I still have my favorites to watch, but they are a very diverse group of dancers if you were to put them all in the same room. If I were to list my favorite performances from either event, while you would find a couple "big names" in there (and there's a certainly bit of bias because not only are they great dancers, but they also happen to be my friends/mentors), but you'd find that a lot of them aren't the most popular names out there or even dancers you've ever heard of at all. What pulls them all together? What catches my eye and interest? Why?
I have managed to narrow it down to a singular quality: brave sincerity. The ability for the dancer to be true to herself in her dance, regardless of what style of dance she's performing and how long she's been dancing. It can be Gothic or Steampunk Fusion, or it could be straight Egyptian or Turkish Oriental, or Khaleegy. It could be a student troupe or a someone who has been dancing for 30 years. What brings them together is the desire to dance to the best of their ability, that they have taken the time to consider their dance as a whole - from the costuming, to the movements, to the music - and how they all relate, and that who they are in that moment shines through. And it's clear they're not afraid to be who they are. There's a sense of artistry founded in good technique, married with stage presence. That's my sweet spot and what I look for.
I link bravery with sincerity because it's not an easy thing to be yourself, especially in this community. It's much easier to be a clone, to pander to what's popular, to present the consistently familiar and crowd-pleasing. Because the reality is, rarely does what's truly new/different/innovative/unusual equal crowd-pleasing, when you're dealing with the masses. Most people prefer to be presented with something formulaic and familiar, it's more comfortable on the brain. They're not looking to be challenged in any way, unless it's pre-approved and expected. What they tend to think of as new/different, has already been around and kicking for quite some time, and has become acceptable over time. And it is extremely hard as a performer to not cater to that sense of instant approval because all performers want to be acknowledged as successful, to be praised for what they do. So it's extremely exciting for me to watch dancers who fight that tendency, and dare to be themselves, whether they're presenting fusion or folklore, tradition or trend-setting. For me, everything else is boring. Show pony big name/clone in overpriced costuming doing the same thing to a slightly different song? Big whoop. Seen it. Give me a student troupe who have clearly worked their hearts out presenting their piece, and you'll see my heart move. That dancer you've never heard of, doing her own take on a trend? I want it. Really well-done passionate oriental? Bring it. Tribal style that's fun with an awesome group dynamic with dancers of all shapes and ages? Yes please!
Be you, and I'll be there for you. I promise.