What does it take to loose yourself in the moment of a performance? To shine on stage and be the music, without loosing the choreography or dance steps? What is that illusive performance knack that some dancers just seem to have naturally, and how do you get it?
As we’re all different human beings, there isn’t one clearcut answer. But there are certain elements such as good technique, experience and lots of training of either choreography or dance in general, so you know what to do should your mind go blank, that you need to have. But even with all of these under your belt, you may still feel that something is missing…
Recently a colleague and personal mentor of mine summed it up as ‘having no shame’. Basically leaving all those feelings of self-consciousness at the door, as you step onto the stage and start gleaming in the limelight.
As an actress I’m used to loosing myself in the character in order to achieve this, but sometimes I don’t even need that and simply ‘have no shame’ and take to the stage just as me. That does mean increased vulnerability, but it also gives a different type of freedom to simply be in the moment.
So how can you use this to elevate your performance skills?
I always suggest using the character based approach first. It doesn’t need to be highly elaborate, but you will need to work out what story you want to tell and what your character is and wants to achieve/express. Are you dancing a cheeky Saidi, a sultry Baladi or a powerful Oriental?
Imagine how this dance would work set within a play or film. A good excuse to look at plenty of video clips from the Golden Era of Belly Dance. Tahia Carioca and Samia Gamal did this so well, and can be a great source of inspiration.
If you’ve choreographed the routine yourself, or even if you’re improvising it, you will hopefully feel a strong connection to the music, and this will evoke feelings or images in your head that you can respond to. Whether that means a shiver in the singers voice – that suggest sadness, or a twang or words that indicate strength and power.
If you’re an experienced dancer, or performer, you may not even need a characterisation to melt into the music and your performance. You will simply respond to the music with one of your many faces, be it the strong, powerful, sultry or sexy one. Knowing yourself inside out is essential for this, so that’s where the experience comes into the equation.
On the topic of face, one of my students once asked me how to avoid always pulling a weird face when dancing – and yes we’ve all seen those pictures of ourselves! The straight forward answer is lots of practise, but you also really need some feedback and guidance.
It’s one of the many elements I’m covering in my Advance Your Dance Online Course, and often touch on in my live workshops too.
I’m teaching my last live Advance Your Dance Workshop of 2018 on Sunday 25 November. Find out more here.
If you’re not able to join my courses then ask your teacher, fellow dancers or someone else that you trust enough to give you correct and constructive feedback. Dance in front of them several times and play around with your expression, trying to convey different feelings within the dance. Afterwards they can then tell you how they perceived it and honestly you can also ask them if you pulled any funny faces! But make sure you only ask people that you trust and feel comfortable will give you ‘objective advice’. I use quotation marks as nothing really is truly objective, but you want to be as close to it as possible.
The more you dance, and the more you perform, the more your natural self-confidence will also grow, and eventually you may not have any shame anyway! Some people are born like that, others learn it, and others will ‘borrow’ that approach, to help them deliver the best possible performance. Whichever is you, I hope you keep working on developing your story telling and confidence, so you can truly forget about everything else and simply enjoy your dancing – no matter whether you’re on a West End or small town hafla stage.
Happy, beautiful and confident dancing – always.
Did you miss my last post? Read it here: How to travel with basic twists