Dancing with Artistry
© Carrie Konyha 2010
As dancers, we are in the business of conveying meaning & feeling somatically, through our dance movement. In order to accomplish this most effectively, we must develop the ability to dance with artistry. Although the initial process of artistic development begins in the learning environment, practice & performance experience is what cultivates it.
Understanding the stylistic demands of Middle Eastern dance is one of the first steps in developing the foundations & parameters of dance artistry. For the truly aspired middle eastern dance artist this means studying specific cultural dialects of mid-east dance & developing the ability to express that stylistic knowledge in the context of a performance (choreographed or improvised) with the appropriate essence or feeling of each chosen style. For example, researching styles such as Turkish Oriental, Raqs Sharqi & Baladi -just to name a few, will get you into the flow of understanding stylizations pertinent to our dance art.
Combining knowledge of stylistic variation with basic aesthetic principles will have you well on your way to dancing with a versatile artistry that will knock the socks off your audience. Keeping the following aesthetic principles in mind when creating your dances will bring a sense of cohesiveness to all of your performances. All of these principles can be applied to individual dances and entire shows.
Unity The best way to create a sense of wholeness & unison with your dances is to work with a theme that threads continually through out the dance or show.
Balance Let your dance BREATHE. Think in terms of balancing movement with moments of rest. Combine symmetrical with asymmetrical movement designs. Blend controlled, contained percussive movements with large sweeping, whimsical shapes in space.
Variety Introducing variation to your theme throughout your performance will keep your audience on the edge of there seats! Variation can happen through directional changes, reversing the order of a dance combination, layering other moves on top and timing changes.
Repetition Reiteration in dance movement brings cohesiveness to your dance that the audience experiences as a feeling of entirety. The repetition of dance patterns, steps & combinations (with variation) should correlate with the recurrence present in the phrasing of the music.
Contrast This is a big one! I find the concept of ‘contrast’ particularly helpful when I’m improvising. As we all know, a dance can quickly become monotonous if there is too much repetition of same or similar moves. Adding the element of contrast will ad interest & keep the audience engaged throughout your performance. This is easily achieved through pre-planned choreography. For improvisational bellydances of any style, simply think ahead. While you are executing one move, ask yourself what you can do next that would bring contrasts to what you are doing now.
Working with these principles has greatly enriched the development of my own dance artistry over the years and has provided me with a framework for creating dances & theatrical productions that both inspire & entertain my audiences over and over again. Have fun experimenting with them.
Check out this video of one of the worlds greatest bellydancers currently. Can you recognize her use of the above mentiond aesthetic principles?