Theatrical bellydance (part 1)

As the art of bellydance continues to grow in popularity, it is finding its way into more & more theatrical settings & is making it mark as a legitimate theatrical dance form.  More dance companies than ever before are now producing full theatrical bellydance shows complete with casts of characters, story lines & drama.

This is truly an exciting time for the evolution of bellydance & bellydancers. With more opportunity to be involved with high caliber stage shows, dancers need to cultivate theatrical dance performance skills if they are to be considered for such roles. As dance educators, it’s a great asset for us to offer our students’ education in the theatrical aspects of belly dance. Not everyone offers this so doing so in your classes is a great selling point to potential new students.

Taking our dance art to the theater is exciting indeed but being that bellydance has been traditionally associated with informal performance settings such as restaurants, nightclubs, street festivals & cultural celebrations, many dancers have never learned how to adapt our dance art to spacious theater stage settings & formalities.

As bellydance becomes more popularized in formal theatrical settings, the need for such theatrical education is becoming more evident. With this in mind let’s expound upon the theme of Artistry we’ve been exploring within this column for the past year & look into some aspects of theatrical dance to build into your class curriculum.

The Stage: First & foremost all dancers need to learn about the stage space itself. Teach students theory on stage placement, directional orientation, traveling pathways & motifs so that they learn how to evoke & portray specific effects & feelings through smart utilization of the stage space. Classes & workshops can be easily designed around these concepts

Dynamics: the most impactful performances are ones that utilize principles of dance dynamics such as directional changes, working with concepts of velocity, sustaining, suspending & contrasting movements in ways that mirror & compliment the music. Design fun class exercises that will instill awareness of dance dynamics in your students.

Understanding the Music. Since the music is the framework for the feelings we are conveying through dance, understanding the structure of the music you are dancing too is essential to the process of designing dances (choreographed or improvised).  All dancers will benefit from understanding how to recognize musical patterns regardless of dance style so be sure to teach them how to recognize at least the most standard musical arrangement formats used in middle eastern dance such as ABA, Rondo & such.

Artful Design: When students understand standard theory on staging, dynamics & musical arrangement in combination with also having acquired solid dance technique, then they truly have a good foundation from which to begin the development of personal style & artistry. Elements of dance theater theory can be included within weekly classes or within workshop format. Be creative with it and design class exercised to teach these theories in ways that are fun, experiential & allow for individual creative expression.

Stay tuned as we further explore Theatrical Bellydance next month…

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