Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Amy from Kallisti's Fantastic Post.

I like to support my fellow bloggers, and Amy, the Right and Kind Reverend of Kallisti Tribal (I'm a fan of these ladies, in case ya didn't know), posted a fantastic entry recently about performance, honesty, and matching your performance ideas to your skill level.

Amy tells it like it is. I strongly encourage you to take a moment and read her thoughts.

(And, of course, I want to hear what YOU think... leave a comment if you have anything to add or refute. I love a good, civil debate.)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Undercutting is bad, mmmmkay?

There's been some talk amongst DC-area belly dancers about undercutting, and frankly, there's no excuse for charging less than the going rate.

Some of my fellow dancers have posted some thoughtful entries on the subject matter, and I'd like to bring these to your attention:

Brooke/Lyra: "So you wanna go pro"
Shems: Mostly directed to DC-area dancers, but non-DC dancers might find some useful information here.

I just want to add my philosophical 2 cents. Undercutting is not only detrimental to the community, but also I believe it is unethical. Why? Because it causes harm. It does service to no one, and ultimately hurts everyone involved:

  • the dancer who lost a gig because her client hired someone else charging less than the going rate;
  • the client who doesn't get a quality, professional performance if they hire an undercutter;
  • the undercutter who does herself a disservice by not charging what she's worth;
  • the audience who sees another mediocre bellydance performance by someone not ready to dance;
  • the dance community who suffers writ large when the general public believes that this dance is nothing better than the mediocre undercutter.
I'll leave you with this, one of my favorite comic strips, Freelance Freedom (click to enlarge):

Sunday, August 3, 2008

A question of your honesty...

I appreciate an honest performance. One without airs, gimmicks, gratuitous costuming, or obvious trend following.

But how do you know when a performance is honest? How can you tell when the performer is genuinely enjoying herself without worrying about impressing the audience or whether her performance will be well-received?

I thought back to my skating days, when my mother and I would get annoyed at the skaters who were rewarded by their use of gimmicks and props, while the skaters will skill and musicality weren't always recognized.

In belly dance, I think gimmicks are also overused, and often point to a disingenuous performance. My friend the Oxford English Dictionary says that a "gimmick" is "a tricky or ingenious device, gadget, idea, etc., especially one adopted for the purpose of attracting attention or publicity." In this definition, there is an inherent intend to trick or mislead. In my mind, a gimmick in a performance can be used to distract the audience away from the fact that a dancer is not accomplished or secure enough for her dancing to stand alone. That gimmick could be the use of an unusual prop, wearing provocative or unusual costuming, using catchy music, or gratuitous humor. (This is not to say that I believe that anyone who uses a prop is doing so because they can't dance. On the contrary, I've seen many a skilled dancer use props in a manner that compliments and enhances her dance.)

Other elements that seem to tip off a performance that isn't wholly honest is gratuitous use of trendy or scandalous music, overly-revealing costuming for the sake of garnering attention, or scandalous movements. These things are also gimmicks, inadvertently placing skill and expression behind gaining attention or notoriety.

I think it takes a long time and a wise dancer to give an honest performance. The most honest and raw performances I've seen are from dancers who have either been dancing their whole life or who have been dancing for 20 or more years. It's difficult for a new performer to have the confidence and sense of self to give an honest performance. Many of us newbies are still focusing on whether our technique is correct or whether or not the audience cares or appreciates what we're doing, or whether or not our costume might... "malfunction." An experienced performer is so open on stage that she's not paying attention to these things - she isn't paying attention to anything, in the conscious sense. It's as if she's turning her emotional self inside out, baring her shadows for all of us to see, and she isn't worrying about whether or not we like what we're seeing. She just IS, and that's all that matters.