How to Fill Your Dance with Freedom

One of the things I love is structure–which is hilarious, since I am the Queen of Chaos (this mostly shows up in my everyday surroundings. Yes, I am a triple Virgo. Go figure). But I am pretty organized on the inside–and as an artist, composition, aka structure, brings freedom.

This is why I am always pointing out musical structure in my classes.

As dancers, we have more freedom when we can see what is all around around us. Like a busy restaurant, when we know the entrances, exits, and pathways of the waitstaff, it’s a lot easier to navigate.

And while we have all survived (and many of us enjoy), dancing to unknown songs, having a sense of structure will make that song much more predictable. We’ll have a better sense of timing, accents, and transitions, so we can enjoy ourselves a lot more.

Because I am making this Map Your Music course for the Bundle, I’ve been thinking a lot about dance composition. In my experience, belly dance choreographies tend to be made as step-sequences. Four of this, turn, kick, hip 2, 3, 4, etc. This pains me, as belly dance is meant to be improvised, in the same way its music is improvised–the song may be the same, but the musicians’ decorations, solos, and embellishments are always changing. “Same but different” is a point of pride for musicians and dancers alike.

So why as dancers do we try to do things the same every time?
Let’s be more whimsical!

Well, that’s how we get taught. Lots of dance in the West is tightly choreographed. Because we have recorded music, it is tempting to do recorded dances. And a beautiful choreography, beautifully danced, is a beautiful thing.

It’s just not the only thing. I’d love to see us have more fun with our compositions.

Belly dance is all about dancer agency and being in the present moment.

We are supposed to be able to respond to the music in the moment, as we feel it. So let’s make dances that celebrate this!

For example, instead of deciding on every step, what if we just plan the floor patterns? Then we know where to be and when to be there, but we can do any step we feel like to get there.

Or we can just set movement families. So this verse will be all hip drops, and this one will be all arms.

Or tell a story.

Or whatever. We can bake in variety in ways other than specific steps. We don’t even need specific steps.

In this way, we also bake in our agency and freedom. And it’s fun!

We’ll be doing some composition things this fall. I’m guessing folks are doing some recitals even if they are on Zoom. Stay tuned! I haz ideas ; ). I’ll also be talking more about this on the Bundle Podcast, which is coming soon–but there are already lots of great interviews there: Bundle Podcast

Lots and lots of love and hugs!

The BellyDance Bundle Zill Giveaway is happening now. Five prizes–maybe one of them is for you? Check it out! Zill Giveaway

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