This may seem pretty obvious, but somehow it isn’t.
I’m sitting on my couch with my bare feet up on the coffee table, laptop balanced on my lap, lol. I do a LOT of writing like this. My hair is awry. The eyeliner I put on this morning for a meeting is now largely under my eyes instead of around them. I’m in my own personal space where no one has to look at me. While it is true that I sometimes leave the house like this, I do avoid it—because, yes, the messier we are when we leave the house, the more likely we will run into someone we wish hadn’t seen us quite so unkempt ; ).
Inside is private (relatively, anyway). Outside is public.
Inside my own home, I can lounge around déshabillé. Outside, I don’t.
So it is with dance. If I am to dance in public—from socially at a party to professionally for a show—I like to be presentable at the very least. The higher profile the event, the better I dress, the more careful I am with my makeup. And I dance very differently.
Dancing with friends at a bar is casual. At a wedding is more upscale. A performance at a wedding is way more upscale. Each of these has a certain level of care invested.
At home, pffft! I can dance in my underwear—or naked, by candlelight. I can roll around on the floor, make weird noises, and drool if I want to (I don’t think I have ever drooled, but I could).
Just think of how horrid life would be if we were always on display—always had to be well-dressed and well-behaved, even in our sleep. Yuck, amirite? We’d go mad in short order. We need to have down time, slop time, relaxed anything-goes time.
Well, the same thing holds true for dance.
The body needs to unload all its accumulated stress and strain.
It needs to be able to move in potentially un-pretty, ungraceful, possibly even raw, ugly ways.
Dirt is dirt. If we don’t wash it off every so often, it builds up—which makes it a lot harder to remove, plus it feels icky, even squalid. Sustained stress is like dirt on the soul. Free dance can help scrub it off.
The problem is that we often expect ourselves to dance all perfect all the time, which is super stressful and unrewarding.
Instead, let’s bring a sense of curiosity and experimentation into our dance. Let’s bring our weird faces and awkward movement. Undancerly prancing and over the top drama queen, little-kid pretending, broken crawling, and sensual writhing. In short, let it all hang out.
Wahoo, right? Um….
Wait, what if we actually do this in public <gasp!>
The reality is that it depends upon the situation. In the same way that we have a decent idea about how to behave in an assortment of public settings. we have a pretty good idea of how to dance in them, too.
And while becoming an expert free-dance improviser will probably loosen up our public persona, give us a little more personality, playfulness, and vibrancy, we probably won’t roll on the floor and drool in front of the wedding party (unless it is that kind of wedding, lol).
I have been dancing this way for a very long time. I did once kinda go off script, but I had given myself permission. So that doesn’t count ; ).
But what about the dance police?!
Those folks who live to hand out tickets for dance faux pas, who are not happy with anything we do?
Leila Farid told me the more Egyptians liked her dance, the happier they became with her, the more mean, hurtful comments American dancers posted on her youtube videos. Isn’t that interesting? Lots of native dancers tell me they have also been shunned because their dance doesn’t match what some Western perfectionist thinks our dance should be.
Sure, we need to have technique if we are going to be professional dancers. But! We also need to understand, value, and embody the cultural aesthetics of the dance we are doing.
In Oriental dance, improvisation, relaxation, agency, playfulness, and verve are vital.
We get a lot of technique, but we don’t get a lot of improvisation, relaxation, agency, playfulness, and verve.
So here we are.
Let it out.
In the studio, in a safe class, find somewhere you can let down your hair and not worry or care.
Your public dance will thank you for it.
Belly Dance BEDROCK is one place you can let go and move as your body wishes. We start with centering, dissect and re-pattern some bedrock movement vocabulary, and then we PLAY.
Here’s what folks said in the first class:
This way feels so much better. The whole “use the obliques to lift the top of the hip” method never felt great for me.
I get less tired lifting the hip from under
This makes it so much richer
It feels so effortless
It’s amazing how you feel the psoas by thinking of the movement
I love your approach, Alia!
We’ve completed the first live class, but you can still catch the replay, and join us for the next 4 classes.
Tuning In is a balm for the nervous system. Every week, a half-hour shower to cleanse and regulate the nervous system. Tuning In 6 starts Friday. Register here.
I look forward to moving with you!