Here are some things that may help with your solo improvisation. These are great to practice at home.
1. Relax – CALM DOWN! The biggest problem that I see with most dancers when they first start to improv is that they panic. It is amazing how much better you can dance when you stop over-thinking each step. Relax, breath and just dance.
2. Listen to the music – Of course you are listening to the music, but are you listening closely? Try practicing improv to just the drums or vocals. Pick a musical instrument and improv only to that. I am not saying that this is how you should perform a song, but it will give you a strong understanding of the various layers in the music. In turn, that will help you improv better to that music.
3. Focus on emotion – Tell a story with your dance. Make sure you know that tone/emotion of the music you are performing. Is the music sad, happy, subtle, strong or cute? Practice using the right emotion in your improv and don’t be afraid to over exaggerate.
4. Have a safety move – This works well for solo improv and improvisational Tribal Style. A safety move is a step that you know very well and don’t need to focus on to perform. It is the step that you do when your brain stops working. We have all had those moments when our mind goes blank and this is when I do my safety move. I use that time to think of the next thing to do. It is good to have a fast and slow safety move to make sure you are still dancing with the music.
5. Know the style – Please be true to the style that you are dancing. Do not put on an Egyptian song and do tribal fusion. The audience may notice that the movement does not quite fit. Practice the correct style for the performance that you are doing. I common mistake for a dancer with a tribal background is to start improving ITS syllabus moves when there mind goes blank. This is fine when you are hangout with friends and dancing, but it does not work as well for performance.
6. Focus on Arms and Face – When in doubt a good smile and strong arms will cover any flaws. It is a sad fact of dancing that more than half the people watching will only focus on your upper body. It is not because they don’t want to see your amazing undulations, it’s just where their eyes take them. Use this to your advantage. If you get stuck, just smile and have strong arms. It is surprising how much it helps.
7. Keep it simple – The biggest problem I notice with first time improv dancers. They try to do too much. You do not need to move every part of your body. I have seen dancers that have their arms, hips, head and feet all dancing at the same time. It is not that they are doing anything wrong, its more that they are doing too much for the audience to understand. Keep is simple! Don’t use 3 moves when one will do. Do not layer ever moment of your dance.
Take some of these home to practice, but don’t be scare to video your improv. Look back on the video without judgement, but just for aspects to make better.
Sorry it took so long. I have finally found the time to finish another set of online free mini lessons. This set focuses on many of the basic moves used in belly dance and tribal belly dance. If you are going to use these videos please warm-up before hand. You can use my warm-up videos for help.
Please go to: blip.tv/tigerclawdance/
Note: These are beginning level lessons. They are ment to introduce the basic skills of belly dance.
This month is about Improvisation. This is a key skill for any professional or semi-professional belly dancer. Improvisation is used in all forms of belly dance and I have listed a few.
Improvisation in dance – Dancing to music with out a set choreography. The dancer will create the movement as he/she feels the music.
1. American Tribal Style Improvisation – This style of improv is done in a group and uses a leader/follow system. The leader is the creator and the followers are led by cues from the leader. All of the dancers have a set dance vocabulary which they have learned and follow. ATS (American Tribal Style) follows the dance vocabulary that was created by Carolena Nericcio for her company Fat Chance Belly Dance.
2. Tribal Group Improvisation- This style of improvisation follows the same basic lead and follow pattern as ATS, but has evolved to use different movement vocabulary depending on the troupe/company. Good examples of this style are Gypsy Caravan, Unmata and Hipnosis.
3. Oriental solo Improvisation- This style is performed by a solo dancer. It is an important quality of a trained dancer to be able to improvise. This is especially useful for long performances like restaurants gigs when a dancer is expected to have 30-45min of dance prepared. It is not always possible to have all 45 min choreographed (not enough time in the day). It is common for a dancer to go from choreographed elements to improv elements and back during a show. The skill involves making this transition seamless.
4. Taqseem Improvisation- A Taqseem in Oriental/Caberet music is a part of the music with very little or no set beat/rhythm. This is usually a musical solo performed by a particular instrument. In Oriental/Caberet dance the Taqseem is expected to be improvisational. It is a strong emotional point in the music that is about expression.
A good example of a Taqseem-
Which styles of belly dance improvisation have you tried? Are there any more styles you can think of?