Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Elements of Theatrical Belly Dance (a work in progress)

Photo by Peter Paradise Michaels 2013
This past summer I made a decision to recommit myself to my creative practice.  While I included in this all of the creative things I do (writing, dance, costuming, crochet and music) there was a particular emphasis on dance as this was an area in which I had been experiencing some creative struggle for the past year or so.

As I am someone who works better with some sort of structure I wanted to have a basic framework through which I approached reestablishing my practice.  After some thought I chose the five elements of earth, air, fire and water.  I chose these in part because I was already familiar with them and also because it felt right to recognize that dance, for me, is more than just movement to music; it is at times a form of meditation and at others a deeply spiritual act.  I spent most of the summer working within this framework and the result is what you see below.

Creation is a process and so while I have captured these words here, they are by no means set in stone. In fact, I view this as "a good start."  I am continuing to explore this approach and expect that over time it will evolve.  Also, you can expect future posts that will explore each element more deeply in how it relates to creativity and dance.  Finally, this was written to be shared with my students as I have decided to begin using this framework within my classes.

The Elements of Theatrical Belly Dance

09/12/2013 – Joie Grandbois

Earth (practice): Earth is the foundation of our dance. We begin our practice with a grounding exercise to bring our thoughts to the present and our minds into our bodies. Earth is our body and the work we do with it; the stretching to warm our limbs, the dance drills we do over and over again embedding the memory of movement into our muscles until the dance becomes as natural to us as breathing.

Air (inspiration): Air is the breath of our dance. To breathe in is literally to inspire. Just as when the body is tense it cannot breathe deeply, when the mind and spirit are under stress there is not room for inspiration to enter. By being present in our bodies and in our dance we let go of expectation and judgment so that we make room for The Muse.

Fire (energy): Fire is the pulse of our dance. It is the beating of our hearts as it moves blood and oxygen to our muscles. It is the heat and sweat of the work we do, the calories we burn, the process of digestion to nourish our bodies. It is the intangible connection our bodies feel to the beat of the drum, and the flow of melody. It is the vibration of the kinship we share with our fellow dancers. It is the joy reflected back to us when the audience applauds. It is ever present but we are often disconnected from it and so we teach ourselves to pause, breath deep and open our awareness to it and by doing so bring life to our dance.

Water (emotion): Water is the flow of our dance. A sea of emotion ebbs and flows within all of us. Our culture teaches us that to express emotion is a sign of weakness and so we seek to control it by damning it up, denying or trying to escape what we feel but just as we can learn to be present in our bodies, we can learn to be present in our hearts. We can connect with our deep joys and hurts, allow them to flow through us without drowning in them, and bring our heart fully into the dance.

Spirit (the storyteller): Spirit is the story in our dance. Spirit weaves together inspiration, energy and emotion to bring to life the tale we tell with our bodies as we dance. The stories we share are at once our own and universal. We pause, we move, we breathe, our blood pulses, the rhythm rises, we connect, our hearts open and we become the storytellers.

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