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A Professional - Dance

By Salome

"A Professional - Primer" outlines the basic traits of a professional. The series is intended to act as a reference to develop said traits. To read previous installments visit the Article Index page and look for the titles "A Professional - ..."

Highly Trained
Commands polished quality movement

Attend weekly classes and workshops. You might train in other styles of Oriental dance and/or cross train in other dance forms. You can find an instructor in your area by visiting our Belly Dance Instructors directory. I recommend reading "A Competent Teacher" before searching out an instructor. Set aside your own practice time. Make goals for yourself, perhaps technique or emoting or musical interpretation... then make a plan about how you are going to use your practice time to move closer to those goals.

Coaching can provide the one on one attention necessary to receive constructive criticism specific to you. Feedback is important for our growth. To find a coach visit our Belly Dance Instructors directory.

Video instruction can be a worthwhile learning aid in addition to live instruction. You can read video reviews at groups.yahoo.com/group/bellydancevideos/ or www.shira.net/videocenter.htm#Reviews
You are welcome to check our Belly dance store, we may carry the title you are looking for.

Can make a seamless recovery
Uses stage space

Unexpected incidents will occur in your performance; the CD skips, you lose part of your costume, the sword falls off your head… I recall such an incident in the performance of a well known dancer. Her skirt was long and full, she was gracefully stepping backward (accidentally on her skirt) slipped and fell. It’s everyone’s worse nightmare and undoubtedly it will happen somewhere along a dancers career. But what I remember about that particular incident is that she immediately got up and apologized to the audience. She fell so fast that it looked like a drop to the floor. If she had sinuously risen to her knees and continued her dance I would a. never have known or b. admired her recovery. There are circumstances when it is necessary to "break character", i.e. you are injured or the environment has become unsafe. Barring those type of exceptions the show must go on!

Your facial expression says it all. Something unexpected happens - your face should portray calm, cool and confident. Improvisation is your best friend and most valuable tool in these instances. If you can improvise with ease you will be able to adjust without missing a beat.

Using stage space does not mean you need to cover every square inch and it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to "travel" frequently. It means making a connection with and presenting your dance to the entire audience, not just to those directly in front of you.

You can practice seamless recovery and use of stage space by performing on the hobbyist circuit. See "Hobbyist Circuit" for explanation.

Possesses a complete repertoire

Repertoire generalities
In the United States the length of your performance can be 7 minutes upwards to 25. Abroad, clients ask for not less than 30 minutes upwards to 45. You need to possess enough material to meet those standards.

In relation to length, you must be able to demonstrate a variety of moods and dance to all corresponding sections of music.

In the United States it is standard practice to wear the same costume throughout your show. There are exceptions, but generally the length of your show will be to brief for a costume change; the venue will not have a live band to entertain in the interim; it will be plain unpractical… Abroad you will be expected to change costume. In Egypt it is customary to exit during your program, change and immediately return to the stage. But in most countries it will mean a different costume for each set in the show.

Repertoire content
The content of your repertoire is defined by your training. It can include special skills, a variety of styles or one style.

Four imaginary dancers and corresponding repertoires:

"Sarah" - Turkish Oryantal Tansi.
"Leyla" - Egyptian Raqs Sharqi, Raqs al Assaya, Raqs al Shemadan and Ghawazi.
"Soroya" - American Oriental dance, specialties include sword balancing and veil.
"Rose" - American Tribal Style, and Tunisian Women’s Dance, specialties include pot balancing.

Each of our imaginary dancers has a repertoire that corresponds well with the field she wants to work in. For example:

"Sarah" was deeply intrigued in the Oryantal Tansi and Rroma dances of Turkey. She traveled there, studied, and now wants to share her knowledge through theater performance, and workshops.

"Leyla" has a passion for the Oriental and folk dances of Egypt. Her goal is to perform in Arabic nightclubs and eventually in Egypt.

"Soroya" enjoys the influence of many Middle Eastern dance styles and music. Her goal is to dance in competitions, nightclubs and do belly grams.

"Rose" derives great fulfillment through the camaraderie of American Tribal Style. Her aim is to form a troupe that will participate in performing arts events.

Repertoire is a deciding factor in career type. Consider the style of dance you perform and how you see it working for you in terms of professional opportunities.

Building a repertoire
First - become well versed in chosen style(s). For weekly classes and coaching see Belly Dance Instructors . Workshops and video instruction are a good opportunity to pick up training in styles or specialties that are not offered by local instructors. For workshops see Belly Dance Events. For video instruction check out Lygia's Belly dance world, there is a searchable directory that lists 356 videos and where to buy them.

Second - create your own choreography, commission choreography, and/or chose improvisation. For some suggestions on creating choreography see www.kawakib.com/articlesZAG5.html or www.jasminjahal.com/articles/art_how_to_choreograph.html or www.danceart.com/t3d/jumpchoreo.htm. To commission choreography, approach a dancer/choreographer and simply ask. You can also buy a choreography video that grants the right to use that choreography. Observe copyrights, no exceptions. For an overview of copy right laws see "Copyright Basics".

Can perform as a soloist, in a duet or group

Performing in these capacities require different skills. A soloist has the freedom to go with the flow, and be in the "spotlight". Group dancing requires group precision, attention to stage placement, command of choreography, and conveying mood as a unit (not a diva).

You can learn the latter skills through weekly classes, most instructors teach choreography as part of their course material, see Belly Dance Instructors. In relation, you can organize a student troupe or join an existing troupe or organization which offers group dance opportunities, see subtitle "Belly Dance Organizations" at Belly Dance Online.

Improvises with ease

Choreography has it's time and place no doubt about that but improvisation cannot be under stressed. It's a valuable tool when making a seamless recovery; it's the mark of a strong dancer; it allows you to express feeling in the moment and follow it where ever it leads; and at times it can be necessary.

Dance is the physical language of music. If you are familiar with Arabic music you can anticipate where the music is heading, keep the rhythm and acknowledge the melody. Improvisation is really where the mind sleeps and the spirit takes over. Your deeper self responds with feeling inspired by the music versus a mechanical response that can occur with choreography. "A Professional - Music" will be dedicated to the subject of music.

The very act of creating choreography forces you to improvise. The end goal in this process is achieving the opposite of improvisation but the experimenting process of creating choreography can serve as great practice. Hopefully your instructor provides a "free style" time in class, a good opportunity to get comfortable improvising in front of an "audience". In addition to formal improv practice at home, play music when you are doing household chores and let your hips do the talking.