DYNAMICS: Intensity of energy in a direction. Tension vs. Relaxation.
The fundamental action of a muscle is contracting and releasing. The muscles either contract or release and so allow our arms, legs, torso to lift, drop, rotate, twist and allow us to be ambulant. It’s how we do isolations like stomach flutters and rolls, or head, chest slides and hip slides. And, it’s how we turn. Controlling muscles is how a dancer makes her body move by command, and, as we know, this takes years of training, practice and more training and practice! Dynamics are they essence of control.
TAKSIM AND DRUM SOLO
Dynamics in Belly Dance are visually recognized in the two core parts of the music and dance – the Taksim and The Drum Solo. These parts are where the dancer shows her true ability and where the audience is most impressed. The Drum Solo and the Taksim are two sides of the same coin – both feature isolations, one mostly tension and the other mostly relaxation. Traditionally, these sections involved little to no traveling so, locomotion was limited to short sequences of using the legs. But, when you combine steps with isolations it’s a whole no world!
The dynamics of the Taksim include undulations and circles – slow “noodley” movement and relaxed energy. It is all about letting go and relaxing. In the taksim the dancer is doing multiple undulations and circles which are being executed at the same time, while the rest of the body is made to be still and relaxed. But, this takes tremendous strength ~ and strength is the foundation of letting go. [Something to think about!]
Next to the Veil, the Taksim and The Drum Solo are the meat of the dance.
BREATH CONTROL ~USE BREATH TO MANAGE MOVEMENTS
Breath control is crucial to good dancing. Taking time between sequences to manage breath is critical to managing muscles. Especially when moving between fast, tense movements into slower, more relaxed movements - such as the drum solo and taksim. When I first began performing as a pro I danced almost every night. Back in “the day” we did complete cabaret sets lasting 20-30-45 minutes (in Middle Eastern clubs 60 +minutes). Of course, I always did a taksim including standing work and floor work. After the Opening and Veil my muscles were tight and my breathing fast – so it was a bitch relaxing enough to do an extended taksim. Especially the uber slow floor work sequences involving back traveling and Berber walks, etc. …..but I overcame this by taking a few seconds in the first part of the taksim to just breath until my breath slowed enough to relax.
For example, in floor work, doing back traveling with a body sway + Snake Arms is all in the core. The legs are folded underneath you and to the side of the hips and torso and are they are lifting and dropping to drag the body forward while the torso is contracting to make itself sway from side to side, and while the arms softly undulate. Extremely hard and athletic! Another example is Body Drops which are done by releasing the torso to drop to the floor while holding the hips in a tight and stable position.
Drum Solo dynamics include Locks, Drops, Twists, Lifts and Circles. Blending and Layering these requires even more control because one part of the body is being made to relax while other parts are being made to tense – all at the same time. It is like patting ones head while rubbing the stomach (or, is that the other way around)?
MANAGE YOUR PRESENCE
As you probably know, emotion creates an intensity or lack intensity of breath. If you tend to get stage fright, try a short meditation prior to going on stage – close your eyes, empty your mind and then end this by looking around your environment to focus your attention on the present. This helps me to let go of the thoughts and feelings that make me scared.
Love Your Audience
I also peek outside at the audience and scan the room - I take a moment to find my center of love and send it out to everyone waiting to see me dance. Love is the opposite of fear so, it washes away the fear when you replace it with love. I do this with my company as well – we do a quiet group meditation and then the usual pre-show zagareet! These two things center and energize us.
Being a good dancer involves a mix of physical, emotional and intentional actions. The muscles use contractions, releases, breath and emotion like the engine of a car – making the whole move. Next time you practice remember to consider these ideas and notice how your body is using muscles in this way. When you accomplish something notice how you gained the ability to separate muscle groups and body parts in order to control them individually. It’s all a contrast and a marriage of energy to create the beautiful movement we call dance.