These three techniques are ones that we work on constantly in the company I dance with, Lunaria Dance Theatre. They are all items that I was a bit lax about before joining the company, but our Artistic Director, Mellilah, has really emphasized them and they have slowly and surely been getting drilled into my body and become my defacto dance habits. As you practice and perform, keep these tips in mind and you will definitely see positive change in your dance. Although warning, small doesn't mean easy. And in fact, it's often the small details that can easily get lost and overlooked, especially when performance nerves and excitement take over. Just like any other aspect of dance, there's only one way to achieve it: practice, practice, practice!
- Engage your back muscles. Focus on engaging your lats, or more formally your latissimus dorsi, the muscles in your mid-back, just below your shoulders, as well as your traps, or trapezius, the muscles running vertically from along the spine in the upper back. By really engaging through these muscles you'll stand taller, open up the chest, and broaden the shoulders, instantly improving your posture and giving you a more strong, proud, and confident carriage. One of the most important aspects of performing is confidence: a performer must be confident so that the audience can feel at ease and will want to come along on the artistic journey. Confidence starts with posture. You want to be larger than life on stage; expansive and broad, not contracted and small. You want to clearly portray the message that the stage is yours and you belong there. Additionally, engaging the back muscles will greatly help with any arm movements you make, as the work will come from the center of the body and the energy will start in the center of the body and extend out through the fingertips, making for more elegant, controlled, and beautiful arm movements.
- Pull in the abdominals. Relaxing my abs was unfortunately a bad habit that I developed early on in dance. It's been a challenge trying to undo this bad habit. So don't be me and drill bad habits into your body! By engaging in the abdominals, especially the lower abs below the belly button, you will look again look stronger and overall appear more polished and experienced. In addition, you'll look slimmer and your whole overall posture and carriage will be improved. Maintaining a strong core is the best and most effective foundation from which to create your isolations and traveling steps. Also, engaging the abdominals will help protect the lower back, especially in moves like the Maya and figure 8's with the hips.
- Always perform. No matter what you're doing on stage, you're performing. If you're standing, you're standing like a dancer. If you're walking, you're walking like a dancer. Nothing should ever be pedestrian or how you would walk or stand in normal life. Your posture is always lifted and energy is extending out the fingertips. If you are standing, you're finding a beautiful S-shape pose, showgirl stance, asymmetrical pose with foot popped, or other pose that matches with your musical selection. If you are walking, you are pointing the toes, prancing, swinging the hips, runway model walking, strutting, or whatever walk conveys the the artistic nature of your piece. But you are never walking like you would just walk down the sidewalk. (Unless perhaps you just happen to be super fabulous in your everyday life. Hey, you do you!). From the moment you step onto the stage until you get off, you are working it head to toe.
I love gaining inspiration from belly dancers across the world. One dancer who's been a fairly recent rise to fame is the Ukrainian dancer, Darina Konstantinova, or as known on stage, Diva Darina. Darina has certainly been making a name for herself in the international belly dance scene, although I feel perhaps she's still not that well known in the Pacific Northwest. Well, no better way to get to know a dancer than to watch her dance, so let's just jump right in!
First video. I love this performance because it highlights Darina's dramatic style, superb technique, and strong stage presence. Her choreography keeps it interesting, textured, and nuanced by layering sensual fluid movement with sharp, crisp accents. She tops it off with with unique turns, poses, and head/hair movements. As she gets into her drum solo (starts at 4:05), you can really see the power and control behind her hip shimmies. And man, can that girl pop and lock (see 4:25)! Really, watch the drum solo. Just do it. I know as belly dancers we've seen probably thousands at this point, but this one is worth it. I promise.
Here's another one highlighting many of her signature moves; sharp accents, controlled turns, and hair flips. As well as what seems to have become sexy, signature costuming for her. (Anyone know who the designer is?)
And finally, this one, which is actually my favorite. It's not a performance, it's just her playing around in the studio, but man, I could watch this all day! I think this is probably the best belly dance fusion I've ever seen.
Time to get glam! Last month I had a new set of belly dance pictures done. Since I have some new costumes and a new hair color (hello purple!), I decided it was time to acquire some photo documentation on both aspects. I grabbed my costumes, my makeup, and the talented photographer, Chris Yetter, and we headed to Sunrise Beach in Gig Harbor, Washington. It was really fun to shoot on the beach, and especially appropriate for the mermaid costume. As we were shooting, we were acquiring some bystanders, but the more the merrier. Although, it was definitely hot outside! Hopefully, I was able to pull off looking fancy and fabulous, rather than hot and sweaty. But I'll let you be the judge of that. Below are some of my favorite shots from the shoot.