As a teacher for over 15 years, it occurred to me one day that most dancers don’t know the difference in what it takes to perform in different venues. This is only because it takes practice and the chance to perform at as many venues as possible. So for all of those dancers out there who are performing and trying to figure out the dynamics of stage presence and articulation , this is for you.
First of let’s take restaurant performing, which I love. Not all dancers enjoy restaurant dancing because you are always having to make sure you don’t knock over the wine glasses, hit someone with your veil or cane or dance right into one of the wait staff. That doesn’t include making sure you don’t trip over the customers while you are trying to entertain them. But as I tell my students it is a great education in learning how perform in situations that aren’t always perfect. This is where spontaneous choreography comes into play because quite frankly you can play and enjoy yourself while you are entertaining your audience. Also it gives you the chance to work on layering and level changes and any new moves that you want to try out for stage or night club performing. Now read this carefully because this is very important to know: Restaurant dancing sometimes can be devastating to the ego. There you are doing a vibration with a chest circle and maya to boot and no one is looking at you. Maybe you are dancing for a grumpy crowd and they don’t care what you do.
This is where the professional in you comes out and you perform your best anyways. As time passes on an incredible thing happens, you start to understand your audience’s moods and you can slowly but surely bring their spirits up because the bottom line of restaurant performing is that you are there not for yourself but for the audience. A dancer that performs out of love always gets her crowd eventually. And restaurant dancing will challenge you but in the end it will make you a better dancer for stage performing and night club performing.
So maybe some of you have done restaurant performing and decided you don’t like it, and stage is where you want to be – any stage, workshop shows, gala events, or student recitals. Believe it or not, the restaurant dancing can really help you out here. Why do you ask? Because when you perform in a venue that gets you to learn the psychology of people moods and attitudes you will instinctively dance more dynamically on stage. Also remember that when you perform in a restaurant you must have eye contact. That is essential because you give people permission to look at you or different parts of your body. And if I am doing a difficult move, I want people to watch the move and know it’s ok to watch. Now take that kind of ability to the stage and you have just added another dynamic factor to your choreography. Because on stage, whether it’s a big space or little, you always look at your audience and invite them into your dance. There might be a few I look at in the front rows, if I can see them,d and I will smile and actually acknowledge them. On stage whether you do spontaneous choreography or major choreographed pieces, story telling with the body is vital. How you interpret the music is how the audience will see the song because in our dance we are the link between the music and our audience.
Night club performing is all together another art form. First of all, most night clubs have live bands and you can’t always practice with the band before you perform. This happened to me many times when I drove from Fort Worth, Texas to Houston. I would get there in the nick of time to get dressed and get ready to go out and perform with the band. And sometimes I didn’t know what the band was going to play for me. So this is where spontaneous choreography comes into play. I’m sure there are many dancers out there who work with a band on a regular basis so this doesn’t concern you. I’m speaking to those dancers who may be a guest dancer and travel like I did to perform.
I danced at “The Mirage” in Houston and the band was incredible so I lucked out. But they kept me on my toes. I remember slipping on my skirt just enough to have to change my combination I was doing and most people didn’t catch it but the band leader did. So for me night club performing was the most intense and challenging but what a statement it made. If you can dance at a night club then you can dance anywhere.
Night club performing is a little bit of restaurant and stage put together. People at a night club come not only for the music but also for the dancing. So it’s great because you have a wonderful audience that wants to be entertained and see you dance. Plus you have the room to move around and of course the best part is the live music.
Put all three venues together and do them all and I guarantee you will be a dynamic dancer. Always remember that in order to be a great dancer you must come from a great place inside yourself. There you are already the queen of belly dancing and if you dance from this place, people will not only be touched by you but they will never forget you.