Sunday, December 02, 2007

It's not so simple

Lately I've been watching lots of ATS and tribal group improv videos online looking for tips on technique and moves, and I've come to a conclusion: the Basic Egyptian move is really damn hard. This was one of the first moves I learned when I joined a belly dance class almost 4 years ago, and I still don't have it down correctly.

You can see this move at around 17 seconds in this clip of Fat Chance Belly Dance. It consists of the lead right foot stepping slightly forward of the body and the foot and hips twisting, then coming back and repeating on the left side, allowing the hips to reverberate as you transfer the weight. The arms are overhead and as a foot reaches out the arms give a slight pull, opening up the line of the body on the side of the foot that is out.

When I started dancing this move felt like "step the foot and bump the hip a little and pull with the arms". My timing was horrible. Then I realized I was pulling my arms too hard, and I had to soften it a bit. Next I figured out that the hips were a twist, not a bump. Then I saw that there was the reverberation with the weight transfer. I had to make my hands smoother, less flippy. When turning in a half circle the turn should be smooth and try turning under the left arm. And my current focus is on keeping my pelvis neutral (no duck butt!) while making sure my arms are up, not drooping down, and pulled back using my shoulder blades so I don't obscure my face.

4 years! 4 years and many teachers and workshops and I'm STILL tweaking this move. I'm not perfect at everything I do but I can say my Turkish Shimmy and Arabic basic and many variations and hip bumps/choo choos are doing a lot better than my Egyptian Basic. It's a tricky move, a lot is going on, and it all needs to pull together seamlessly. Unfortunately it's also a move where each bit that's "off" is noticeable, which is why I've been working on mine so much. Actually, I've also been working on my posture around my shoulders, that back and down through the shoulder blade that keeps the arms and chest strong and lifted, that gives the openess of tribal posture. It's hard work, but I've been lucky enough to have lots of "Ah-hah!" moments lately that make the work rewarding.


Natalia said...

I really think that's one of the signs of when someone has really made it to the next level as a dancer... When you can go back to the things you learned early on and thought you knew, and realize that there's a whole new dimention to them to master.

Amy said...

Definitely! Lately it's been the 3/4 shimmy. Weight driven? Hip driven? Up? Down? Out? How will I do it?

Naima said...

I think you have inspired me to follow through with something I thought about doing a long time ago.
You are right about how hard it can be to get a movement to stick in your head or become part of muscle memory.
I thought about doing mini video clips of movements with explanations and posting to my blog. You know, as just another source of input for dancers to share. Sometimes, all it takes is another explanation or demonstration to get the movement to click. What do you think? Would there be interest out there for this?

Amy said...

I think anything that can get out more dance information is great. Even if Move X that you do is called Thing A, it's helpful for another dancer to say, "Oh, that's out Move Y that we call Thing B", and can help forge communication between dancers when discussing what we do. For students I think it can help to be able to have a reference that can help in between classes: "Is it right arm here and left arm there? Or is it right arm HERE and left arm THERE? I can look at the video and see!".