Uncertainty, Improv, and Trusting Yourself
Updated: Mar 20, 2022
I'm writing this in early June of 2020. Quarantine for Covid-19 is still in effect here (and cases are rising in places that have broken theirs early) and protests are going on over the murder of African
Americans by police who too often face no consequences for their actions. Some folks dealt with the uncertainty at the beginning of Covid by stockpiling toilet paper, lots of people have been having trouble adjusting to being home so much. It's got me thinking, how can we handle uncertainty in dance? Can bellydancing help us be more resilient to uncertainty?
When it comes to uncertainty in bellydance, there is a certain amount we need to be able to handle, we often don't get to see our performance space until we arrive at a gig, and at its heart bellydance is an improvised art form, so you'll be uncertain about what move comes next. One way early dancers in the nightclubs that immigrants opened in the US during the 50s-70s managed this was to have a predetermined structure to a set, with an energetic opening, a slower veil number, an upbeat song to interact with the audience, a very slow balancing and/or floorwork section, followed by a drum solo and high energy finale. The dancer might not know what song was going to play until she heard it start, but she would know what sort of energy was going to come next whichever club she worked at. Modern dancers, and dancers performing at showcases with time limits and single-song performances, can use music mapping to have a sense of organization to their improvisation. Learning the "must know songs" commonly played by bands, and listening to MENAHT music until it feels intuitive is another way to lessen the uncertainty you feel when dancing. On the other hand, simply embracing uncertainty can be empowering. And the practice gained by successfully navigating uncertainty in dance can give you confidence to face uncertainty in life. I wrote more about this in another post, but the short version is that the more you face your fears, the less power they have over you.