When I started this blog it was all in earnest and now it just seems ridiculous. It was a mistake of sorts. A temporary ego-fueled attempt to package myself into a product like we all do these days. It’s not enough anymore to be a friend, or just a human. One must sell themselves as a product. Everyone’s an artist. In fact I suspect we all go so wrapped up in the packaging and heavy marketing of ourselves that we forgot to work on the product.
In any case, I have to let go of things like this blog because it inflates my ego. And reframe or redefine what it is to be a friend. I have not lived up to my own definition, and am constantly let down by my expectations of altruistic friendship. And reclaim dance and music for joy rather than glory.
Scarbelly and the First Violin Dance
Well, my first violin dance. I’m not the first, but we are a rare breed. I have only found a few youtube videos of people dancing whilst playing said violin…and I like that, honestly. There is nothing new under the sun, but I’d like to try and create something special and as without precedent as possible.
I took an advanced music theory class in college that I grew to dread not because it required me to create simple compositions, but because I had to play them on the piano for my professor. Piano is not my instrument, and plunking out those little simple pieces I wrote was extremely challenging for me for one reason: it felt impossible to play two different rhythms at the same time. Left and right hand are in sync on the violin; you never have to make your body work at different speeds, speeds which have to meet at precise times. This was precisely the challenge in choreographing my first violin dance. I had this vision, but to carry it out meant training my body to move in different rhythmic patterns at the same time.
The dance style I chose was Balla Guerra. Do yourself a favor and click here and see what I’m talking about: http://www.transcendentaldance.com/ballaguerra.html. I started taking bellydance 2 years ago from this amazing teacher in Fredericksburg: http://www.kawakib.com/ but have not been to classes up there since moving to Richmond. I began taking Balla Guerra workshops and did the online class…Balla Guerra has roots in bellydance, and it has truly resonated with me. My middle name means Warrior, and I’ve always seen myself that way. I survived and fought my way to victory over severe abuse, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, coming out of the closet to a deeply religious family, and a huge rare tumor, to name a few. I see myself as a warrior/advocate for people with cognitive/developmental disabilities, in my professional life. So Balla Guerra just fit with me and my own self concept. Its aesthetic is flexible, it is pretty new on the dance landscape and its creatrix is giving and encouraging. All of this greatly appealled to me as after just about one year of bellydance, I discovered I felt quite the opposite of creatively empowered. I absolutely loved my dance class, but I felt intimidated by the dance community to the point that I could not dance in public if there were other bellydancers around. At all. Balla Guerra is strong and intense and can be dark and there is no such thing as too dramatic. Right up my proverbial alley.
So I chose this beautiful expressive form that matched me. And even as I was (and still am) just newly learning it, I decided to play the violin with it. Because it goes soooo well. It’s combat dance using the violin as my weapon. I had this idea that I could do sword movements I learned in a BG workshop with my violin bow. And I thought a lot about the deeper meanings of violin as weapon. This violin that I have played at weddings and funerals in my family. That I played with tears streaming down my face looking into my sweet cousin Paul’s casket, a farewell to a fellow rainbow warrior for whom the fight was too much. At my grandfather’s funeral, it sang out a Celtic fiddle tune and the hymns the old tattooed Army Air Corps soldier had sung his whole life. This violin is sacred to my family now. This violin is an extension of me; it is my emotional voice. It had to go with Balla Guerra and must do so continually.
The process of marrying dance with violin playing was really tough. It took months. I committed myself to do this publicly at a show I was already involved in (which you should really read about here, because it’s a series that is still going on and is absolutely life altering.. http://susansinger.com/BeyondBarbie.aspx) and nearly backed out after a terrible dress rehearsal in which I panicked hard. I had worked so hard but was having trouble nailing it down. I think I really just needed the pressure of having just a few days to solidify things to make myself regroup and organize and get it right. I thought seriously about backing out but I knew if I did that, it would be hard to recover and continue. I set that date before I had it together so that I could have a reason to push myself and struggle to create this thing, to manifest this dancer person in me, this person with a new thing to do with the instrument that’s been with me all my life. To dance solo for the very first time. It was a big deal.
And almost none of my friends showed. Which bothers me more than I’d like to admit. But that is another story, for another time. The night was magical for me regardless. I conquered something, made it through the first time dance performance rite of passage, and took the rather big risk of trying something very different and new in a public venue. Judging from the feedback I’ve received, it worked!
What I’d really like to share in this blog is the process: creative, technical, emotional, social, musical, the whole thing. This first choreography went kind of like this: amazing idea, lots of chaos and unorganized bits worked out over a number of months, panic, all of it pulled together in an orderly fashion in a few days. My goal is to whip this process into manageable shape; to organize it quickly now I’ve created this new pathway in my brain on how to do this.
1. Perform this choreography some other places.
2. Create new choreography by the end of the year.
3. Eventually record my own background music, and perform melody on top of it. This one gets me very excited.
4. As a longterm trend, expand and extend by composing more innovative music.
5. Become a better dancer. I’m still really a baby dancer, after just 2 years bellydance and even less Balla Guerra.
I can’t quite express how much joy this all brings me; how perfect and important that performance moment was for me emotionally and creatively. How excited I am about the possibilities.