Breath and Body Language

Zaghareet! Magazine (Mar/Apr 2012)  
by Anthea Kawakib Poole

Breath - the quality of “life” in a movement, and Body Language - unspoken visual messages from the heart... these are the two things I look for when watching dance performances. These concepts are hard to teach. Some students get it and some don’t, but it’s so important to share this information - and rewarding when students finally understand. 

I’m sure you’ve heard someone say, “I always forget to breathe!” Well, that seems impossible, and we know they ARE breathing or they’d fall unconscious. What they mean is that they’re not relaxed. They’re tense and taking shallow breaths because they’re concentrating so hard. Breathing deeply relaxes you and ALLOWS you to connect to reality from the inside. Notice I said “allows” you - it doesn’t force you to. You can still (consciously or unconsciously) disconnect while being relaxed, that’s not what I’m saying. My hope is that people choose to “follow their hearts” - the heart area being the physical location where the breath actually works its magic.

Relaxing, breathing deeply, and allowing your heart to connect with others is one of the most powerful experiences in dance. A dancer who explores this in practice and engages in it onstage is going to be a powerful performer... and dance technique will then become the icing on the cake. That makes a much heartier (no pun intended!) meal than just icing. There are also techniques you can use to explore opening up and connecting with others, but for beginning dancers, it’s enough to just focus on breathing deeply and staying relaxed while learning and performing.

Do You Have Eyes Like A Baby?

Babies see - but they don’t understand what they’re seeing. The same is true of baby dancers. They see a belly dancer and don’t understand much of it. They love the flash and excitement; and break into applause at plain old shimmies (i.e., the “icing”). As their eyes mature, they look beyond that and want to find emotion and intelligence; a connection and rapport from the dancer that’s coming from the heart.

As you grow in experience in the dance, you become more critical of performances, you see with a more knowing eye - sometimes dancers who you thought were the bomb when you were a beginner look different when you become advanced. You notice things in their performance that you didn’t before; or maybe you notice a LACK of some quality you’d like to see.

As growing dancers, the best way to go deep in belly dance is to find workshops or teachers who can help you understand the music, and can help you reach the place where you connect with the music. It’s like the Holy Grail of belly dance! Belly dance is about more than popping isolations and bouncing hips. Everyone’s searching for what makes them FEEL - so when you find it, realize it for what it is, and the BE BRAVE ENOUGH to explore it. Get out of your head and into your inner self;  be brave enough to explore what is going on inside you. THAT is how you become an amazing performer!

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