Friday, May 31, 2013

A Belly Dancer Doesn’t Have a Spine, Right?

Anthea's note: Here's a wonderful cautionary story from Amartia, a beautiful Greek bellydancer from Maryland.You can find her here: Amartia and on Google+
Hi, my name is Bellydance by Amartia and Anthea offered to have me guest blog this week. She asked me to write about anything that I have had to overcome in my dance career. Thinking about it, I would have to say that my day job is what I have had to overcome.
Neck photo (not mine, from

I am a biochemist by day and a dancer by night. My job involves long hours of sitting and looking down through a microscope or over a plate holding a pipette. This, over the years, has caused my neck to have no bend in it. At first, you would think, so? What’s the problem? Well, the problem is that your neck is supposed to have a bend in it.
This condition hasn’t caused me any issues until recently. I had pain in my neck and shoulder and couldn’t figure out why. I went to the chiropractor, got X-rays and it turns out, there is no bend. My doctor told me that my neck, through my work, has straightened out, and isn’t able to support my head the way it would normally. This caused the weight of my head to be supported by my shoulders, which then gave up and said, back, it’s your problem. My back said nope! This caused the pain and pinching that I felt. He told me that the only thing that has kept me from having even MORE issues is dance. Dance has given my back the strength and flexibility necessary to hold up for this long.
I see the chiropractor regularly and there are exercises that I do to help get the bend back. I have been told it will take quite some time for it to happen. This discovery has also led me to realize a few things about my dance. This is why my shoulders come up all of the time and tend not to look relaxed or sit back. The strain of holding up my head/neck has made them tight so they move up. I have tried to correct this as I have continued to train and dance but it’s hard. Hopefully I will be able to nip that problem in the bud once my neck issues are fixed.
So this is a warning to all dancers. Don’t ignore any pain you might feel in your back; AND your day job can affect your dance and vice versa. Dance helped prolong this effect but it by no means is going to put the curve back into my neck. Bellydance by Amartia says- Go to the chiro!

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Friday, May 10, 2013

a performer's awareness: tribal versus oriental

I noticed something unusual while performing lately, about my real-time perceptions onstage and how they differ depending on whether I'm performing "regular" bellydance (choreography or solo improv), or TOBD (Tribal Odyssey Bellydance) group improv. It’s interesting to me because given how many times I’ve performed, it’s surprising to have a new experience. Not that I think I can't learn anything new about performing, I'm not saying that! It’s just that it doesn't happen very often.

I actually only realized this difference in awareness after I saw the ton of photos people posted on facebook and from watching the videos I took. After I saw the photos and videos I realized that while I was performing, I didn’t even notice the people around us - because I don’t remember them - even when they were really close to us! I didn’t even “see” the photographers right in front of us taking photos. I mean, I know I was aware that there were bodies out there around us or in front of the stage, but I didn’t notice what they were doing (or not doing). This is in STARK contrast to how my perceptions are during “oriental” style belly dance, when I’m aware of EVERYTHING.

From my expressions in the photos, of course I look like I’m “performing”, with my usual stage persona in place, smiling and looking at people, but now I realize my focus was really on our group. My eyes are looking and smiling at people, but my mind is on the other dancers!
tribal sword dancers
"What photographer? I only have eyes for Akila!"
Maybe it’s because when you’re doing tribal improvisation you’re so inter-connected with your group and focused on what’s happening between everybody... plus, we were doing our newest feature, Tribal Sword, which none of us are really used to yet. This is reminding me of long, long ago at one of my first performances - actually my first performance for dancers - at a hafla for WAMEDA (Washington Area MidEast Dance Association). I did a short oriental solo I’d created; it went great, was well received, and the video shows me performing just fine, even my face; but afterwards I couldn’t even remember it! So I think something similar is happening, at least right now while we're still new at sword improv; I guess there’s just too much going on to process it all at once. Maybe it's always been like this and I just didn't notice until I saw the photos.
Does this happen to you too?

Anthea / Kawakib
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