When you look over your last few choreographed pieces, do you see yourself in them? You may be creating choreography for a troupe, or workshop students, or for yourself. But if someone saw them performed, would they know it’s yours?
It’s hard finding your own style but if you don’t choreograph with the intention of leaving a piece of you, then it gets lost among the masses.
So what’s a bellydancer to do? Take an analytical approach to your last few pieces and ask yourself if this is you. You are a combination of all your experiences and teachers. It’s perfectly ok to have an influence of someone, but don’t let it overshadow what you have to offer.
If it’s too difficult to think about it that way, think about it in reverse: look at what you aren’t.
When I used to dance in a professional troupe back in Orlando, we had to learn a wide range of different pieces. In addition to being part of the troupe, I had 3 years of other dance training where I was also regularly performing flamenco, Polynesian dances and Indian Bollywood. And although I picked up choreography fairly easy, I definitely had more than a few pieces that weren’t my favorite. Not because the choreography itself wasn’t well made, but because I felt like a fraud.
I can’t do cutesy sexy.
I can’t do fierce and energetic.
At 5’9” and dancing with 10 gorgeous other bellydancers who were all at least a good 6 inches shorter than me, I felt like a giant. I felt out of place. It didn’t fit me, and it didn’t fit my personality.
But give me a soft Tarab piece, a powerful Saidi or a sweet Khaleegy and I’m down. I'm in my element.
This is how I gravitated toward choosing bellydance as my main focus. And even though I chose Middle Eastern dance, I am still heavily influenced by my studies in other dances: the sharp hip work in Tahitian dance, the powerful elegant arms in Flamenco, and the expressions and joy in Bollywood dance. I take what I like and make it my own.
Don’t feel like you have to master it all and be everything for everyone. Having a wide range of skills is great if you are in a troupe and that is how you are getting booked, but if you’re a solo dancer you need a niche to stand out. It doesn’t have to be sword swallowing while spinning fire poi (unless that’s your thing!). It just has to be true to you.
This was originally posted in the Advance Your Bellydance Weekly Newsletter. Sign up here for free bellydance tips straight to your inbox.