Thursday Night Belly Dance Class with Delilah

Lesson on Communication: “My Hip is a Circle”

Note: This article is from Delilah’s Private Web Club 202; a companion to A Retro Choreography and Fire at the Iao on Video and DVD, available on Delilah's Instructional Belly Dancing Video/DVD page.

For years, Thursday night has been the night my intermediate / advanced class meets. Rather than physical step techniques and choreography, we probe deeper to discover what makes this dance ART? I had been searching for ways to prompt my experienced students to make their movements communicate more effectively. The difference between what we recognize as dancing and simply walking to the kitchen is our employment of emotional expression, non-verbal communication and a relationship to rhythm and music. The difference between poetry or singing verses and everyday conversation is in the same vain. While based on words, singing is not dependent on our knowing the language or the structure. Dancing, poetry and singing are right brained-based methods of communicating. They are also personality delivered.

Teachers Observation:

In my Thursday Night Experienced Dance class, students seem to personally enjoy the movements. Still, I wanted to see the relationship between the personality of the dancer, her creation of the motion and her delivery of that movement come closer together. I wanted to see meaningful connection. When dancers are concentrating on a movement, sometimes their eyes blink nervously, or look up, down or anonymously into space. A friend once said, “It is as if they were reading shopping lists.” Ah yes, a great description!

Concept:

First of all, one technique I have for teaching transitions is to relate to each pattern; circle, figure 8, triple circle . . . like you would relate to cursive penmanship compared to printing. Don’t take the pencil off the paper. Make one pattern flow into the next by keeping the tension on an imaginary pencil point. This is where the smooth and hypnotic weight changes exist. You may draw patterns on an imagined surface parallel to the floor with the front of the right hip, and then move that point through the body to a new location — to the back of left hip, for example, and draw on an imagined surface vertically parallel to the front wall or the side wall ( there are many choices) and then flow into drawing a new pattern with another part of the body. The dancer’s task is to focus intention on the pencil points and lead the observer’s awareness three dimensionally inside the body to the next pattern of choice. The dancer expresses and interprets these moments in time, in relation to the music, verse and mood.

OK fine, some people get it . Once understood a whole world of dance awareness comes flooding in the door. However, some still do not get it. They have yet to develop a good sense of self-awareness.They look tense and confused. They need more guidance, more relaxation. They need to breath and be more in their body and be more themselves (or at least be somebody). So I have developed another exercise.

When you talk, you don’t rehearse every word that comes out of our mouth (maybe we should, but we don’t). We are used to spontaneously communicating. So, I asked my class to pair up with a partner and do 2 exercises.

Dance Move: One Hip Forward Wheel Alternating Sides

The movement is a Wheel formed with one hip parallel to the side wall, repeating over and over until the dancer wants to change sides.Then the transition comes as the downward drop of the forward part of the circle moves under the butt and rises on the other side of the back into the opposite, alternate hip circle. (Don’t you love written descriptions. This is why video instruction is so powerful.) The feet are exchanging the weight change for each rotation of the hip. This is done standing in one place.

EXERCISE # 1

Each dancer works with a partner.The performing dancer is instructed to say the movements slowly as she does them. She has to present the movement from the best vantage point to her partner as she speaks them over and over again

“ My hip is a circle ”

It was interesting when the dancers lost their balance or failed to make a round hip circle because they also failed to say it. They actually stumbled in their speech. If they said it with confidence they were successful. If it sounded like a question, we, as the audience, weren’t very sure of the movement either. This was fascinating! As the voice became more poetic or lyrical or dramatic the movement got juicy!

EXERCISE # 2

Now the dancer would present her movement, but say nothing. Instead the the partner would echo back,
“Your hip is a circle.”
Only when they saw it clearly could they speak. Sometimes, the words got stretched out as the dancer struggled to make the circle perfect. If the partner said it, but didn’t really see it , they didn’t really help their partner as much, though it was encouraging. So, there are beginning and advanced levels to this exercise. I would allow the partner to say it even though the movement wasn’t clear as sort of training wheels, but an advanced dancer has to earn the completion of the phrase.

The progress was astounding!

Next, I asked them to transition to the other side. I asked them to tell me how they were going to do it and what were they trying to accomplish in the simplest terms. They looked at me funny so I had to demonstrate.

Ok, so I look at one student on one side of the room. As I look at her, I see in my mind’s eye my pencil point and my hip. I see the movement and I say as I look at student #1,

“ My hip is a circle and it is being drawn so you can see it. Now I’m going to take it away from you and draw another circle on my other hip over here for you.”

I change and look at student #2 on the other side and say,

“Now my right hip is a circle and I’m drawing it for you , circle, circle, bye-bye I’m taking it away now, and giving it to you.”

... back to student #1.

The students noticed that the dynamics of my motion matched the rhythm of my conversation.

Ahh haaaaa! Very good class!

Delilah, Visionary Belly Dancing