Tribal Bellydance in Yorkshire and Lancashire.

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13 January 2013 – Improvising North Wind

Improvised dance is an important part of most ‘traditional’ forms of Tribal Bellydance. We do this within the North Wind format, but alongside choreography – either ‘whole move’ or more fusion style.

Improvisation, even group improvisation, is not unique to Tribal. I did this as part of learning Arabic/Egyptian style bellydance and many, especially folkloric, styles follow this principal. Some folk love it – you have no long choreography to create or remember – others find it difficult and less satisfying than producing a polished performance.

For group or structured improvising to work successfully takes far more practice and skill than people imagine at the outset. It is relatively simple to follow an experienced leader, but taking the lead is far more difficult requiring a good grasp of the basic moves, good musical sense and a helping of confidence. To get this up to a standard fit to be a performance requires a great deal of skill and is not for everyone.

For this reason I prefer to leave improvising to those who want to do it and who have the determination to develop the skills to both lead and follow. The moves you learn in class are the same moves that form the building blocks for improvisation – so you are picking up these skills naturally as you go along. For those who want to try out improvising we have the (more or less monthly) workshops on pure North Wind improvisation skills – most sessions are suitable for anyone who comes to class and wants to try this out – the sessions are always supportive and positive and generally fun.

One of the other reasons I have some problem with total improvising is that, generally, I find improvising to recorded music a bit unsatisfactory. The music is going to be the same every time and, as I want my steps to be the best I can manage, I inevitably fall into choreographing. I can’t summon much enthusiasm for ‘practicing improvising’ to the same music over and over. However dancing to live music is where improvising skills are at their most useful. Live music is rarely the same every time around, slight changes of pace or emphasis change the way you respond to the piece. Being able to change tack as you go along becomes natural – and this is the natural place for improvising.

North Wind has been fortunate in the past to have had a close relationship with Arcomnia and now with Lemurum so we have the opportunity to improvise to music we may never have heard before. We hope to have the band at our hafla on 23 March – come along and give it a go.