Impressing vs. Performing

Impressing vs Performing. Sometimes you get both. That's a good show. Frequently, however, the actual performance part doesn't come through. Yes impressive can be nice - the athletic agility, the striking swiftness, the shockingly sharp locks, the ethereal fluidity, the gleeful gimmicks, the stunning shimmies. Those are all great. Here comes the "but". One can execute a nearly technically perfect presentation yet still come up short on the performance aspect. The "show". And after all isn't that what the audience expects from a professional dancer or troupe? I know that's what I want. I came for a show thank you very much.

So of course this begs the question, what is the difference between simply impressing an audience and giving them a performance, an actual show?

Recently, on separate occasions, I asked this question to a couple of friends. One is a very seasoned dancer the other a non-dancer but has been an audience member at many bellydance events.
To the non-dancer it was important to be brought into the story of the performance. It isn't only about the physical feat. It's about the allure of the trip that one is about to embark on when watching a performance. He mentioned how the best ice skaters, magicians and even comics all take you through the arc of a story. He doesn't want to simply see the artist execute a list of jumps, tricks or one liners. M
y dancer friend, of course, responded with a cornucopia of interesting points and ideas, too numerous to list here but the gist; real performing comes down to respecting and knowing yourself, your craft and your audience. Impressing is usually about dancing for and impressing yourself.

Both of their answers confirmed my thoughts on this topic. Basically, the skill of performing is not something we as teachers can wait to teach to the more advanced students. No, it's not something you pick up in a Level 5 Certification, no matter how arduous the course is. It's not just a matter of taking a Performance Prep class. It is much more deep-rooted than this. The foundation to successful bellydance performing begins at the start of bellydance training. 
 Ideally no later. Why? In short, because professional and successful performing depends on your perspective and attitude. And that is not something you can just crash course.

A smile and eye contact are a good start but they'll only take you so far. Meaningful performances are based on awareness, respect, commitment and connection.  (click to tweet) Awareness and respect of your chosen craft, it's origins, those who came before you and their value. Commitment and connection to your art, your body, your growth, your fellow dance mates, your students and your audience.

I remember a few years back it was all the rage to say things like "I only dance for myself". I can understand this on a very base level. Of course we dance for ourselves. But if you are even thinking of performing, be ready to bring to this dance the level of awareness, respect, commitment and connection it merits otherwise you are cheating yourself out of  truly experiencing the joy and fulfillment that performing can bring you.

What do you think? What other differences would you say exist between "impressing" and "performing"?


  1. Impressing is throwing out every awesome trick you know with every song you do, whether or not it fits the music. I think we've all seen a dancer who has one thing that they're REALLY amazing at, so they shoehorn it into every solo they do, sometimes quite awkwardly.

    Performing is completely immersing yourself in the music and doing what the music says. Sometimes that means keeping it simple. Sometimes it means practicing something difficult until it comes effortlessly, because the song demands it.

    Performing also means acknowledging and engaging the audience. You don't have to constantly have your eyes locked with someone -- sometimes a song might require you to be more withdrawn. But you can't be withdrawn to a happy, outgoing song. Whatever persona you're showing on stage, the audience has to believe it goes with the song.

    If you do it right, performing will impress people even if all the moves you used were right out of Bellydance 101 :)

    1. Totally! I would rather see a bellydance 101 done right than a gimmicky or disconnected performance.

  2. very good points Gina! I wish more dancers thought this way. We used to call it "all technique and no heart".


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