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. My 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"?