I mentioned in my last enewsletter that I had something to say about country line-dancing and tribal, comparing the two, or maybe it is about experiencing them both. I was recently in Ohio visiting my mother and sister. My mom, who is 83, rocks hard! She takes several dance classes weekly, sings with a bunch of bluegrass guys, and is learning to play the auto harp. Nothing slows her down.
Of course I go dancing with her whenever I can, and she joins in my bellydance classes when she comes to visit me.
I went with her to line-dancing last week, which is so much fun, and I had this thought. One of the lessons I try to teach all of my students is even though tribal is a very grounded and earthy dance, you need to stay light on your feet. Sound contradictory? Not really. As a dancer, you need to move with grace, to flow over the floor, even though you stay connected to the earth. You do not want to grip the earth with your feet. That means staying connected through your belly—your power center—as well as moving forward from your heart, by keeping your chest open and shoulders down and back. What beautiful posture that makes, and then you can dance from your heart and soul, with that intention of showing yourself to your dance, with your dance.
But the idea of improvisation in tribal is to move quickly, changing on the spot with your leader, which is a very scary concept for many dancers who do not understand the power of improvisation, of being in that moment. That is why I think so many “tribal” dancers don’t do improv, they don’t know how to start and trust themselves as dancers.
So in this line-dance class at the senior-center, the dances are about these mini-choreographies for each song. You learn a pattern of moves, and then repeat them through the whole song, with lots of turns, sashays, little kicks and touches, vines, etc. This particular teacher would quickly show a series of steps and then you just do them, over and over, for the song. Whether you understood the choreo or not. Now, I have always been very good and quick at picking up choreographies. You show me, I do it. That came about in my early jazz and ballet training. I love dancing choreographies. Here I was, with a room full of senior women, dancing to some fun and grooving, and some sappy songs, and we were all moving, about twenty women and a couple of men, as one big unit, 1/4 turn here, 1/2 turn here, kick here, and a hip shake there. Even if I could not remember what she taught, I allowed myself to step lightly, follow whomever I could, turn with the crowd and keep moving. Being light on my feet. Moving with grace. Going with the flow and allowing the group energy to help direct me.
That is what should happen in tribal when you are following your leader. The leader takes charge, listening to the music, and dancing with intention and deliberation, in the groove, and paying attention to who is following her. As a follower, you need to be in the flow, and not even think about what could happen next. Just move your feet or hips or arms, trust your body, stay light on your feet, yet grounded, feel the energy of the movement and the moment, and just do it. Quit thinking! Know what I mean?
Improv at it’s finest, that ‘s what I say.
Dance with grace, and live the same way.