Anyone who’s watched a performance by the Banat Maazin in their heyday knows what a powerful impact they had when dancing together. Their long, extended sets using basic, even-tempo’d Egyptian rhythms provided the perfect backdrop to their style of belly dancing: as a performing group, their dancing was UN-choreographed but obviously structured in that they knew when to group into duets or trios that meshed, or dance as individuals, or dance as a group in sync.
This feeling of loosely structured but coherent group movement is the same we get in the American group improv formats like ATS™ and ITS. At their best, these formats provide a structure when we need it, and allow us the freedom of spontaneous creation inspired by the situation in which we’re dancing at any given time. We should ALWAYS strive to keep alive the un-choreographed nature of this type of bellydancing, even though it carries with it the possibility of imperfection. It’s foolish to think we can reach perfection in any type of dance, isn’t it?
Besides, dancing with friends is more like playing together – especially since you can take turns leading the group. It allows for so much freedom! Sharing the burden of keeping things moving lightens the load considerably; and every single performance is unique – it’ll never be done that way again!
Apart from the fun factor, here are some “dance-teacher” specific reasons to consider using a Group Improv format in class:
- the limited repertoire of combinations helps students develop graceful TRANSITIONS between movements
- students quickly begin to hear and recognize the music’s beat and rhythms
- learning to play finger cymbals while dancing is quicker and easier
- students develop increased powers of attention and awareness since they must stay focused on what the Leader–and the group–is doing at any particular moment
Once students reach the stage where they feel confident in leading and following the combinations and staging changes, they can finally “relax and just dance”, going with the flow and enjoying the moment. It takes work to get to that point but once there it’s extremely rewarding. There’s nothing comparable in solo dancing or group choreographies – group improvisation is in a league of its own. Thank you Banat Maazin, for inspiring dancers across the globe.
…But isn’t it funny that bellydance troupes always choreograph their “Ghawazee” numbers when the original performances were obviously group improv?
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