Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Seven Deadly Sins!

I've been pondering this blog post for some time now .... and have even had an abortive attempt to write it (aborted because I sounded far too grumpy. Some of you may say 'What's new?' but there you go!). It originally started out as something more tightly focused - centring around a Newly Identified Phenomenon (of which, more later - just to keep you all tantalised!). Anyway, having read one of my favourite parts of  Merhaba magazine, Liz's regular column, I got to pondering and humming and hawing and all of that sort of stuff, as you do. And the topic sort of opened up and grew and grew ...

What Great Life Mystery you may ask has prompted all this pondering and deep cogitation? Well, it's a topic dear to all of our dancing hearts, that of haflas! Now in her article Liz gave some excellent advice for hafla hosts, and she also touched briefly on the thorny subject of hafla etiquette, particularly as it relates to audiences - and it was this that rung lots of bells for me and dovetailed nicely with the Newly Identified Phenomenon, which I shall continue to tantalise you with remorselessly for a few paragraphs yet.

Now before I go on I NEED to make a Very Important Point. Over the five or so years that I've been going to haflas the overwhelming majority of the audiences there have been fantastic. Yes, some are quieter and some are noisier (especially at our table. Not that I'm looking at anyone in particular here Jo!). Some audiences are mainly dancers, some have more of the general public, some may be family oriented. Some audiences clap, some zaghareet, some even hisssssssss (Glasgow -yay!!). But despite all this general wonderfulness, you know what they say - 'There's always one'.

And yes, very often there is. At least one audience member who doesn't quite get it right ...

So here it is folks - based on things I've seen over the past few years, here's a quick guide to Hafla Etiquette for Audiences via the Seven Deadly Sins of Hafla Going. Get yer 'I Spy' books out - how many of these have YOU spotted?

1) Whilst performances are in progress, the dance floor is, believe it or not, for dancers. Halfway through a soulful performance to Enta Omri is NOT an appropriate time for you to scuttle across - or even around -it for a toilet trip, fag break or to grab another vodka and coke. It's distracting for the dancer, annoying for the audience and, if there's a dvd, you'll be on there looking like a real prat. So hang on for a couple of minutes until there's a natural break between dancers. Just wait - easy!

2)  Music is an essential part of any dance performance. The dancers need to be able to hear it so that they can respond to it - and the audience needs to hear it so they can absorb the whole experience. Unfortunately if you and your mates are gabbing and cackling at the tops of your voices, then NOONE can hear it. Now the odd whispered word of awe and wonder is fine. A brief sentence or two between acts is fine - so long as you've got your eye on that dance floor and are ready to sink into respectful silence as soon as the next dancer moves into place. Otherwise, chat needs to be kept to longer breaks. If you want to chat ALL night there's very probably a really decent boozer just around the corner that would welcome you with open arms - the White Lion or Red Bull or some such. Though even they won't want chatter if there's a darts match on ....

3) At any hafla you are BOUND to have favourite acts, for whatever reason. There may also be dancers whose performances you can appreciate, though they may not be your cup of Typhoo. However, horror of horror, every now and then there may be an act that sails perilously close to the edge for you --- makes you draw a sharp breath, for whatever reason. Maybe they're billing something as bellydance, but to you the relationship between the two is about as close as a frog to a ferret. Maybe they're performing a style that you feel strongly shouldn't be platformed alongside bellydance. Maybe you find their costuming or music wildly inappropriate. Unless we've recently been canonised most of us have been there at least once. However, the time to moan or give vent to righteous indignation either verbally or by voting with your feet and stomping out (across the dance flloor of course) is NOT at the hafla. Not at your table, nor the bar nor in the toilets nor outside in Smokers Corner. Save it for the privacy of the journey home, please. You may not have appreciated it, you may even feel offended, but nevertheless each and every one of those performers will have practised (hopefully!), spent valuable time and money on costuming and then put themselves out there for free in hopes of entertaining YOU. They at least deserve a bit of respect for that.
Oh, and similarly if you don't approve of the venue/car park/beer/food or even if you're just peeved that you didn't win the raffle - save your thoughts until a later time when maybe they might be more appropriately voiced as constructive criticism rather than just whinging.

4) If you are really enjoying the dance and music do feel free to bobble along to it in your seat or wherever you're standing. It shows the dancer that you're really into it, and that's great. However, please do NOT ---- deep breath here ---- DO NOT do an all-out dance-along in full costume. Those four or five minutes are to showcase the performer, not you - please respect that! It's bad enough if you do this at the back of the room, but to do it at the front of the room ALONGSIDE the performer is - just not on.
And yes, sadly I have actually seen it.

 5) Why do I always end up in buffet queues behind somebody with all the decisiveness of Eeyore? Please people, keep things moving. And please don't pile your plate quite so high - there are 165 people behind you who would like to eat too, and you can always come back for more (unless someone else has piled their plate to overflowing and cleared the table of course). Oh, and if it's a Jacob's Join and you couldn't be bothered to bring a contribution don't you dare snaffle the last cheese roll (that I brought) from right under my nose. Ok?

6) And so here it is at last folks - the moment has come to reveal the Newly Identified Phenomenon that is ...Hafla Face!!! A few weeks ago I was sorting through photos of us from haflas over the past three or four years. I found what I thought (for a change) was a great photo of myself, and was just launching into admiration mode when I noticed something right below my left arm ...... No, not batwings!! I saw a face. The face of an audience member. And not just any old face, but a face that looked so aggressive, so 'looks could kill' that it stopped me in my tracks. Now of course being hopelessly insecure I immediately thought that this audience member (who incidentally was also performing at the same event) either a) Hated tribal or b) Hated our performance or c) Hated me or d) All of the above. I rooted around the depths of my computer and managed to find several photos of other dancers at the same hafla  and blither me, there she was on every single one. Not just straight faced, but with a true Death Stare. Now don't get me wrong, I am notorious for being captured on film with the most unbecoming expressions in the world. But not on every shot! And at haflas I make a real conscious effort to SMILE at the performers, because I know as a dancer how encouraging that is. I'm just so thankful that I didn't catch this lady's eye whilst I was actually dancing; it would have really discouraged me. So, audience, you get back what you give out - smile and be positive and the dancers will absorb it and reciprocate - and hey, you get a better and more relaxed performance!
Oh and of course if you do insist on keeping that grumpy Hafla Face then you may well ruin my photos. Which will make me cross.

7) You may well have to dash off at the end of a hafla, and the hostess may well be busy or indeed nowhere to be found. But please, please don't forget to say those two important words 'Thank You'. If you can't do it there and then, send an e mail or a Facebook message. After all, if they didn't put in all that time and hard work you wouldn't have a hafla to go to, would you?

DISCLAIMER : Whilst the Seven Deadly Sins highlighted above are all taken from real events, my comments are NOT aimed at any particular individuals. If you think it's about you, then chances are it probably isn't. It's like in class when the teacher says 'Keep your shoulders down and back' and everyone checks and corrects themselves - bar the one person with their shoulders round their ears.....

So there you go. Venting over. Back to Midsomer Murders for me.

Until next time, happy dancing (and hafla-going) wherever you are!

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