Sunday, 19 February 2012

Give Us A Cue!

The other day I was browsing - as you do - through some recent threads on a Facebook discussion group and I came across one where a dancer was concerned about another teacher in her area. Rightly or wrongly (and that's a whole other discussion!) she outlined her concerns about a recent (tribal) performance by this other dancer and her group - poor posture and so on - but THEN she added another criticism. As an audience member she couldn't identify any cues! WHAT?!

As you can imagine, I did a double take at this. Be warned, it's 'Bee In The Bonnet' time again. It just throws out so many issues I don't know where to begin. But begin I will .....

As any committed Tribalista knows, there are a fair few different Tribal formats (N.B. I'm using 'Tribal' in its original sense of group improvisation, as opposed to Tribal Fusion or Tribal Choreo which, to me, are different  beasts entirely) out there. And again, as any committed Tribalista knows, each format has developed its own set of cues .... sme physical, some verbal, some overt, some that are invisible to all but the most discerning eye. Sometimes cues for different moves may scream out at you like an express train hurtling down a track ..... and sometimes they're a mere whisper. Sometimes the moves ARE the cues. If you're on nodding terms with a few different formats you may spot them, but otherwise, try as you might they may well pass you by.

Two of our Dance Idols - Dulcinea and Paulette - dancing
closely together
Sakura. as many of you know, dance a style of improv based strongly on Gypsy Caravan ... with some twists and moves of our own. Now, it's quite hard to evaluate for ourselves, but judging by the numbers of folks who say to us after a performance 'I couldn't see your cues' or 'I didn't realise you were improvising' I guess we must fall into the whispering cues category. Having said that, I'm sure that if Paulette were to watch us she'd be able to tell at a glance where we were coming from, and would be able to join in beautifully too - including with our own little quirks! Quite simply, we don't need big overt cues. We dance closely together (we're working on not drifting apart!) and we try to focus strongly upon really looking at and SEEING one another .... both consciously and sub consciously. The slight shift of weight, angling of a hip, turn of the head, movement of the arm all give subliminal cues not only that a change is about to happen, but also a heads up as to what that change might be.  Being balanced and poised to flow into a new move helps immeasurably! The change when it comes needs to be made with true intention - clarity in communication can't be over-emphasised. There may well then of course be more visual cues within the move itself - arm position for example - that build upon all those subliminal cues - but essentially they are a part of the move itself, NOT an add on. And yes, if you're not familiar with the moves you may not spot them as being cues at all!

We certainly are NOT saying that we are total whizzes at all of this. We are very much on a steep learning curve (and loving every minute!), but this is what we aspire to, and is what's working for us. It's a very organic process which has a flow and a life all of it's own. Does it always go smoothly? Of course not; we have many blllllerghhh moments which thankfully have always been in practices, but the connection we have means that even if someone goes wrong we can still make a jolly good attempt at following them because we're using all those extra little cues. It's this that, for us, builds that Tribal Connection - it's total synergy!

Cues come in many shapes and sizes!
Now, what am I trying to say with all of this? You may well ask; that's the problem with 'Bee in the Bonnet' posts!This brought up a fair few issues for me, but some are going on the back burner for another time! However, going back to the original prompt for this post, I suppose what I'm really getting at here is that you can't judge a Tribal performance by whether or not you can spot the cues. Unless you're super-experienced you also can't always reliably tell whether it's improv or not by whether or not you can spot the cues (although of course if you were super-experienced you'd also appreciate that there are all those other little signs happening, wouldn't you?). Cues come in all shapes and sizes, and I haven't even touched here on verbal cues. But at the end of the day, those cues are there for the dancers, not for the audience. So don't waste time playing 'Spot The Cue' - sit back and let yourself be drawn into the magic that is Tribal Bellydance!

Until next time - happy dancing!

1 comment:

  1. Excellent points Cayte!
    Surely if the audience are able to 'spot the cues' then what they are watching is in the realm of beginner improv or 'dancing by numbers', not the seamless, organic, living, breathing, mutating thing of beauty that more experienced dancers will be performing. Is not part of the audience's thrill, when watching a performance, (and, to some extent, the dancers' too) of being left with that feeling of wondering - was it improv or choreo?
    As a dancer of both choreo and improv, I would argue the case that 'cues' are frequently used in choreo as well - to keep the group together and to aid recall of the order of the moves: particularly when the group is of mixed experience. A cohesive group will be reading each other's 'cues' constantly, whether they are performing a choreo or an improv....
    Phew - think that's all! (Kate G)