This is one of my fundamentals of belly dance performance. You cant own a room until you can walk in a straight line. You think you already walk in a straight line? ok - Simple homework: go stand on the upper level of your local shopping mall, or at an airport or busy train station and track the route from entrance to destination. For example, people arriving at an airport come in the entrance door where their Uber dropped them, and walk to the check in desk. Their next route is check in desk to security. Watch who walks in a straight line from entrance to check in and then check in to security? Now watch who is bobbing and weaving and basically making room for those straight line walkers to get to their destination faster?
I'll give you a clue - men walk in straight lines. Women bob and weave.
Of course there are exceptions. Notice the female pilots and crew? They walk in straight lines.
If you have ever tried to get a herd of small children through an airport you will probably have chosen a man (daddy) to lead the rabble and a lady (mummy) to sweep up the stragglers. Is it human nature or social conditioning? I don't know. I do know that I watch a lot of crowds and the men walk straight and the women walk around them.
So what happens when women walk in straight lines? Chaos! Try it...
Enter a busy Mall and take a moment to pick your destination. It can be anywhere, a shop front, the toilets, a food cart, but make sure you can see it. Walk straight forward and keep your eye on the goal. Don't move from your A to B route, don't slow down, don't side step. If you feel rude and anti social, go back up a level and watch the other people again. Do you think the other straight walkers feel rude and anti social? or do they think its perfectly normal to walk in a straight line when you want to get somewhere?
If I walk through a crowd with my husband and he takes my arm, people get out of our way. However, if we get split up I always get left behind. I watch the crowds open ahead of him and close as he steps through. In the mean time I am making little headway, bobbing and weaving, saying "sorry" and waiting for a space to move forward. After a block he turns back and I am "lost", half a block behind him.
Let me tell you what happens when I walk in a straight line. People (men mostly) bump into me. I am not being predictable. I am not acting in a socially acceptable way. They assume I will side step and then are confused when I don't. Some of them get angry, or glare, most just look confused.
How do I feel when I walk in straight lines? Once I got over feeling rude, I started to feel powerful! I put my shoulders back, lift my head and glide through space while those around me adjust their stride to avoid me. Suddenly I am in control - not just able to get from A to B, but to get there without adjusting my route to please others. I'm walking like an airline pilot !
And now lets connect that action with belly dance. When I dance into a busy restaurant I need to own some space. Maybe I want 5 foot Square or 50 foot, but I want some space to present my performance. I also want some attention. People may be eating, chatting, looking at their phones, but I want them to stop doing that and look at me. One of the first things I am going to do is to walk around the space I want, with my head held high and my shoulders back. This is a cue to the audience to be quiet, shift their feet out of my space, pick up their bags, slide their chairs back and look at me. If I come onto the stage area and look apologetic for being in my space, the audience will look, and then turn away. I can't entertain them until I have their attention, and I cant get their attention without owning my space.
So homework for this weekend - practice walking that line, owning some space, being assertive, confident and self assured. Think of every journey as belly dance practice and every venue as a stage!
I'm looking forward to hearing about your A to B adventures in the comments below - Sara x
If you like this blog keep scrolling down, or go back to my blog page, for others you might like including:
"I'm Perfect for Belly Dance, And so are You!"
"Assessing your Performance Videos"
"Picking out a Troupe Costume"
and "Why Travelling is one of the Best Ways to Improve your Belly Dance"
Or check out my Hub Blogs including:
"Your First Belly Dance Workshop"
The Top Ten Belly Dance Tunes for Performance"
"Finding a Great Belly Dance Teacher"
Sara Shrapnell is a belly dance writer, teacher and performer.
She has taught more than 4,000 belly dance classes, both in the UK and US. She now teaches in Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore in the SF bay area, as well as workshops world wide. Her classes are known for their humor, detailed breakdowns and cultural context. Students who have studied with Sara have gone on to teach and perform in all styles of belly dance and many have made their living through performance or teaching.
Sara’s first book “Teaching Belly Dance” is available on Amazon. Her second "Becoming a Belly Dancer: From Student to Stage", co- written with Dawn Devine, Alisha Westerfeld and Poppy Maya, is available in 2016 .