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Connection is at the heart of so much in life and so it’s no surprise that it is an absolutely key element in performance too.  Humans without connection wither and die like plants without water; isolation at the heart of a great deal of psychological distress.  In live performances how well a performer can connect with her audience is a profound part of how enjoyable the audience member – and, dare I say it, the dancer – finds the performance.

I recently had a wonderful chat about connection in performance with a friend who has studied theatrical clowning.  As she studied it, theatrical clowning was about being spontaneously fun, in a deeply authentic way – a hugely difficult thing to learn and do.  Throughout her training she and her classmates were able to sense when a peer was being genuine, or not, and gave feedback on what an enormous impact this had on how they felt about the performance.  Performances that were genuine were seen as funny and engaging regardless of what the performer did; those that were not genuine were experienced as dull or even irritating.

Although it sounds like hokum, or magic, people can pick up on whether or not a performer is being genuine, is in touch with their inner self.  By connecting with yourself and responding from that place, you can connect with your audience in a profound way.  I’ve watched live dance performances that were technically perfect but that did not engage me at all – and I have watched performances that had some technical flaws but still gave me goosebumps, or moved me to tears.  The key difference is that ephemeral sense that the performer is performing from their soul – that they are genuine, that they are not just going through the motions.

Of course you won’t always connect with your audience, even if you are in touch with yourself.  They have to be open – at least a little bit – to the connection.  Connection always requires the Other with whom you can connect.  That’s another part of what can make it so hard.  It can be painful to offer that precious, beautiful internal “you” and to not have it received.  Performers need open hearts and thick skins to thrive and to survive.


Last night was my final night of teaching bellydance classes in 2009. Both were lovely – the beginners’ class was quite quiet but that allowed those who came to have the lesson really tailored to what they wanted (which turned out to be learning to join moves together and dancing the class choreography several times).

The intermediate class was a different kind of lovely with two of the students dancing for the class (this is something I like to encourage for the last week of term). It was a bit touch-and-go because I’d left my speakers at home, but my lovely husband came to the rescue and appeared with them part-way into the class. It split the lesson nicely as it meant we used the venue’s CD player to play my standby CD for the warm-up and practice part of the lesson and then had my mp3 player and speakers by the time we were ready for the performances.

The student performances were lovely – one danced to “Şımarık” by Tarkan (‘Kiss Kiss’)

and the other to “Unicorn” by Gojira.

Very different pieces of music and very different performances, both beautiful. I’m really, really happy that my students are able to develop their own style, rather than be dominated by mine.

I also danced for the class. It’s so different dancing for people who know something about bellydance! I spotted the look of recognition of the various moves on their faces and quite a different look of appreciation to those who don’t know/study it. I think for a teacher and/or pro dancer it’s a more demanding and challenging audience but for a student it has the potential to be a much more supportive and nurturing environment, partly because your peers know exactly how hard those moves are and can sympathise.

And now it’s time for a break from teaching until Jan 17th!

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