Friday, May 20, 2016

Rules and Systems in China, and in Bellydance! (Blog 1 from China 2016...)

I'm just back from 3 weeks teaching around China!

I actually arrived in uk yesterday morning. Switched on social media on arrival, mid transit, in Amsterdam, first thing I saw was breaking news about Egypt Air flight going missing. I instantly felt devastated and horrified and decided I couldn't face it all yet so switched off the iPad again. Wasn't easy stepping onto a plane minutes after it either.....

Today, I am incredibly sad for the victims and also for this compacting blow to Egypt's tourist economy. I can't imagine waiting at an airport for a plane that doesn't show. The horror for those family and friends. My thoughts and love goes out to all involved.

I have now had some sleep and am more or less back in uk time zone so I feel a little more able to reconnect with the world again and, I will be posting some blog articles I wrote while in China and didn't have access to post (damn the great firewall of China!).... hope you enjoy!

Blog 1 from China...Rules and Systems in China and in Bellydance.

I might be stating the obvious, or falling for stereotypes, but in my experience it does seem that the Chinese like rules. By like, I mean 'really' like them.

In Chongqing this week, going to cross a road, I am told "No No No! you must never cross the roads in Chongqing, you must use the bridges and tunnels, it's too dangerous". A little extreme I felt, given my 10 years experience of road crossing in Cairo, but ok, if that is a law here, I will do as I am told. However, with rules, of course, comes rule breakers. The following morning I am made fun of by another girl when I am insistent that we should take the long way in order to use the bridge! She got her way, and we crossed with ease and without repercussion (although the vast majority of people it should be said, were indeed using the bridges).

I am writing this in my first moment of (unexpected) free time since arriving in China one week ago. My flight from Chongqing was delayed. No one advised any of us of this delay. This was an occasion where a system that should work smoothly, failed. No announcements and no message on the departures board. The result; chaos. Almost all the passengers were thronged around the gate and the two 'rabbit in headlights' flight attendants who were manning it. They didn't look like they knew what was going on either. Obviously, since I don't speak Chinese, perhaps they were reassuring people and asking for patience, however, that wasn't the impression I was getting from the faces around me. I couldn't find a single person who spoke English and after asking a couple of people, both of whom looked mortally embarrassed when they couldn't reply, I decided that rather than embarrass anyone else, I would just sit it out.  Two hours later than expected we were permitted to board and at last told why the delay. A tyre needed changed. I'd never thought of a plane getting a flat tyre before. What a frightening thought!!!!

I can't help thinking how these two instances in attitudes to rules and systems relate to Bellydance. I can't help myself!

I remember early days of learning technique and indeed of teaching it. "You must put your arms like this, your feet like that, you must move to this part of the music in this particular way".

This is like "you must use the footbridge to cross the road".

This way will always fit. It is sensible and safe.

Only once you have enough experience behind you  should you break these initial rules (eg dealing with traffic in Cairo or in this analogy have mastered these basic moves and steps). Sometimes when you dance you will still choose to play it safe and that's ok, but sometimes you will take the riskier, more exciting (aka adrenaline producing) route.

Thankfully in dance as opposed to road crossing, the benefits of doing this are much greater (for the performer and the audience) and the risks potentially much lower! Do keep in mind though that some of these 'rules' a dance teacher will give you are there to protect you from injury, so only bend these rules when you know you have the strength and control to deal with the consequences! Breaking some of the rules in dance can make space in which to discover your own personal dance style and be more creative and exciting. Even the top Egyptian artists don't all perform or teach even a basic hip drop in the same way, so keep this in mind when learning and exploring for yourself different ways to do even the things you previously thought were written in stone.

My airport story made me think of the choreography v improvisation debate.

There is a recognized international system for boarding a plane. You have your gate number and boarding time on your boarding pass and if there are any changes they will be shown on the board. Chaos happened today because the board was not used as it should, the system failed!

This to me is like a choreography. There are steps, in a specific order and if all goes well then you will succeed in achieving what you set out to do. Things will run smoothly.

If however the choreography doesn't go to plan, you forget it, or the stage doesn't allow you do perform the moves you wanted, or someone gets in the way, you have the 'board of Improvisation' to fall back on. Assuming you have practiced free-styling then hopefully that will take away the fear and uncertainty you might feel at this point and see you through to the end of the show or at least until you can pick up your choreography again.

However, if you don't have improvisational skills, you have nothing to draw on, it is just like today when that board stayed blank for 2 hours; chaos!

So, even if right now you think you will always choose to perform choreography over improvisation, make sure that your improv skills are up to scratch anyway, just in case that 'flight is delayed'. Who knows, you may even end up preferring that method of performance eventually anyway!

I'm airborne now, heading to Beijing to teach guess what.... improvisation skills! You'd never have guessed it, would you?!

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