Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My SITA: Chapter 1. Improvisation in Uncertain Times

I’m a 57 year-old woman and have been unemployed for the better part of two years. So when I revisited the idea of performing a solo, improvised bellydance, I thought, Hell, if not now, when? And I resolved to dance in public to an audience of my friends before I turn 58.

My past experiences with improvised dance are not among my fondest memories. In the 1980s, I was a modern dancer training in some old school forms (Graham, Humphrey, Limon). Within the modern dance community, I explored improvisational dance and performed for a time with Truda Kaschmann, a student of the German expressionist dance. Generally, I found improv uncomfortable; sometimes I just plain hated it. I liked my dance steps to be predictable, the way I liked my life.

But that was eons ago and I am in a very different reality today. I can no longer imagine my own future. My body has morphed, my career plans busted, and the entire world economy is in free-fall. I have no idea what might happen next and no way to plan. So it seems appropriate that I want to reflect all that uncertainty in dance. Part of my desire to perform SITA is to learn to trust and embrace that unknown.

SITA stands for Solo Improvised dance grounded in Torso Articulations. It was coined by Iranian dance scholar Anthony Shay to designate a genre of dance widely practiced throughout North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Mediterranean which emphasizes the skillful articulation of the torso—the shoulders, chest, belly, and pelvis.

Unlike the abstract improvisations of the 80s, SITA is grounded in specific steps, movements, and styles. It provides a basic vocabulary from which to draw for choreography or improv. Both require rehearsal, in one case to memorize and in the other to be open to discovery.

No comments:

Post a Comment