Sunday, September 21, 2014

Zeina Step-by-Step Gift Pack 4: Defining Zeina's Genre

Defining and Describing Zeina's Genre

I place Zeina in the greater genre of Theatrical Oriental Dance. Although we're working in classic belly dance, it's not accurate to describe this piece as Cabaret or Nightclub, primarily because this dance isn't meant for the context of a typical commercial show.

Because of Zeina's delicate details the work shows best in cozy venues, so Zeina is not “theatrical” in the sense of requiring a proscenium stage. Rather it is theatrical in that it is not intended for a restaurant, nightclub, or energetic party. The idea here is more poetic, the mood is more dreamy, and the execution is more gentle: the dance was designed for an engaged audience who has come ready to sit back and give an artistic work their full attention. Making an analogy to chamber music—sophisticated work for small ensembles, played in intimates space rather than concert halls—one might also describe Zeina as a solo “chamber belly dance.”

Looking at the style of Zeina's movement vocabulary, one will find steps drawn from my own lyrical repertoire, Modern Egyptian Oriental, softer Egyptian beledi, and American Vintage. But the real artistic signature of the dance vocabulary comes from way steps are delicately interpreted and densely intertwined. The personality of the dance also enriches its style; Zeina is heavily influenced by the warm and open-hearted dances of “Golden Age” Egyptian cinema, although I've channeled that vintage feeling through the language of contemporary precision technique. I think of this kind of fantasy-retro, lyrical, precision intricacy as “Cabaret Fusion,” an approach that emerges from the same impulse as Tribal Fusion, but that builds from an Oriental movement vocabulary rather than ATS. But Zeina could also be described as contemporary lyrical fusion, or just as “Autumn Style.”

Another key aspect of Zeina's style is pivoting and gliding footwork, vocabulary that necessitates a smooth clean floor, and that works best for most dancers in a flat soft-soled dance shoe. Since footwear in belly dance is usually a costuming decision rather than a technical requirement, the use of shoes may strike some as noteworthy.  

Finally, Zeina is defined by compositional rigor and a deep structural integration of music and movement. My steps follow the interplay of call-and-response phrasing, the mood changes of varying instrumentation, and the longer development, repetition, and variation of melodic themes. This strategy—music visualization—is my favorite approach to traditional-context Oriental dance.

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