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Shirokirie
07-18-2014, 02:39 AM
I'm working on a scene where, in order to establish a nation, the MC is building up a mied human-alien culture starting with the aliens. That said, they have a tribal style of music and dance, much like Arabic Belly Dancers.

The thing that I'm wondering, is how do I capture the feel of something like that on the page, without slogging it down to focus on choreography?

ScarletWhisper
07-18-2014, 03:00 AM
For bellydance, isolation is the key. Don't focus on the cliche of sensuality or any of that nonsense. Focus on the muscle isolations. The rest of the body locks down for chest isolatons, or arm isolations, or hips, etc. There's a tight control, intermixed with the fluid movements like hip circles and omis.

If the dance style in your book is tribal, you might looking to a somewhat more bedouin style, which is very earthy with the feet staying in contact with the ground.

Focus on where the energy is coming from and where it's going to. You can create a sensation of vitality and movement without making it a list of choreo notes.

Aerial
07-18-2014, 04:41 AM
What do you notice when you watch a troupe of dancers? Remember dancing you've watched - really dig into the details of your memory. What impressed you? What evoked emotion in you? Was it the motions, the sound, the athleticism, the costumes? Use those images and details to evoke your sense of the dance in your scene.

Aerial

Liosse de Velishaf
07-18-2014, 04:42 AM
There are lots of different kinds of "belly-dance", so there's plenty of inspiration to pull from in terms of the actual dance. I'm trying to think if I've seen any major depictions of dance in speculative fiction that might provide useful examples of what to do or not do...

Liosse de Velishaf
07-18-2014, 04:44 AM
What do you notice when you watch a troupe of dancers? Remember dancing you've watched - really dig into the details of your memory. What impressed you? What evoked emotion in you? Was it the motions, the sound, the athleticism, the costumes? Use those images and details to evoke your sense of the dance in your scene.

Aerial


Focusing on different aspects can be useful. What are the sounds involved? Footsteps stomping, finger instruments if those are used. You can talk about the music and use that as a context to describe the physical dance.

harmonyisarine
07-18-2014, 07:18 AM
I'm a dancer, so I tend to view dancing a bit differently than a lot of people (I tend to be so into it that I start dancing in my seat). If you're looking for a description from a dancing perspective, the moves are far less important than how it feels and what we're trying to get across. This is true even in super structured dancing like classical ballet (my specialty, though I did take a class in belly dancing). Part of your brain is analyzing and controlling, and part is in the performance. When I write scenes about dance from the dancer, I focus on things like breathing and heartbeat, on the feel of the music and what it brings out, on the emotions that dance demands of me.

Someone watching is only a bit different. For that, I focus on the overarching parts of the dance. For something with a lot of movement and colorful costumes, maybe it's the way the silk swirls and trails behind them. For something with a lot of little control, maybe it's the way the dance draws you deeper in, drawing your attention closer until that inevitable moment when it just stops or when it gets big and explosive again. There's a style of 'belly dancing' (such a broad term) where the dancers wear large and loose costumes and then only make small, controlled movements in their torsos. At first, especially to someone unfamiliar with the style, you hardly see anything. You look closer and closer at the same time as the movements get bigger, and it creates a very mesmerizing, intimate feeling. In another style, the dancer is seated and entirely covered but for her hands, and her hands do almost the entirety of the dancing (it's one of my favorites). There's still emotion, but a different sort than the dancer experiences.

In all my years, on either side, the least important part of dancing is the moves. The emotions and story of the dance are the reason that many people dance. Write that, and the scene becomes engaging.

You could also do a hybrid approach. Start out more clinical and focused on choreography, and then move to more and more emotion and story-based as the MC gets closer to it, if they started out unfamiliar with it.

JimmyB27
07-18-2014, 01:31 PM
Don't forget it depends a lot on the POV character. If he's anything like me, he'll be fidgeting in his seat hoping the intermission will come soon so he can get to the bar. :tongue

JimmyB27
07-18-2014, 01:33 PM
Don't forget it depends a lot on the POV character. If he's anything like me, he'll be fidgeting in his seat hoping the intermission will come soon so he can get to the bar. :tongue

Shirokirie
07-18-2014, 10:51 PM
Yes, 'Belly Dancing' is a broad term. I looked up the Bedouin style, and the first thing I noticed is how the dancers (in the video I watched) were fully dressed from head to toe, and yet their dance was still just as noteworthy as the half-dressed, glittering dancer women you find in performances in western culture.

So thank you for that, ScarletWhisper. :) Definately something there that I'll be integrating.

As for the story. There are multiple dance opportunities in this one, because it deals pretty heavily with alien culture (as i mentioned before, right?). So I think I'm going to alternate between clinical and sensual from one occurrence to the next. And maybe throw in a factoid - like there's a style they have where they sit on their knees, fully dressed and 'dance' using only their tails.

Definitely a lot to think about. :D

Thank you guys for helping me out with this. I really appreciate it.

Liosse de Velishaf
07-19-2014, 03:55 AM
Most of the pretty sparkly stuff developed from contact with Western culture. Originally, most forms of belly-dance were just folk/common dances, and often done in casual clothes. The cabaret sexy style is only a tiny part of the whole sphere of belly-dance, and stuff like American Tribal Style bellydance is mostly a syncretic style developed by westerners.

ScarletWhisper
07-19-2014, 06:46 AM
You're welcome! I'm glad the Bedouin style was helpful. There are many, many styles of this dance. Most of them are very intrinsic to culture and they run the range from patriotic and cultural tradition to pure entertainment to just plain tawdry. Other very covered-up styles include Saidi, Khaleegy, Ghawazee, and Haggalah.

Your idea of tail-dancing suggests to me very sinuous movements. You might want to check out tribal fusion style. A couple of the big names in that style are Zoe Jakes and Rachel Brice. I think this style might suit your aliens because of the darker, more modern vibe. It's more theatrical and intense, as well as very serpentine.

The glittery style most often associated with bellydance is called cabaret, and has numerous varieties as well. Cab style has a rooting in ballet, with long extensions, arabesques and turns. But different groups adapt it differently. Egyptian is the classic, Turkish is fast and frantic (with skimpier costumes, it strikes me as a middle eastern take on Carnivale-type samba), and here in the US we have American Cabaret style. It's less traditional than the Egyptian version and often involves props like zills, veil, cane, or fan veils.

Tribal Fusion (not to be confused with American Tribal Style, which is a gypsy-esque style of group dancing) is more experimental than most styles, and often comes with a somewhat goth vibe.

So there's a LOT for you to pull from in this genre of dance. If you watch some videos of styles that fit your image of dance for your characters, you can study the flow of movement and energy, which will help you put it into words. :)

Reziac
07-19-2014, 07:05 PM
I love bellydancing, and "tail dancing" sounds similarly wonderful... but hadn't occurred to me to think about different styles! so I went off to find "Bedouin style" and was entranced by this (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkmmGHCwD3w).... in which one can see echoes (or perhaps ancestors) of square-dancing and step-dancing.

But how to describe it? For me it's largely the heavy beat; that's the part my body wants to follow. Sway and thump in time with the dancer. Maybe describe what the viewer's body wants to DO, rather than trying to put an emotion to it. Obviously someone swaying in time with the dancers reacts entirely different from someone who starts caressing their dagger.

veinglory
07-19-2014, 10:18 PM
If you haven't read Jeanne and Spider Robinson's Stardance trilogy I would recommend it. It is a master work that I adore despite not being at all interested in dance per se. There is also a story about dance as a language with aliens in the Swords of the Rainbow anthology that nearly made me cry.

harmonyisarine
07-20-2014, 05:35 AM
If you haven't read Jeanne and Spider Robinson's Stardance trilogy I would recommend it. It is a master work that I adore despite not being at all interested in dance per se. There is also a story about dance as a language with aliens in the Swords of the Rainbow anthology that nearly made me cry.

I actually took a picture of this on my phone so I wouldn't forget to find them later. I've been a dancer since I was three, but I find so very few stories with dancing as a main part (a lot more with music).

Shirokirie
07-22-2014, 06:48 AM
Alright, so I added the Stardance Trilogy and Swords of the Rainbow to my goodreads list (because it'll be a bit before I can get books).

Thank you, Veinglory :)

There's still a lot for me to look into. And a lot to decide upon. Mostly because just as there are many kinds of belly dance due to there being many different cultures surrounding it, there's a bunch of cultures in my head that I'll have to shackle down to a style (not necessarily established styles in the real world, but, you know, something influenced by them).

The only other thing outside of that which I think I'd eventually want to tackle is ballroom dance and waltzing - not sure if that's the same thing.

... There's a lot I'm not sure about.

But yes, thank you guys (and non-male guys). :D