Sunday, April 10, 2011

competition? this ain't bodybuilding*!

I follow Princess Farhana's blog and I always love to read what she writes. I checked her list of links and found a website called Project Belly Dance, it's a competition, not unlike RuPaul's Drag Race (the producers: the fabulous Lotus Niraja and Michelle Joyce of Cheeky Girls, even admitted that they got the idea from Ru's show). There are lots of dancing involved (obviously), lots of tests (get your perfect DVD cover photo in 5 shots, make your own bedleh using veils and staples, create a group choreography with people you just met, etc). I'm not a fan of Project Runway or Next Top Model (or any reality show, any competition, or reality show combined with competition), but I am a fan of RuPaul's Drag Race. Now I guess I'm a fan of Project Belly Dance (I love Sherena and Shems!). You can go to Project Belly Dance's website to watch the videos of the competition.

Now, on to my entry!

First and foremost, let me get this straight: I am a very competitive person. I strive to be the best, the youngest, and so very often the strangest person in the group.

I had always been the youngest in my class up to university and I take that in great pride. I may not have been the best or the youngest graduate, but I was the youngest in my class. I was even younger than some of those who went into university two years after I did.

My competitive nature turned me into a jealous and insecure person. Although I am still competitive now, I've started to make peace with losing and to accept defeat from time to time. There is much to be said about competition. It is gratifying to win in a competition. There are numerous dance competitions in the world, and even in Jakarta.

However, my competitive nature doesn't even bother to let a groan and urge me to just go out there and compete. The reasons are varied.

First, I started taking bellydance lessons in August 2007, so that officially makes me a baby dancer. And speaking of baby dancers, I think I can no longer call myself that when I've been dancing for ten years. That means about six more years. And that's only Oriental. I've only been dancing ATS for four months. I just don't feel like I'm ready to present myself to the world. My techniques aren't perfect, my posture needs improvement. I'm not going to kid myself (or others): I am not ready for competitions. However, I love dancing and showing off, and that's why I love haflas.

Second, who're the judges? Are they really qualified? Do they even know what bellydance is all about? Some bellydancers don't even want to participate in competitions as judges because, well... They also don't feel like they have the right to judge others.

There was one time when the gym where I used to work had a promotional event, one of them was a bellydance class with giveaways. So the event committee told me to select three participants who danced the best. Needless to say, I was so miffed. I mean, why would I want to make something like that into a competition? I always feel like an ego-basher when I become a judge of art. In Tennis or Soccer, there's a set of rules that the players need to follow. It's just like math: there's an exact formula. However, that formula becomes somewhat blurry when it comes to art and it takes a lot of experience and skills to be able to keep that objectivity as a judge. It's even harder to judge bellydancing than bodybuilding! I mean, just imagine, all those men in skimpy posing thongs, all oiled up and muscular, I know I'll have a hard time (pun intended).

Third, the ego. I know how it feels to lose, even when you've done your best and pushed yourself beyond the limit. It took me a while to realize how cathartic that can be. However, there are those who don't have a back-up plan. There are those who can't just simply brush themselves off and try again. There are those whose lives depend on winning.

Then again, winning competitions does open doors. The question is, will I want to go through those doors and experience what's on the other side?

*PS: no offence to bodybuilders. In fact, I have to say that bodybuilding and bellydancing take the same size of determination and dedication.


Mia said...

Competitions make me cringe:). But that's really out of my own insecurities:).
I had a chat with the lovely Tamalyn Dallal on this subject a couple of years ago. Back then, I was against the idea of competition. I thought, the very essence of bellydance is coming together as a group to support each other, wouldn't competing ruin all that? Plus, as you said, who would be judging? Also, Oriental has so many different nuances. How would you compare the different styles? Is that even possible?
Tamalyn revealed to me that at one point, she was also against them. However, she has since changed her mind. Competing gives you a specific goal to work towards. It teaches you discipline as well, and forces you to go beyond your comfort zone and prepare yourself for any foreseeable scenarios as best you can. She said win or lose, it will definitely help you to become a better dancer.
I do feel though that it does take at least a few dance years under your belt to compete. I would like to compete for the experience, however, like you, I don't feel that my dancing is at a level that I would be comfortable to present in a competitive environment. Also, it would depend on who was judging. Some of these competitions are presided over by people who are definitely not experts in Oriental-so how are they qualified to judge?
But you know what- I think you just need to take the plunge- I know dancers that compete, don't win/place, and that motivates them to work harder, which is a great thing. But honestly, the idea still makes me cringe hee hee.......

famousfeline said...

A specific goal to aim at. That makes sense. I guess I haven't arrived on that level yet.

A friend left a comment on Facebook, saying that a competition will mean fighting someone else to be the best and that's not supportive (just as you commented).

Well, maybe we all have different goals. I'd rather work on a choreography for a hafla or recital than for a competition. And definitely not where all the judges are Hip Hop dancers.

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