|Ruth St. Denis, New York Public Library|
Be ready for anything
When I signed up to dance at the Ren Faire, it was with the understanding that I would be dancing ATS with a group. However, it quickly became apparent that there was plenty of opportunity for solos, and not just any kind of solos, but solos with props. As a primarily ATS dancer, I'm not used to dancing with props, but I had to learn how to handle a veil pretty quickly. By my last day, I was using veil in all but one of my solos, and now I enjoy veilwork. It's something I'm definitely going to explore as a solo dancer.
How to dance to live music
My main troupe dances to live music for most of our performances, but there's a world of difference between dancing group improv to live music and improving a solo to live music. With group improv, or even just ATS, you still have a set vocabulary to stick to. With an improvisational solo, anything goes. Suddenly your mind goes blank, you have no idea what to do next, and the music feels like it just sped up and you're standing on stage staring at the audience. What works with ATS, though, also works for solo improv. Start with something simple and mindless while you're thinking about what to do next. Add a turn, start to travel with it a little, and remember to breathe. By my last show, I felt like I had eons of time to think about what to do, and I was able to get a little bit creative while I was dancing.
How to dance to fast music
I love the slow, slinkiness of dancers like Rachel Brice. It's actually really easy to dance slow once you've mastered control of your own body. It's a lot harder to dance fast. So when I was faced with dancing to fast, live songs, or even dancing ATS to music faster than I'm used to, I had a hard time keeping up. I mentioned this to my teacher, who came out and danced with us one day, and she said something that made perfect sense to me: halftime it. If the music is too fast for me, I don't have to keep up with the beat. I can halftime it, and still look like I'm with the music.
Co-existing with other dancers
When you've got a dozen or so dancers all in each others' space weekend after weekend, drama is bound to happen. Tempers will flare, egos will get stepped on, and bellydancers will be pitted against bellydancers. Luckily, most of the drama did not directly involve me, so I just stayed out of it. I did nearly found myself in the middle of it a few times, and was ashamed to say I didn't immediately follow my instinct and do what I felt was right at the time. In future, I will do what I feel is right and fair. I also realized that my opinions of other dancers were formed based on the opinion of a dancer I'm friendly with. After spending some time with those other dancers, I realized that I should form my own opinions for myself.
I am a dancer!
After 6 weeks of dancing to live music, I learned that I can actually dance. I also feel less intimidated by dancing solos, since I've now been dancing them almost every weekend for the last six weeks. It also helped that I had several audience members and even my teacher compliment me on my dancing. Surprising at first, but the compliments felt good. And now I'm a lot more assured of my ability to get on a stage and move my body to music.
All in all, my experience dancing at Ren Faire was a good one. I think I might go back again next year if I'm asked back. It's a fun way to spend the spring, and I know that next year, I'll be better prepared!