The Return of the Tone Performing Troupe
Tone Bellydance used to be the home of a group of bellydancers who performed at various ‘external gigs’ organized by different community members in Medicine Hat and the surrounding area. These dancers became part of the troupe by invitation only and adhered to certain standards to maintain their membership in the troupe.
Due to ever-evolving times, we recognize there is a need to bring back the concept of a performing troupe for several reasons:
There are varying levels of experience amongst the dancers within Tone Bellydance
We want to encourage dancers’ skill development and technique before feeling the pressure to perform. Focusing first on in-studio learning and at-home practice is very important in becoming ready to be in any performing troupe!
Members of a performing troupe are experienced and at ease performing
Seasoned dancers exude confidence in their performance and understand how to entertain and ‘read’ an audience. Troupe performers are required to be adaptable in all aspects of staging, choreography, and costuming. They are able to retain last-minute changes to each of these aspects.
Performers have a refined sense of appropriate costume styling for the bellydance genre
This comes from experienced dancers developing methods to make/adjust costumes for quick and easy changing. It also comes from having all pieces complete/tested well in advance of any performance. Additionally, refined styling happens when the dancer understands how to dress to complement her physique. (Note: no fancy professional costume can hide a lack of skill, practice, or confidence).
- Throughout the year, we perform at functions organized by others
Tone Bellydance as a business needs to have seasoned, comfortable, adaptable, experienced dancers representing it at external gigs.
As we field more and more requests to entertain at external gigs, bringing back the troupe will clarify who will be asked to perform (as well as what we expect from them).
Read on for a full understanding of where we came from and how we arrived at this decision.
‘Building Things’: A Short History of How Things Used to Be
When we bought the business in 2012, we offered different levels of bellydance and different specialized styles (like fusion or 'blender'). In addition, we also had our performance troupe. The troupe performed at places like tradeshows, the casino, festivals, private functions, and fundraisers.
Things naturally morphed; for example, the spring and fall tradeshows at the Cypress Centre discontinued having a performance stage. The casino tightened up its budget and dancers were one of the things 'cut'. Private functions and fundraisers are awesome, but not necessarily a reliable opportunity to perform on a regular basis. There were fewer and fewer opportunities to perform at ‘external gigs’ organized by external folks.
We Took Matters into Our Own Hands
We started creating our own shows. In 2015, we created ‘the Wrap-Up Show’ (now called ‘A Bellydance Soiree’) for a November presentation. We added the 'Spring Spectacular' as our March presentation of material learned along the way. Given that the Spectacular and the Soiree were both shows organized by us, we welcomed and encouraged all members of Tone Bellydance to perform! Rather than a typical 20-30-min show that Raks would present for an external gig, this was an entire evening of bellydance and it was a perfect opportunity for everyone to dip their toes in if they wanted to!
In the Meantime
While all of this was on the go, we were also busy at work focusing on our own skill, traveling to learn from other prominent bellydance leaders and performers. We performed on festival and pro stages, took part in competitions, and exposed ourselves to other styles, choreographies, and productions. In the background, our children were growing to become more involved with their own activities, and we juggled many changes to studio availability (or lack thereof).
Things Got Super Spectacular
After a few years of presenting the Spring Spectacular and the Soiree, and having seen true bellydance productions, we took a leap into the world of large-stage production. We booked the Esplanade Main Stage for an evening presentation. At the time, the Tone Bellydance membership base was quite large and very experienced. Even those outside of Raks were reliable performers – they had been with us for a number of years; they had a closet full of tried-and-true costumes, and they were dedicated to a successful show. And it was a resounding success!
Then There Was Covid
Some dancers that we never thought would leave didn’t come back. Some came back with far less dedication than we had expected. Many of us came back less resilient than we once were. Some of us came back in a different way – had a baby, had an injury, had a life change… We came back differently than where we left off.
Back to the Basics
We had a heart to heart with most of the dancers. We had a heart to heart with each other. What is the status of bellydance in our community? What is the status of our business? Our families? Our capability to commit time? The conclusion we reached is that we are taking a few steps back to familiar territory. The ‘Building Things’ territory – which is…read above… a place where we had reliable Tone performers that took on external gigs while the up-and-comers worked on their skills with opportunities to hit the stage here and there as well.
For clarity – bringing back the performing troupe will eliminate the guessing game of who is performing at external gigs. But - we are also going back to Soirees and Spring Shows. We will organize these, and all members (no matter what ‘level’) will be encouraged to perform at these shows! Everyone will get a chance to perform.
How the Troupe Will Be Different Than It Used to Be
The performing troupe will be a ‘pool’ of dancers; when there is an opportunity to perform a gig, we will reach out to this pool for availability – sometimes we might reach out to them all, other times it might just be a select few (it will depend on the gig). We don’t have the time to have a regular additional studio slot for practice, so choreo performed by Raks will be what is taught in regular sessions. Practice time will be only as necessary as gigs are booked - and preferred to be after the final class on Monday nights. There may be costume requirements.
A Note on Big Productions
We would like to do another one, of course! They do take time (like – years)…we are hoping by the time we are ready for the next one, we will have rebuilt our membership both in terms of how many dancers we have, and overall skill level.
Yours in dance,
Your Illustrious Leaders.