( You can see and hear Kathleen, Trish and Jackie, “Yip” in this video as Callie and Jeanne dance. This was at the Bennington VT Farmers Market last summer. Emily wasn’t dancing because she was selling her pastries and art as she does every weekend at the Farmers Market)
I heard Emily Yip! and I smiled. It’s not that I did anything spectacular, just that I did it right.
From what I’ve been told, beginners like me are usually nervous about taking the lead when bellydancing and the experienced dancers want to lead so much, they have to be mindful to let the other dancers have their turn.
Because American Tribal Style (ATS) bellydancing is improvised not choreographed, whoever is leading has all kinds of signals to let the other dancers know what they’re going to do next. Sometimes it’s in the slight movement of a hip or shoulder, sometimes it’s when you look at someone, or where you’re standing.
When dancing, one of the ways to change the lead is to walk in a circle with all the dancers looking at each other, when you get to a certain point if you want to lead, you break eye contact and step into the lead position.
At this point I would much rather follow than lead.
As soon as I step into the lead, I freeze up and forget every move I’ve learned over the past year and a half. Also, the leader has to dance in time with the music (not something I’m great at) or it throws the rest of the dancers off.
But there’s only one way to learn how to lead in ATS, and that’s by doing it.
So when Emily and I were dancing together in class on Thursday night, I looked away from her and took the lead.
My elbows, wrists then hands moved slowly, one up while the other went down, following the movement of my hips in Taxime, till I felt like I was dancing with the music. Then I raised my arms, my hands circling in floreos, I lowered one arm, turned and handed the lead back to Emily.
That’s when I heard the “Yip!”.
A “Yip” is a sound that ATS dancers make to encourage each other. It’s like applauding after a ballerina dances a solo. But it’s more spontaneous than that. Whenever one bellydancer sees another dancer doing something that moves them, they give a “Yip“.
For me, at this point in bellydancing, the “Yip” is encouragement. It tells me I did something right. Emily knows I’m nervous to take the lead. Beginners, like me, are told to keep it simple, do one dance move then give the lead to someone else.
And that’s just what I did. So when I heard Emily “Yip” I smiled with relief and satisfaction, I knew I did it right.
I haven’t found my “Yip” voice yet. It doesn’t come naturally to me.
But like everything in Bellydancing it’s about practice. So I practice my “Yips” when I’m alone.
Because I know how much they mean to me. I know how good it makes me feel when I’m dancing and I feel all alone and have no idea if what I’m doing is any good, then I hear a “Yip” and suddenly I’m surrounded by supportive and encouraging people, giving me a standing ovation.