An elevator pitch is “a brief speech that outlines an idea for a product, service or project”. The concept is mostly used in the world of entrepreneurs, the idea being that if you find yourself in an elevator with an investor you’d like to get on board or the CEO of your dream company, you have to be able to tell them what you do and get their attention in the 30-60 seconds you have until the 9th floor.
So, what does that have to do with dance – and audience education?
In November, I danced at Lou Pradas’ Oriental Romance show. I created a new dance for the occasion, a saiidi piece with cane. In the break, and audience member came up to me to ask about my dance – in fact she it in a rather tricky way, asking, “what did the stick mean in your dance?”
And there I stood, ruining this rare opportunity to provide good information to a non-dancer by beng unable to properly explain, in those two minutes I had, what raqs al-assaya / saiidi dance is.
It is complex, of course:
saiidi dance is a folkloric style from Upper Egypt, danced with or without a cane, while raqs al-assaya literally means dance with a cane, so it may or may not be in the saiidi style (many regions of the world have cane dances). Saiidi men’s cane dance, the tahtib, is no so much a dance as a martial art, and seems to have ancient roots; women’s (saiidi style) cane dance is a much more modern phenomenon, an imitation and gentle parody of the men’s dance. In its current form, saiidi / raqs al-assaya (like most Egyptian dances) is heavily influenced by the work of Mahmoud Reda and his troupe, but in the Rea troupe, women only took the cane from the men for a few seconds if at all. Saiidi cane dance, even if danced by women, is considered “folkloric”, even though saiidi women tend not to dance in public at all*.
See what I mean?
I’m still working on how to put all this (and more*) into less than two minutes without making my curious audience member run away. I’m dancing this dance again next week at the Festival de Danses Orientales in Liège – get your tickets in time and I promise I’ll be ready for your questions.