Bohemian Style
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The Gilded Serpent presents...
Is it double vision?
No, its double tambourines!

by Natica Angilly,
of the Poetic Dance Theater

We dancers have seen that whenever any figure is photographed, drawn, or sculpted and that figure is holding a tambourine, the context is more than likely to be dance related. What other instrument can, both objectively and subjectively, infer that the figure is probably a dancer? Pictured with a lyre, is a figure automatically believed to be a dancer? No. Let us consider bells. No, not bells either. A drum? Perhaps a little "hand-drum" but not a drum per se. All other instruments are apart from the clear connection between the dance and the tambourine. Additionally, a tambourine can be incorporated into (and referred to) either classical or contemporary dance. It is versatility itself! Interaction with your chosen instrument (finger and hand cymbals, hand-drum, castanets, or tambourine) will influence the way in which you dance.

As a dancer, you have assumed an indelible inheritance. In selecting the tambourine you are also invoking a portion of history! Its traditional use as a single instrument permits the unengaged hand to create rhythm, chiming, and the design of the dance. Surprisingly, the double tambourine still permits one to have a free hand for creating the same traditional, musical, and visual opportunities as dance without the encumbrance of holding an instrument. The double tambourine dancer can enhance creative options and new additional pictorial ideas.

Let us begin with the question, "What can a tambourine do for a dance?" Aha! If the dancer is creative and innovative he or she may use it to:

  • enhance,
  • delight,
  • allure.

She may also use it for:

  • fascination,
  • unpredictability,
  • versatility,
  • musicality and
  • mystery.

For some dance roles, it may be used to demonstrate:

  • vigor,
  • control and deft manipulation, and
  • powers of stagecraft.

Used by a group, the tambourine may increase and emphasize the volume of sound, the beat, the unity, and the direction of movement. For a group, this chance to redesign the use of dance space in way previously unexpected may add to the impact of the performance.
Consider using the double tambourine to augment all of these features and to enhance your dance. They provide new visual interest and new potential for the varieties of sound, color and intrigue. For sound, as a small hand drum, the tambourine can define a staccato, produce regular or irregular rhythms, and notable changes in volume. As cymbals, the tambourine cymbals can be announcing, accompanying, gentle or demanding, continuous or intermittent and are definitely noticed when absent. As a body contact instrument, the tambourine rim to body sound is distinctive and can be generated from the side of the knee, the hip, the shoulder, the elbow, the palm and the fingertips. (The knee cap may have very limited use and present distinctly ungainly appearances. Sometimes, these gestures can generate humor in a comedy style routine. Try them with a mirror image first.)

What may surprise you is that tambourines may also color co-ordinate and compliment your costume choices. They have their own color as originals, and can be distinctive, blend with each other, blend with the costume or contrast with the costume. They may have a front design or you may be displaying both the front and the back of the instruments. They may be accessorised with ribbons or light scarves.

Tambourine playing technique is secondary to the ideas you wish to express in your dance. Dancing with this instrument can help you express the joy and exuberance of young love or poetry as a creative motivation. Translating poetry and poetic phrases into pictorial images can be heightened with the double tambourine interest, increasing action and sheer volume of sound.

Individualizing artistic gestures, features, instruments and color is a dancer's forte. Just as a beauty mark for the cheek may bring attention to the lips or eyes, tambourines brought to the face can bring attention to that location. Double tambourines can intensify all of the attentions you wish to highlight. In addition, where the instruments are placed and how those areas are stressed will clearly communicate to the audience your intent and add to the design and purpose of your movements.
The ideas I have mentioned here for developing an extraordinary double tambourine dance may be of help in your own new discoveries in the still unusual dance application. Consider; will the audience be presented only with the rim and the cymbals? Both of the instrument faces together? One instrument forward, one backward? Experimenting with old and new concepts stimulates your own quest for interest. In this continuing search for new ways of capitalizing on the traditional while keeping sacred the inherent emotions, cultural expression, and personal feeling, one can share through beloved dance forms. TWO tambourines can enlarge the dimensions of your regular dance!

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