Special “Kairos” Time and Adapting Performance in Real Time
by Ma*Shuqa Mira Murjan
The best times in performance are when we experience that “magical feeling and golden moment” in time when everything seems to flow during performance and we are one with the music, the setting, and the audience. Our costume is exquisite under the stage lights and we appear to float through the dance as though our dance movement is creating the music. Then, there are those times when under different circumstances the magic is absent from the performance because one or several of the key performance elements distracts us from performing our personal best and the audience from receiving the best performance possible.
What can we do when we experience technical difficulties?
All sorts of technical and personal difficulties abound as sources of problems. Technical difficulties may include naturally occurring phenomena, staging defects, human error, or are artifacts of technical failures. Outdoors wind gusts may blow your veil or sword in unanticipated directions or blow out your candles. Electrical power failures may drop the stage lighting and the music. Stage managers and stagehands may not understand performance staging instructions and lighting, music, or curtains are mis-cued. Stages that move under your feet cause safety issues and create a performance hazard, hampering your performance.
Once while dancing my nine candle shamadan caused the fire alarm to sound at the wedding reception. We were lucky it was before the days of automatic fire suppression sprinkler systems. Smoke vapor from your lit candles on your shamadan or handheld candles may be detected by and set off the smoke and fire alarms which are sensitive to particulates in the air. We have all observed or experienced the unruly veil or costuming element that decides to slip from its respective place and forces you to adapt your performance. Many in the audience at Rakkasah West 2005 recall my unique improvised performance when my bra strap broke on my dress—“it is possible to play cymbals and continue to dance while holding up your costume with one arm at a time.”
Some technical difficulties may be avoided through planning, but most require the performer to make “real time” performance adjustments to carry on with the show.
"Chronos" Time vs "Kairos" Time
“Kairos” is a Greek term that means “special time” as opposed to “Chronos” which is ordinary time. When we take the stage, we truly make the transfer from chronos time to kairos time as we make the performance time a special time.
For me, kairos time at Rakkasah West 2002 meant “learning and adapting performance in real time” as I found myself performing to music from a cassette tape that had obviously stretched, and although a mere 10 seconds longer than the original piece of music, the sound was garbled and the rhythm uneven - sometimes too fast and at other times agonizingly slower. Oh yes, I definitely experienced kairos time and not the ordinary chronos time in which music would be heard at the correct tempo that one expects for a performance. This technical failure provided me with the opportunity to rely on my own resources and experience, to be resilient and complete a performance with a modicum of grace by matching the speed of performance to the strange sounding music with varying speed and tempo.
Performance Decision, Resiliency,
& the Stockholm Effect
As you begin your performance and note technical difficulties, you reach a performance decision point. Shall I continue and adapt the performance? Alternatively, one could point out the difficulties and end the performance. The stage diva and prima donna might call attention to the technical difficulties and lay blame to others or the technical problems before exiting the stage to save her own reputation and avoid being labeled a quitter.
I’d like to share what I learned from the experience of what resiliency in performance means.
I learned not to panic, to stay in the moment of kairos time, and to stay in charge and deal with the music at the slower and faster erratic tempo variations that we all heard. I learned that it was important to move the situation forward, for everyone’s sake, and deal with situation gracefully and bring closure to a difficult experience for all. Because I continued the performance, I experienced a special bond with the audience as together we moved through the stages of processing the difficult situation.
Initially, I could see the friends in the audience putting their hands to their hearts and displaying open-mouthed shock. As I continued to dance, I saw these friends and others in the audience begin to relax, smile and cheer me on. A special bond from experiencing trauma together created a mass “Stockholm Syndrome effect” (so-named by a sociologist to describe the closeness of relationships that occurs when people experience trauma together and survive).
In some ways, I have become a more of a real person to my audience in ways that perfect polished performances that we usually observe and experience do not permit. As a performer, I appreciated the shared experience of audience hand clapping in unison during the performance. This audience clapping in unison is sometimes absent when people are privately experiencing and appreciating a perfectly stunning performance. After shows where audiences have silently appreciated the performance, the quietness of the audience may leave the performer questioning the success of the performance. I survived this particular performance with great shared memories of
continuing a performance under stressful conditions with the support of a wonderful audience.
Practical Lesson Learned
As a teacher, it is important to share knowledge and experience in handling technical difficulties and averting performance disasters. In this particular case, the music cassette tape had stretched and the sound of the music played was garbled with an uneven tempo, sometimes slower, sometimes faster. How did this occur? The technical difficulty resulted from reviewing the music the night before the performance, then leaving the cassette tape in the tape machine with the “auto-reverse function” enabled. Over the course of a night the tape stretched, making the performance 10 seconds longer. The solution to this problem at performance time would have been to provide the sound engineer with a fresh back-up cassette with the performance music. How often have you prepared the back-up cassette but left it in the dressing room? My backup tape was in the car. A lesson learned: leave the back-up tape with the sound engineer or, for a large festival, give a copy to your best friend who will be in the audience and standing near the access area to the sound engineer.
Ultimately the lessons learned are:
- If using cassette tape, check your music and be careful of the auto-reverse feature on cassette tape decks.
- If using CD, check the CD on several machines. Some computer generated CDs will not play on some machines.
- Have your back-up music accessible to the sound engineer.
- Rely on the friendship network and your audience for support during a time of crisis
- Be resilient and never give up unless you give up gracefully as you will assist everyone in processing the difficult situation.
Moreover, here are the lessons of special Kairos time – dance in the moment, be aware and alert, and adapt your performance to the circumstances at the time. Remember, the best times in performance are when we experience that “magical feeling and golden moment” in time when everything seems to flow during performance and we are one with the music, the setting, and the audience… such as it is. If not, then years later you will have shared memories of a difficult performance and you will be remembered with fondness by your audience – if you rely on your own resources and experience, are resilient, and complete a performance with a modicum of grace.
About the Author
“We must do what we love and share our talent, passion and joy with others.”
The name "Ma*Shuqa Mira Murjan" translates as "Beloved Sweetheart of Treasure."
Ma*Shuqa is known internationally as the “elegant” performer with a unique style of dancing which blends the music and dance into a compelling art form.
Ma*Shuqa’s dance style and teaching repertoire reflect years of study evident in her dazzling performances. A comment often heard from her audiences in Europe, Cairo, and Athens: “She understands our music and our culture… in her dancing, we see the expression of joy and emotions of our culture.”
Ma*Shuqa has been the featured dancer in special productions: at the San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts, for special parties in Greece and Egypt, on German national TV, at the famous nightclub, The Apropos, in the Altstadt in Köln, and an evening’s showcase of dance choreography at the Comedia Colonia Theatre in Köln, Germany. Be it at a hafla or on the stage, Ma*Shuqa's performances radiate high energy, love for dance orientale, a warm personality, and a display of masterful talent with “elegance of style”. ™
Ma*Shuqa is a survivor of ovarian cancer. She has posted an article about her personal recovery
on her web site at www.MaShuqa.com. It includes symptom information and links to resources.
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