Archive | April 2012

The Return of the Weekly Challenge!

If you kept up with my webpage in its previous incarnation, you may know that I used to do weekly belly dance challenges!  They kind of fell by the wayside when I got into the webpage redesign.  So, now that the new design is set and I’ve managed to catch up with everything else, let’s get back to the challenges!!

Here’s how it works: every week, I’ll throw down a challenge for three levels of belly dancers (beginner, intermediate, and advanced).  Your challenge is to try it EVERY DAY.  Yes, every day.  Of course this does not mean that by the end of the week you’ll have mastered whatever move, idea, etc. that I throw at you.  But it puts you into the habit of not only practicing every day, but challenging yourself every day.  You can’t get better if you only practice the moves you already do well.

Feel free to comment on your progress, moan about the challenge, or ask for helpful advice!

So here’s this week’s Belly Dancing Challenge:

Put a shimmy on it!

Beginner: You may not have mastered a shimmy yet, and that’s okay.  This week, try to master one form of hip shimmy.  It doesn’t matter which one, just pick a shimmy you have been taught in class and DO IT.  No excuses!

Tips:

  • Pick a fun song and shimmy for the entire duration
  • Make sure your weight stays even on both feet (for now)
  • Keep a slower speed so that you can not only keep it up for an entire song but also that you don’t lose the timing.  Remember, a fast shimmy isn’t always the best shimmy.
  • Keep the shimmy timed to the music.  Your hips should be moving to the beat of the music, not just randomly twitching.
  • And, the most important tip for loose and relaxed shimmies: LOOSE GLUTES.

Intermediate: Can you walk and shimmy at the same time?  Try either a 3/4 shimmy or a 4/4 shimmy (whichever is HARDER for you right now) and walk with it.

Tips:

  • Make sure your steps are on the beat, either full time or half time, depending on how fast your music is and how much space you have.
  • Time your shimmies to your steps, it will make it easier.
  • LOOSE GLUTES.
  • Keep a slower speed so that you don’t lose the timing.  Remember, a fast shimmy isn’t always the best shimmy.  You can always speed it up later, once you are used to the movements.
  • Make sure your posture stays intact, and SMILE.  Remember your face needs practice just as much as your body.  Practice with a frown or with your tongue sticking out, and you might just do that on stage!!

Advanced: We’re really going to walk, talk, and chew bubble gum at the same time!  Pick a shimmy, pick a song,  pick a movement, and then WALK with it.  For instance, you can walk with a hip figure 8, adding a shimmy as you go.  Or, you can walk, shimmy, and do chest circles.  But make sure it looks good.  Some combinations may not work well, so check yourself in a mirror before practicing too much.

Tips:

  • Make sure everything is on time.  It won’t work if you are stepping at off times while concentrating on your movements.  Your walking steps should be on time, your shimmies should work with the music, and your movement should make sense.
  • Make sure your walk looks nice.  Don’t just wave a foot around until the beat.
  • Play around with timing if you can, but still maintain the beat.

Happy dancing, and good luck!

Rosa Noreen’s Delicious Pauses: Negative Space in Movement

I had the pleasure of taking Rosa Noreen’s Delicious Pauses workshop at the Las Vegas Belly Dance Intensive in 2011.  The workshop was fun and challenging, and this DVD is perfect for bringing home the workshop.

Negative space–that is, non-movement–is definitely an underutilized technique in belly dancing.  This DVD presents a topic that is completely new and fresh and interesting.

There’s plenty of excellent content in this DVD (available on Amazon or Rosa Noreen’s shop for $22.00).  This seems like such an easy topic at first, but it really isn’t!  Pausing in dance, in the heat of the moment, is HARD.  But Rosa’s explanations are perfect for incorporating stillness into your dance.  Many dancers–including me–are afraid of not moving on stage (“if I stop…they’ll see how scared I am!!” or “I’ll bore the audience by just standing here!”), so these techniques are a must for any dancer wanting to advance their skills and get over that nervousness.  What I also like about this DVD is that it is not a beginner-level topic.  The movements themselves are not explained; her only explanations are how to utilize stillness within those movements.  This is great for more advanced dancers that don’t need to sit through (yet another) teacher’s technique explanation.

Rosa first presents the methodology behind Delicious Pauses (which makes me smile any time I watch it) and the techniques (who knew how many different pauses there are!?).  She then goes on to explain how to incorporate the different types of pauses into some common belly dance moves.  There are also sections for structured and improvised drilling of each movement with those pauses, which I think is fantastic.  Few DVDs incorporate time for improvisation drilling.  There are also two challenging combinations on the DVD, but both are clearly explained and drilled.  The combos perfectly integrate the techniques learned in the previous sections into a fun and beautiful dance.

The DVD itself is set up well, with easy navigation, a good menu, and correct chapter breaks.  The only problem is that, in some of the chapters, the sound quality isn’t the greatest.  You can still understand Rosa with no problem, and the music is perfect, but her voice occasionally sounds a little tinny.

I definitely recommend this DVD, but remember, this is not a beginner-level topic.  It will be a challenge for intermediate students, and a good review/driller for more advanced dancers.  I will certainly be trying to use these techniques in my own dance!

 

(Parts of this review are on Amazon)