It’s Monday, so it’s time for another belly dance challenge!
Some people love to drill, some hate it. It’s true, drilling can be dull. You’re doing the same movement, over and and over, and then you move on to another one to drill. Boring. But necessary! Drilling is necessary in order for the muscles in your body to get used to the movement, to strengthen the muscles involved in the movement, and then set it in the “muscle memory” so that you can, eventually, do the movement without thinking about it much. Ever wonder why babies wave their arms around a lot? They’re drilling! It’s a movement they’ve never done much of, so they do it and do it until they can control their arms and do what they want with them. Now, as grownups, we don’t even blink when thinking about moving our arms around. It’s as natural as breathing. In order to be able to improv, we need to be able to pull out any movement at any time, as naturally as breathing. And we get there through drilling!
This is an all level challenge! What do you do? Pick three movements, something simple, even if you are of an advanced level. Even advanced dancers need to drill basic movements in order to keep up them. Then pick three songs, and drill those moves, one per song. Every. Single. Day.
I know, it’s boring (and you’ll hate me by song #3), but instead of thinking about what you’re going to have for dinner tonight, or how much your arms hurt, or, “hey, isn’t Johnny Depp awesome without his shirt?” we’re going to think about the movement. Drill in front of a mirror and look at the movements, every single one. Are they the same on both sides? Does one hip go down more than the other? Is one arm a total spaz and the other looks fine? If so, you need to adjust your movement and make sure they look the same on both sides! And then drill that, and monitor it to make sure that it stays the same! Keep it up for an entire song, then repeat with your two other moves, whatever they are. Again, make sure to monitor your movements carefully!
Another challenge for the week! Are you ready?
Using your head
Part of dance is using your whole body to express the music. Some styles may ignore certain parts, but belly dance definitely calls for your whole body to move, from head to toe. Many dancers forget they have heads, except their faces (and some dancers forget those too!). So today we are going to try to use your head more in your practice!
A word of caution: the neck is extremely delicate and can easily be injured if not warmed up enough before trying these movements. Make sure that a qualified teacher has shown you how to warm it up, and do so diligently.
Beginner: Let’s use the head slide! It’s probably the easiest movement, and one that can be incorporated into your dance in a way that will look good. A head slide is just that, a slide of the chin from left to right (you better be warmed up!). Don’t thrust the chin forward, keep it tucked back but not down. This week, your challenge is to fit this head slide into your practice. Drilling shimmies? Add a head slide. Doing a combo? Add a head slide to one of the moves, or toss it in for an 8 count. But, wait…that sounds pretty advanced…but this is a CHALLENGE! So challenge yourself by adding that second layer to your shimmies. A head slide on a shimmy is one of the easier layers, so try it out! You can do it!
Intermediate: Time to start learning how to toss that hair around! You MUST ask your teacher for the proper technique for hair tossing. This can seriously hurt your neck if done wrong (whiplash anyone?), so do it right, and do it warm. Your challenge this week is to incorporate hair tossing into your practice. Not sure how? Try it at the end of a series of hip drop kicks as a way to move to the other leg instead of just a reset or a step. Add it into a combo for a count of 8. Try out a Khaleegi combo! Just get that hair flip in there!
Advanced: This can be troublesome for some dancers. Tribal dancers and Tribal Fusion dancers often have hair gardens, fake hair, dread falls, or all sorts of other head pieces that make head movements difficult on stage. Your challenge? Figure out how to incorporate the head into your dance, despite the head gear. Sound hard? I hear you. I’m still working on this. I like my hair to be in dread falls when I do fusion, but there are times I like to toss my hair around. Can I do that with a hair piece in? Maybe, if it’s done right, and the hair is anchored properly. Try it out with different head moves and hair pieces and see what you can’t come up with for moving that head a little bit more. Cabaret ladies, your challenge is the same! What? “But I don’t wear hair gardens!” Maybe not, but I’ve seen dancers lose hair, and it’s kind of embarrassing. Put on your fake pony tail and get to moving that head!
Note: if you feel any pain during these, STOP IMMEDIATELY and see a doctor before attempting these movements again. Remember, the neck is easily injured and hard to fix, so be responsible. Find a qualified teacher, follow his/her instructions, and warm up before attempting this challenge.
And for bonus points (and sprinkles!), please take 5 little minutes out to take my survey! Much appreciated!
Hey, everyone! I’ve come up with a survey for my Tribal Fusion Belly Dance friends, and I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind filling it out. This is for an upcoming blog post! It would really mean a lot to me if you took the time to fill it out. It’s only 10 little questions, so it won’t take you very long!
Feeling burned out? Getting tired of being challenged? I can hear you, “Oh, not another one. Geez, doesn’t this lady ever give it a rest?” Ever wonder why I keep doing this? No, I’m not going to say, “Because I care.” Well, I do care, because I love belly dance and because I want to see this art form prosper. But, it’s because without challenges in life, nothing ever improves. No one grows. Apathy sets in and then we think we’ve done enough. “Yeah, I’ve done mayas about 50 million times. Got it.” But this isn’t a good head-space to be in for creative dance, and I don’t want to sit through a performance with a dancer who doesn’t care. And neither do you!
Dealing with Burnout
It happens to all of us, even the best dancers out there get burnout. With all the practice, the sewing, the performances, scrubbing makeup off your face three nights in a row, more practice, classes, workshops, blah, blah, blah… It can be hard to keep the motivation going. We get comfy on the couch one night with a bowl of ice cream and think, “Yeah, I don’t need to practice tonight.” And then one night turns into two nights, and then suddenly we haven’t practiced in a week. Or two. With so much work, we forget why we are doing this: because we love it and it’s fun. Really.
Of course, not all of you are burnt out yet, and that’s great. Some of you reading this will have just discovered belly dance, and you’re still in that “honeymoon” phase where every sentence out of your mouth starts with “belly dance” and all your free time is spent making costumes and watching YouTube videos of Rachel Brice. And that’s a wonderful place to be (I was there once too!..in fact, 80% of what I say is still about belly dance). But you can still benefit from this challenge too. In fact, every dancer can benefit from this, so don’t think you can get out of this one because it “doesn’t apply.” 😉 I’m not letting you off the hook!
Challenge your burnout. Tell it to take a hike. Reconnect with your passion for dance. How?
Buy a DVD from someone you’ve never heard of or at least never taken a class from, especially if it’s a basic 101, and do it every day this week. If you improv all the time, learn a choreography. If you’ve never tried cabaret, go take classes this week. Take a vacation from performing this week (if you are financially capable of doing so!), because everyone needs a vacation once and awhile, even away from something you love dearly. Search Google and take a class from someone who shows up on the third or fourth page instead of the first. Do something different.
We get burnout because we get tired of doing the same thing every, single, stinking day. You wake up, stretch, eat breakfast, practice, go to class, teach a class, eat dinner, teach another class, and then another one. Bed time and then wake up to do it all over again. Blah. We get stuck in ruts and don’t know how to get out of them. That’s when burnout looms and passion drains away. No passion, no dance. Every once and awhile, it’s good to get out of the routine, even if it’s just a little change, and do something that is still about belly dance, but isn’t the same old, same old.
If you’ve just discovered belly dance, don’t despair; you can still try this challenge. Burnout isn’t even on your radar yet, but you are still doing a lot of learning. It can feel overwhelming and often discouraging. If you keep your passion going and explore all that belly dance has to offer, you can stave off burnout. Keep having fun, but don’t get stuck in your own rut, either. Try new classes, new DVDs, new styles, whatever it takes to keep that flame alive.
And hey, I’d love to hear what you think about these challenges. Please comment below! I appreciate every like and share I get, so keep the love coming!
Are you ready for another challenge? Remember, these challenges are for one week, to be done every day. Now, this doesn’t mean that you will master these after only one week. These challenges are meant to, well, challenge you, make you think, make you get into the habit of practicing every day, and to help improve your dance.
The Other Side
No, not that Other Side…your other side. We all have them…the weak side that we forget to practice, or don’t practice at all. ATS® ladies will especially be challenged in this one, because you’re gonna have to do everything on your LEFT. It’s important for your body to be balanced and strong on both sides, or you risk repetitive stress injuries. Give your right side a break and use your left!
Beginner: Ummis (or interior hip circles)…we all have a direction that sucks. Everyone is different, so some may find that counter-clockwise is awful, others will be challenged by clockwise. Whatever your weak direction is, try it. Keep an eye on your direction! It will happen: you think you’re doing fine going your weak way and then suddenly find how easy it is! Wow, that was simple!…and then you realize that you had switched back to your “good” direction. Dang. Keep at it! If your teacher hasn’t taught you ummis yet, not to worry. Either ask for it or switch to hip drops. Most of us only do hip drops using the right leg. Try your left. When you are practicing this, don’t actually neglect your good side/direction. Just focus on your weak side. ATS® ladies, you should practice these ummis, too! If that doesn’t appeal, try Arabic leading with your left foot, facing the other diagonal.
Intermediate: Turns. We all have a direction that we do naturally, and the other way we risk falling over. Find out which one that is, and practice your “bad” way. You’ll need lots of space, so be careful! No injuries from falling over, okay? Just make sure your posture is good when you do your turns; it makes a huge difference in your balance. Make sure that your arms also match your “good” direction. Some of us (me included) tend to do strange things with the arms when we turn the “weak” way because we’re more focused on not falling over than what our arms are doing. Pick a turn that you like and practice! For you Tribal ladies, try any turn that interests you, but I highly suggest paddle turns or barrel turns.
Advanced: Remember that sword you used last week? Heh, heh…you’re not done with it. While it seems silly to hold your sword in the left hand, you do still want to practice. You never know when you might need to use your left instead of your right. What if your sword spins around on your head? Do you awkwardly try to grab it with the right, or gracefully reach up with the left to take it off and do some other move with it (…the sword was supposed to do that, really!). Practice all your sword (hey, even your cane) movements with the left hand! It will be weird, but this is a great way to keep your left arm strong and make yourself more flexible with using your prop. This will also prepare you for double sword and double cane work! Tribal ladies can do the same!