Archive | March 2013

Weekly Challenge for 3-25-13


Ah Monday…Let’s turn the worst day of the week into the best day with a bit of a challenge! Are you ready?


How many can you do in a row? This seems like an easy challenge, but it won’t be! For all levels, see how many you can do in a row. The hard part will be not to go spinning off into oblivion, crash into the mirror, or kill the cat (or yourself!)

How? Keep your chest up, and spot, spot, spot. If you have not learned to spot by now, you really need to do it. Spinning without spotting is possible, even fun and beautiful, but not very good afterwards. Spotting is what keeps you from getting too dizzy. Here’s a secret: you never stop getting dizzy after a huge number of spins, you just handle it better. Ask your teacher about the correct way to spot turn before attempting this challenge.

So pick a turn that you can do pretty well, put on a good song (advanced dancers should try a fast one) and spin, spin, spin! Just remember to keep your form and posture up while you turn, and if you start to feel too dizzy, stop immediately and give yourself a break.

Tell me how many you can do! Comment below and let’s see!

Happy dancing!

Weekly Challenge for 3-18-13

It’s Monday again! Time for this week’s challenge.


This is another video-watching challenge! So, what’s your style? That should be an easy question, but it’s one that perhaps not everyone can answer correctly, because not every teacher tells their students. My first teacher never told us what style she taught, and, as a baby dancer, I had no idea that there was more than one style of “belly dance.” Boy did I feel silly when someone asked me if I danced Lebanese or Egyptian and I had no answer for them. I just thought it was all belly dance, everywhere. I should have known better. Now I do! And so should you!

It’s time for you to discover what YOUR style is. Let me say this: it shouldn’t matter what style you do. One isn’t better than the other. Styles do go in and out of fashion, but there’s nothing wrong with carrying on in your style if that’s what you like and know. But it is important that you know what you are doing, and what the differences are.

Beginner: The most important thing for you to do this week if find out what style you are learning. Is it “Tribal” (meaning ITS) or Tribal fusion? Egyptian or Lebanese or Turkish? Does your teacher not know? That could be a problem, and one that you should work out with her or him. Once you know, start watching videos for this week. Write down what you notice about your style of dance. What do they do with the arms? Do the dancers travel around the stage a lot or stand in one place? Soft, gooey moves or sharp, back-breaking power moves? There are also some great blogs out there that discuss the differences in styles, so read those and figure out, does your dancing fit into the style? Watch at least one video each day, and write down what you notice.

If you don’t know your style, now is the time to learn! Sit down and have a talk with your teacher. If you didn’t know, go back and try the earlier challenge to acquaint yourself with your style. Otherwise, now it’s time to branch out! Watch videos from a style you don’t do, and write down what you notice. What’s different about your style and the one you are watching? Notice footwork, arm work, facial expression, how the hip moves are executed. Also look at costuming, since you probably know a little bit about costuming in your own style. Have fun, and see what you can discover about a different style!

Advanced: This is going to be just like the intermediate challenge, but, get up and dance too! Write down what you notice about the style you chose to view this week, and then try it out! You should be at a point where, even if you aren’t being explicitly taught a move by a teacher, you should be able to figure out how to do the movement safely and correctly. Where is their weight, what’s their center of gravity? Are the movements driven by the knees or the hips? Don’t forget about expression! Try out facial expressions, head movements, musical interpretations, whatever takes you out of your box!

Have fun, and happy dancing!

Weekly Challenge for 3-11-13

It’s time for another weekly challenge! Get over the Monday blahs and let’s get to it!

Doing the things you hate

Oh, we all have them. Those drills, those choreos, that warm-up… We’d much rather be sitting on the couch, eating cookies than doing that again, right?

I have a confession to make. I hate yoga!! Oh, are they going to take the belly dancer card away from me?! Okay, let me rephrase that. I love that yoga is awesome, and that my body loves the way yoga makes it feel. If I didn’t do yoga, I wouldn’t be able to walk without pain in my hip (old injury…nothing to do with belly dance btw). It’s good for you, and I feel great afterwards. I just hate doing it. Why? Because it’s not dancing. And it’s kinda boring…(I find it very difficult to sit still and be quiet unless I’m reading a book.) Silly, I know.

This is torture to me!!

But we all have those, don’t we? Things we must do in dance in order for us to grow, or to stretch, or learn a new skill, or be in a troupe. Things that make us go, “Why are we doing this again?” But these are the very things we must work on. If you hate snake arm drills, it’s likely because your snake arms need some work, right?! I’m about as flexible as a stick of wood, so yoga is more like torture for me, but I still do it! I do it because I know I need it.

So sit down and think about the things about dance that you hate doing the most.  And I mean the things that make you want to give up dance and go do something else fun, like pulling off your toenails.  Now let’s brainstorm some ideas on how to make it more interesting to you.  For me, I like to watch videos or listen to some new music while I do yoga, even if the music doesn’t fit the “yoga vibe.”  Can you think of something?  If it’s doing a certain choreography you hate, can you put it to another song? (Yeah, I know, choreos are done to a specific song, but some can fit into others in terms of beat and length, if not matching the music exactly).  This way, you’ll challenge yourself to remember the choreo without the crutch of the music, and you get to listen to a different song!  Hate drilling?  Find a way to make it more fun…watch Weird Al videos or tell a story to your kids while you drill (just don’t let your drills suffer!).  Just find something fun to do!

Your challenge is to do the thing you hate, for at least one song (or equivalent, so 3-5 minutes, or in the case of yoga, one session) a day for a week.  The challenge here is primarily to find a way to do it without wanting to run screaming into the hills.  This may be the hardest challenge we all face this year…but keep in mind that we hate these things because we need them.  We know we need them, we just don’t want to knuckle down and do it.  This is your chance!

Happy dancing (or be a happy yogini!)

(Thanks to Ideowl for the awesome yoga pose)

Dread Falls – Part II

Missed Part I of my dread falls tutorial?  Find it here!

Okay, let’s get to putting those dreads to use!  You will need:

  • 20-40 individual dreads
  • Small rubber bands (preferably matching)
  • Elastic, 1/2″ wide
  • Scissors

    All the dreads!

  1. First, you will need to cut some of the elastic.  This is what will hold the dreads and allow you to tie them into your hair.  Cut two pieces of approximately 12 inches or so (longer if you have a large bun, i.e. a lot of hair) of 1/2″ elastic.
  2. Hold the two pieces of elastic together and slide an “anchor” dread onto BOTH pieces of elastic.  Use one of the small rubber bands to anchor the dread at the loop to the elastics.  The rubber band needs to be tight, because this dread will keep all the others from falling off!

    Anchor dread on elastic

  3. Next, separate the two pieces of elastic and start slipping dreads onto each SINGLE piece of elastic.  Add them equally to both pieces of elastic, and, if you have multiple colors, randomly space those out.  Make it too ordered, and it might look weird and unnatural (yeah, because white and blue are natural…).  Leave one last dread out as your second anchor.

    Dreads spread out onto both pieces of elastic

  4. Add your second anchor dread by slipping the dread over BOTH pieces of elastic, just as you did in Step 2.  Push all the dreads together, giving you a big “O” of dreads.

    The big “O” of dreads

  5. And…repeat!  You need two sets of dreads for installation, or even more.  When I wear my full set, I actually have 4 dread falls on my head!  The next post will be all about how to install them!  Keep an eye out for it!

Ya know, this post (and the previous one) has taken a lot of work, so, if you enjoyed this post, please consider DONATING.  I’d be forever grateful if you donated a little bit of money to cover the large amount of time I used to bring you this post, and others.  Support your community!  Just click the DONATE button on the right side, and thanks so much!

Weekly Challenge for March 4, 2012

Whew!  So much to do, I nearly forgot about this week’s challenge.  But I managed to remember, so you get the challenge!

Ummi challenge

We’re going to do ummis (ommis, omis, interior hip circles, small hip circles, whatever you want to call them…) this week!  Lots and lots and lots of ummis.  I see a lot of “ouch!”-inducing ummis, and this is definitely one move that can crunch your lower back and shorten your dance career if you don’t do it correctly.  The trick is to not stick the booty out in the back, which is what crunches that lower back and can cause pain.  Protect that back!  Keep your ummis muscular by using your obliques and the lowest portion of the rectus abdominus, and then a complete release of those muscles (which is your “back”) before moving to the other side.

Beginner: This is a difficult move, and one that your teacher may not have gotten to yet.  If that is the case, ask about learning the ummi in class.  At this level, you won’t yet have the muscular control for a smooth transition from one hip position to the next, and that’s okay…it takes time and practice, and that’s what this challenge is about!  If you need to, just work on the single contractions (so basically a hip box) this week until you feel better about smoothing them out.  Your challenge is to practice your ummis, in BOTH directions (no matter how much your “off” direction sucks) for one whole song every day this week.

Intermediate: Let’s talk about layering.  Can you ummi and walk at the same time?  It is possible, but not if you are using your knees.  A lot of dancers use the knees to partially drive their ummis, and while this is mostly a dancer’s choice, it means you are basically unable to do anything else while you are doing an ummi.  So practice making those ummis muscular, and then take a walk!  Keep your chest out of it and lifted, don’t crunch your back, and walk smoothly.  Your challenge is to walk–forwards, backwards, sideways, wherever!–while doing ummis, for one whole song every day this week.

Advanced: You aren’t going to like me after this fun little drill.  We’re going to do a moving corkscrew.  So, in addition to your ummi, we’re going to toss in the head and chest, and then walk with it!  (A corkscrew is a clockwise movement with the head, then the chest, then the hips, then back upwards counterclockwise, or vice versa)  This has the potential to look totally awkward, so make sure you keep the movements small and controlled, and walk in some relationship to the beat (though whether you full time, half-time, or quarter-time it is totally up to you and your willingness to annoy yourself).  Corkscrew while walking all over–forwards, sideways, backwards, hey, even try a grapevine–for one whole song every day this week.  Additional I-hate-myself challenge: add arms (one nice pattern is to frame each movement with the hands as the arms travel up or down the body).  Good luck!

Happy dancing!