Archive | August 2013

Weekly Challenge 8-26-13

A good Monday to everyone (is there such a thing?). It’s time for a new weekly challenge. This week’s challenge is not about comparing yourself to others, but about improving yourself. It’s about getting to know how far you’ve come…and how far we all have to go.

How many moves do you know?

What a question!

For some of us, this might be a depressing question. For others, almost an impossible one. But it’s not meant to be.

Catalog all the moves you know. Not to compare how much you know over someone else, but to see how far you have come. Can you name them all?

For beginners, this might be a short list, and that’s okay! What this will do is get your brain thinking about what you do know, not about what you don’t know. Too many dancers get hung up on what they can’t do, not on what they can. Time to change that. List every move you know, and see just how far you’ve come since you started learning. Use your list for practice this week, every day this week. Add to your list when you learn new moves!

Experienced dancers, this may be a long list, and one that might be difficult to complete. That’s okay, you don’t have to spend hours and hours on this. But what this will do is help you focus. Having a list of moves can help with choreography, or even with improv. Lots of dancers use movement lists or flash cards for developing choreo or for inspiration before a performance, and this is a way to start yours! Have fun with this, don’t make it a chore. How many different shimmys can you do? Think of all the hip directions–up, down, out, in, around! Every day this week, add to your list and use it in practice or teaching. Do your students know these moves? Which ones do you know but don’t use often? Incorporate those into your choreos this week!

Have fun…and happy listing!

Weekly Challenge for August 19

I totally dropped the ball last week!  I had a lazy Sunday (for the first time in months)…and guess what?!  I was lazy!  So I didn’t get my blogging done or scheduled.  Bad belly dancer, bad!  No cookie for me!

Anyway, I was inspired this week by a couple of blogs that got passed around Facebook this past week.  I thought I’d put my two cents in and make a challenge out of it! (Thanks, ladies, for the inspiration!)

Remembering Choreography

Not every belly dancer does choreography.  But every belly dancer has to, at some point, remember movements that are put together, whether it’s a combo from a workshop or as part of your tribe’s vocabulary, or full choreographies if you are in a troupe or as a soloist.  It’s hard to remember choreographies!  It’s especially challenging in a group, because if a soloist misses a movement, it can easily be covered up by an experienced dancer and the audience will never know.  But if one dancer messes up in a group, it’s easy to spot, and embarrassing!

The blogs above give great tips, but I’m going to add my own, and give it to you as part of your challenge.  First off, you should be practicing your choreos every day anyway if you are part of a troupe.  You owe the group your time and effort.

Here’s the twist and the challenge: practice your choreos without the music.  Try it every day this week, all the choreos or combinations you know (if you have a lot in your repertoire, just do this with the ones you will be using in the near future).  But do it without your music.

Why?  Well, of course, the choreography is meant to go with a particular piece of music, so it seems silly to practice without it.  But, the music sometimes acts as a crutch.  Instead of our bodies (or our brains) remembering what comes next, we wait just that split second to see what the next phrase in the music is.  It’s easy to remember what we are supposed to be doing at certain points in the music; the music cues us in as to what the movements are.  But that teeny split second of hesitation between phrases can cost a troupe their timing.  Hands won’t go up at the same time, or someone will be just a tiny bit late starting a weight change.  These sorts of things can get noticed by an experienced watcher (say, in a competition) or trip a dancer up just enough to get flustered and make even more mistakes.

By practicing without the music, you are forcing your brain to remember the movements in your body, without the need to listen for the change in the music and then remember what it is you are supposed to be doing.  It takes out one step of processing in the brain, and invokes “muscle memory” instead of the active remembering of the movement by your brain at that moment in the choreography.  This way, you can focus on listening to the music and expressing yourself rather than, “What comes next?!”  Choreographies then look effortless!

Happy dancing!

And let me know how this worked for you!  Comment below, or give me a ring on Facebook or Twitter.

Weekly Challenge 8-5-13

It’s Monday.  Again.  Let’s get our blood moving and perk us up a bit for the rest of the week!


Endurance is definitely a skill that belly dancers should develop.  We get used to doing one 3-4 minute song (typically what show organizers will let us do) and then we’re done.  Ever feel like you’re going to die after only one song?  If you have plans to dance at a restaurant, or if you want to do full sets (like for weddings, etc.) then you need to be able to dance for more than one song.  The way to do that is to work on your endurance.  A typical belly dance set for a soloist is 20 minutes or so.  That’s a long time to be dancing by yourself!

Beginner: We’re going to start our endurance training by seeing how long you can do one movement.  Pick a move that’s pretty peppy, like a choo choo shimmy or Arabic (pick a slightly faster song, perhaps, than you normally would use) and see how long you can go.*  One song?  Two songs?  Probably not, and that’s okay.  Try for one song for now.  If you need to, take a quick break, but don’t just stop.  Walk around, shimmy (steady and slow) in place for a few counts, and then get right back into it.

Intermediate: Try doing all of the choreographies you know (or are working on) back to back.  Make a playlist and do them all!  If you know more than 5 right now, you can probably stop there, but see if you can make an entire show out of all the choreographies in your repertoire.  For improv-ers, pick 3-5 songs you usually dance to and see if you can get through all of them at once.  Again, make sure you are fit enough for this, and if you need to take a breather, don’t just go sit down.  Walk around, shimmy in place, and then get back into it.

Advanced: Hopefully you can make it through an entire set by now.  If not, try to pick a set (20-25 minutes) worth of songs and get to it!  If one set is no problem, try 2 sets back to back.  This is tough, tough, tough.  That’s nearly an hour of dancing.  Be sure to toss in some slow songs, too, and take breaks by walking around or doing a slow, even shimmy.  Just don’t stop.  If you can dance for nearly an hour, one 20 minute set will be nothing!

Tribal dancers…do think that you’ll never dance that long of a set?  Think again! (YouTube link)

Happy dancing!

*Please make sure you are fit enough for this.  If you are in doubt, check with your doctor and use your smarts!  Don’t kill yourself by trying to do an hour of dance right from the get-go.  Pace yourself and work up slowly.  Always check with your doctor before starting an intense exercise regimen.