Archive | December 2013

Weekly Challenge for the Last Week of 2013!

This has been a tough week for me. I’ve been fighting the cold from heck that just won’t give up. But, that doesn’t mean I can’t still give you your Weekly Challenge!

Last week we worked on dreaming big – writing down whatever we wanted for our belly dance, no matter how silly or big or small. If you haven’t done that challenge yet, go back and take a day to do it before doing this week’s challenge.

Making Plans

Of course we know that we dreamed big last week. Some of those dreams might be, realistically, out of our reach for some years yet. And that’s okay! Don’t discount them because they won’t happen THIS year. Big dreams take big plans, and that takes time.

This week, we’re going to work on making our dreams into plans, and making them a bit more realistic and obtainable.

First, pick out those dreams from last week that are the easiest to attain. Things like finally getting mayas nailed down or designing business cards are good options. On a piece of paper, write them down under a “within the next month or two” heading. Of course, we still have to be realistic in this. If you don’t have much time to practice, getting mayas down in a month might be a challenge (maybe “making more time to practice” should be your goal for the coming month!)

Make more headings along the lines of “3-4 months,” “6 months,” “one year,” “two years,” “five years,” etc. If you are really feeling it, even go for 10 years or more! Then space out those dreams into what you realistically think you can manage. Don’t spend too much time on it the first day. We’ll go back and make changes later.

Over the course of the week, think about your dreams/goals and the time frame you have given yourself to achieve them. Each day, go back over your list and make adjustments. Big dreams like going pro, or doing a competition, or auditioning for the Bellydance Superstars might take longer than you think. If you are stuck, try looking at websites and Facebook groups for guidance. Many others have been where you are, and they may be willing to guide you. Your teacher/mentor should definitely be consulted, or any dance friend you respect. But don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself to them! What may take one dancer three months to do may take another a year, and that’s okay! It’s not a race!

And here’s another trap: don’t ever cross any of your dreams out. They are your dreams, and deserve a chance to be expressed, no matter if your rational mind “knows” how “impossible” that dream is. But be honest and realistic about it too. If you’ve been dancing for only a few months, going pro in the next year is probably not the best idea. There’s a lot more to being a pro than just knowing how to dance (or just knowing a few moves well), and a lot of that knowledge takes time and experience. Let that be a goal for the next 5 years or so, instead. There’s nothing wrong with planning extra time! Hey, if you manage it before your goal date, wonderful! But missing that date can be discouraging, so be good to yourself and plan for some extra time.

Of course, there’s an extra challenge with this too: actually implementing this goal timeline. It’s one thing to sit down and plan (which is an achievement in and of itself, because not many people make plans like this), but it’s another to actually put in the work to do it! If your goal is to audition for a pro troupe in the next year, what do you need to do to make that happen? You can’t just make it a goal and let it sit there on the paper. Do you need to freshen up your solo work, or learn to absorb choreographies quickly? Maybe the pro troupe does a lot of folkloric and you know nothing about it. Time to read up! If you want the extra challenge, go ahead and write out your implementation plan along with your goal schedule. I highly recommend this step! Again, don’t stress yourself out the first day. Use the whole week to go back and make changes, think about it some more, and then make more changes.

Consult your teacher or use other resources to help make this more manageable. Planning out your entire career right now may seem like a huge task, but the best thing to do is actually do this every year, and make adjustments accordingly. None of this is set in stone, nor should you think of it as failure if you miss a goal. Plans change. Life happens. Don’t let that discourage you! Pad your timeline a little, but make it challenging enough that you’ll still have to reach and stretch a little for it!

Happy planning!

Weekly Challenge for December 23, 2013

We’re closing in on the end of the year! This year has brought quite a few changes for me, including moving to Chicago, a new job, and new dance friends!

This time of year, I like to reflect back on what I have done over the past year and then think about what I want to do next year.

And that’s a great inspiration for a Weekly Challenge!

Dream Big

Every day this week, write in your dance journal the things you have accomplished this year regarding your dance. Did you finally master the maya? Did you find a weekly gig? Even small things count, so write down everything you managed to do. How many shows did you dance in or attend? Did you make any new dance friends? You may think of new things each day, which is why you can spread it out over the whole week. Don’t worry about writing every single thing down the first day.

The challenge this week, though, is actually planning for next year. Every day, after you write what you DID accomplish, write what you WANT to accomplish next year.

Dream big.

Make it silly or unrealistic. Of course, toss in some realistic goals, too, but don’t let anything limit you. It doesn’t matter that most of us have no chance of joining the Belly Dance Superstars next year. If that’s your dream, write it down.

Why is this a challenge? Well, first of all, because many of us, including me, are scared of dreaming big. We feel silly actually saying what we want, because we know that it can’t realistically happen. But if we can’t find the courage to just say it, how can we find the courage to do it? So go ahead and, no matter how hard it is or how silly you feel, write down your biggest dreams. It’s also a challenge because we have to actually sit down and plan what it is we want to accomplish. It’s not necessarily the most fun part of dance, but it’s an important one. If we have no plan or thought on how we want to grow, how can we ensure that we head in the direction we want?

Next week, we will work on actually pruning that list down and turning those dreams into goals we can set for the year or the next few years.

Happy planning!

Taking the challenge? Let everyone else know!  Tweet it!


Photo courtesy of Lucidio Studio.

Weekly Challenge: Turns

It’s Monday, so it’s time for this week’s challenge!  Find your dramamine, because this week it’s all about turns!


Teachers, do your students groan when it’s time to practice turns?  Do you find this to be the hardest to teach?  Students, don’t you just hate practicing turns?

But it doesn’t have to be this bad.  Here’s a secret, even though you won’t like hearing it: even experienced dancers still get a little dizzy.  It’s a biological response that you just have to get used to.  But there are ways to help, and that means: SPOTTING IS MANDATORY.

Well, okay, maybe not.  You can do turns without spotting, but you still need something stationary to focus on, and that can be something stationary in relationship to you, like your hand.  That is probably still considered spotting.  The idea is the same: don’t watch the scenery go by when you turn.

Beginner: Spotting is going to be your toughest challenge.  Anyone can turn around, but can you do it multiple times in a row without getting sick?  This week, get with your teacher and have them explain the concept of spotting to you.  Listen very carefully, and follow EXACTLY what they say.  It is so, so important to turn your head as fast as you can around at the last possible second, or you WILL get dizzy.  This week, your challenge is to practice that spotting.  Don’t worry too much about the speed or style of your turn.  That will come later.  Right now, concentrate on getting that spot down.

Intermediate: If you haven’t got your spotting skills down, now’s the time.  You will not be able to do multiple turns in a row without good spotting skills.  If you are pretty good, give yourself a challenge this week.  How many turns in a row can you do without falling over?  Keep your spot, keep your cool, and turn, turn, turn!  Keep your chest lifted, keep your spot on, and go!

Advanced: What can you do with your turns?  Just a turn can be boring if done too much.  Yes, doing 20 turns in a row is impressive, but what else can you do with it?  Can you do it with a sword on your head?  Can you change the type of spin–say, start with chaines, move into barrels, and then top it off with a lovely and controlled pencil turn for a truly astonishing finale? If you don’t know what any of those are, read up on different types of turns and practice them this week.  Don’t just…turn…turn with style!  Make it interesting, make it exciting, and please, make sure it fits into the dance!

Happy dancing!

Tip: everyone’s body handles dizziness differently, but there are a few things you can do to help with it.  Turning the other direction may help, or after your turn sequence, drop the heels heavily on the floor a few times (may not be possible in performance).  Do you have a way to help with dizziness?  Comment below and let us know!

Taking the challenge? Let everyone else know!  Tweet it!


Photo credit: William Favre Slater III

Weekly Challenge for 12-9-13

Monday again!  Time for this week’s challenge!


An evil word to some, but for some of us, a way of life.  I committed to dance every day (or at least 6 days a week, because every now and then, life happens).  It didn’t matter if it was performing, doing 5 minutes of drills, teaching or taking a class, or an entire hour or two of my full personal practice; I dance every day.  I try not to think of my dance as “exercise,” even though that’s what it started out as for me, but a commitment to improving my skills and my connection to my chosen form of artistic expression.

This week’s challenge is deceptively simple.  Commit.  Commit to improving your belly dancing, whether it be practicing every day or going to support other dancers at shows.  It can be reading blogs or articles about the dance, writing your own blogs about it, or drilling your hardest moves at least for one song a day.  It can be committing to working on your costume every day this week, or learning how to cover a bra with fabric (hint: here’s a good website for tips), or learning a new sewing skill.

Just commit to being a better belly dancer this week, whatever that means to you (here’s another hint: this isn’t about being a better belly dancer than someone else, but a better dancer than you were yesterday).  Supporting community, improving your own skills, or finding new ones…it doesn’t matter.

Today, make a plan for your commitment.  It should be something, anything, every day this week.  Write it down and put it someplace where you will see it.  Maybe a Post-It on your mirror, or a voice memo on your phone.  Then implement it.  Whether it’s five minutes or two hours, just do it, but just do it now, today.  Don’t wait.

If you can do this for a week, great.  But for extra “points” see if you can commit to this practice–or whatever–just until the end of the year (which isn’t all that long!).

Good luck, and happy dancing!

Taking the challenge? Let everyone else know!  Tweet it!


Back to Weekly Challenges!

It’s December, and that means NaNoWriMo is finally over!  I didn’t do so great this year, but that’s okay.  Lack of inspiration + lack of time meant there was no way I could make it to 50,000 words.  Oh, well, there’s always next year!

And now it’s time to get back to the challenges!  A reminder is in order, for those who are just joining us for these challenges, and a poke for those who have been here awhile:

The weekly challenges are just that–a challenge.  This should not replace your regular practice.  You will NOT master these techniques or ideas in one week; it’s just not enough time.

What these challenges are FOR is to get you in the habit of practicing daily and to stretch your practice.  Yeah, it feels good to do things we are good at, and we need to practice those things to keep them fresh.  But we will never grow as dancers if we only practice what we are good at.  Hence, the weekly challenge!  Stretch your mind, stretch your skills!

Let’s get on with it!

Persistence Pays

Okay, here’s a hard truth: belly dance is hard.  If it isn’t hard, you’re doing it wrong (and I NEVER say that).  True, some people will have a more difficult time of it than others.  Some moves may be easy to you, but next to impossible for someone else.  But there will always be a move or a combo or something that you struggle with.  We all have our “nemesis moves.”  You know, those types of moves/techniques/ideas that we struggle so hard with for so long it’s a wonder we still keep dancing.

But persistence pays off in the long run.

The first time I tried layering, I thought I was just going to have to quit belly dance, because it was a skill I was NEVER going to get.  I thought it was impossible, that only certain people with certain types of bodies could do it (you know, like those extreme contortionists who just naturally have super flexible joints).  But, if you know me, once I get my mind set on learning something, it becomes a challenge, and I can’t say no to a challenge!

So what’s your challenge?

Get a journal (starting a belly dance journal is a good way to chart your progress!) and write down what you currently think of as your “nemesis moves.”  It doesn’t even have to be a move; it could be “smile while on stage” or “learn to express sadness with arms” or anything. List everything and anything you are struggling with right now.  Pick one.

Every day this week–and I mean every single day–practice your choice of nemesis move.  Practice for at least one whole song.  If things are going well, practice longer if you feel it necessary.  But don’t frustrate yourself to the point of wanting to scream or run away.  That’s not helpful.

After you finish, write down what improved today.  If snake arms are your problem, did you manage to rotate the right elbow up high once?  Twice?  If you are practicing your performance, did you manage to smile at all?  Maybe a little nervous smile near the end?

Don’t judge, just write down what happened. Do it again tomorrow.  Hey, did you manage a small smile through the whole song, except at that one part that’s really hard?  Great!  Again, don’t judge, just write it down.

Now, again, this is only one week, so progress is not going to be stellar.  But at the end of the week, look back on your journal.  Did you improve a little?  The amount doesn’t matter–remember, it’s only one week–but did it happen at all?

This type of persistence is NECESSARY for progressing with belly dance.  And charting it may help you feel like you are actually getting somewhere, instead of feeling like you are beating your head against a brick wall (painful and useless).  This might just be the kick in the Melodias you need to finally master that move!

Things to keep in mind for this week:

  • This has to be done EVERY DAY.
  • Don’t judge yourself.  Be nice to yourself.  This is hard work, and even the smallest step forward is still a step forward.
  • Overnight success is generally not possible; this is why this challenge is about persistence.
  • The secret: this challenge isn’t about mastering your nemesis move…it’s about being persistent in your practice and seeing that persistence pays off.

Happy dancing!

Don’t forget to find me on Facebook or on my Facebook pageTwitter, or Tumblr.

Taking the challenge? Let everyone else know!  Tweet it!