Weekly Challenge for 3-31-14

The last day of March! Let’s hope April feels more like Spring than March did! And it’s Monday, so it’s time for another challenge!

Reach for the Next Level

When we first start belly dance, we stand in awe of the marvelous things that our idols can do. The belly rolls, the sharp isolations, the ease of improvisation…

When we’ve done it awhile, we sometimes get frustrated at our (seeming) lack of progress, the difficulty we have in learning challenging movements or in fine tuning our skills.

And when we’ve been doing it a really long while, we wonder where our next inspiration is going to come from, what we can do to keep improving, and how we can reach even higher and deeper into our dance.

So how do we get to the next “level?” This is a difficult question to answer, because every dancer is different. And there are no set rules for students and their progression from beginner to intermediate to advanced. There is nothing to refer to for us teachers to let us know when a student is “intermediate,” and that can get frustrating for a dancer who thinks he/she is ready to move up.

So what’s the challenge?

Beginner: This is definitely a “get with your teacher” challenge. Take some time to sit down with your teacher and ask them what, in their mind, makes an intermediate dancer. Don’t judge what they are saying, and don’t take it personally when they list a bunch of movements or other techniques that you do not know (yet), and please don’t argue with them! If it’s too intangible (“I just know an intermediate dancer when I see one.”), try to see if you can get them to pin down what that means. Once you have a list, or at least an idea, brainstorm some ideas on how you can get to that next level. Is it that your zill technique isn’t up to snuff? Then this week, focus on practicing your zills. Can you just not nail down turns? Work on those this week.

Don’t get discouraged if the list is long and you feel overwhelmed by how much work you have to do to get into those intermediate classes. This is not a race. It’s a journey, and one we should enjoy every step of the way. Yeah, we all want to progress and feel good about our dancing, but there’s nothing wrong with being a beginner!

Intermediate: Your challenge is similar. Get with your teacher and ask him/her what they are looking for in an advanced dancer. These answers might very well be even more frustrating, because the knowledge advanced dancers need to know, depending on the teacher and style, might not be just techniques to know or choreographies to learn. Being comfortable with improv, knowing the difference between a beledi rhythm and a saiidi rhythm (and being able to play them on zills or drum), or working on expression in dance may be some of the things your teacher may ask you to master before being considered for advanced training. Once you have your list, work this week on improving one of those skills. This may be very challenging, and you should work with your teacher on how to improve those skills.

Advanced: I’m hoping that if you are reading this, you realize that being an advanced dancer does not mean you have nothing left to learn, no more “levels” to earn, as a dancer. This is far, far, far from the truth. You may be a teacher, or part of a troupe (or even directing your own), but that doesn’t mean that your dance couldn’t use some improving. I’ve seen advanced dancers that never learn new skills, never do anything different, and never seem to get any better. Stagnation is not a good place to be as a dancer. Your challenge this week is to go back to class. If you don’t already take classes, pick one, even if it’s a beginner class, and do it. Learning from other teachers, whether it’s what they are teaching or how they are teaching it, is a good way to improve your skills as both a dancer and a teacher. Learn a new prop, like fan veils or sword. Take lessons in Arabic, or ballet, or hip hop. Just start something this week that will improve your knowledge or skills in belly dance (or in dance in general), even if it’s something you would consider “basic” or “beginner.”

Happy dancing!

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Photo credit: xJason.Rogersx via photopin cc

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About Kamrah

Kamrah is a belly dancer in Chicago, IL. They started belly dance as an exercise routine but it turned into a passion for dance that has not lessened, even after more than a decade. They have a powerful presence on the stage, and is particularly known for their amazing shimmies. Kamrah is also known as a very versatile belly dancer, and audiences have come to expect the unexpected from them. Performances can be anything from traditional Egyptian, to tribal fusion, to fantasy cosplay (costume play) pieces.

One response to “Weekly Challenge for 3-31-14”

  1. Rasha Nour Bellydance says :

    Great advice! I am sharing this with my students 🙂
    I always tell my students they should come and talk to me if they are interested in moving up to the next class, and most of them seem to feel happy to approach me about it, which is nice. I find that often the ones who seem the most hesitant about moving up are actually the ones who are most likely to be ready. Maybe a case of ‘the more you know, the more you realise you don’t know’!
    I really appreciate that my own regular teachers have a clearly defined set of levels and a clear process for assessing students (rather demanding levels, too – their ‘intermediate’ is most people’s ‘advanced’). As a fairly analytical person, it helps me feel confident that I am progressing and working on my weaknesses.
    It’s also important for students to remember that labels like ‘advanced’ are not really meaningful in themselves, so it’s not worth getting too attached to them as a measure of your worth as a dancer. A friend told me recently that before moving to my area, she had been an ‘advanced’ student, but found our local ‘intermediate’ class very challenging, for example. And I hear that some teachers will say you are a beginner for your first 10 classes, and intermediate for the next 10, and ‘advanced’ after that – but you’d still be a beginner/improver as far as most other teachers were concerned.

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