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Weekly Challenge for July 29th

It’s almost August.  As I am typing this, it almost feels like Fall in Chicago.  Really, Summer?  WTH?  Where did you go?

Anyway, it’s Monday again, and it’s time for another challenge!  Are you ready?

Have fun

Wait, what?  Have fun?  Really, in dance class?

Uh, yeah, actually.  Isn’t having fun why we started dancing in the first place?  Isn’t it because we wanted to join a group of women (and men!) to be ourselves, to love our bodies, to learn something new, and to have a little fun while getting in some exercise?

In all the drilling, body aches, injuries, makeup sessions, late nights, and fake eyelashes we forget that this is supposed to be fun!  And it is!  Really!

Even beginners can lose sight of the fun they are supposed to be having in all the frustration of getting their bodies to move in ways that have our muscles going, “Are you kidding me?”  I remember once getting so frustrated I nearly stopped belly dance all together.

So this week, let’s get back to having some FUN in our dancing.  Consider asking your teacher to ease up a little bit in class for this week and do something silly, or play some games (here’s a Bhuz topic if you are lacking ideas).  If you are a teacher, check out the suggestions, or make up your own, and help bring the fun back for your students.  In your own practice, maybe make up games for yourself.  Or dance to a silly song.  This is not wasted time.  Your students will love you, you’ll start to enjoy dancing again, and everyone wins!

Having fun helps us learn better.  It helps us enjoy what we are doing, associating positive emotions with dance.  Why do you think kids play?  Or baby animals?  It hones their instincts, and it’s fun!  As adults, we tend to think of ourselves as too serious for play, for being silly, and this is such a totally wrong attitude to take.  Yeah, if we are professional dancers we must remember to, well…be professional…but that doesn’t mean we still can’t have fun.  Cut loose once in awhile and have fun when you dance, when you practice, when you teach, and when you are in class.

Let me know what you did this week to have some fun!  Tweet it (I’ll retweet it if you mention @kamrahdancer or use #weeklychallenge), post it on Facebook, or leave a comment below!

Weekly Challenge for 9-24-12

Another Monday, another challenge!

We’re getting back to our by-the-level challenges this week.  Don’t worry, the motivational challenges will always continue!  Don’t ever give up on your dancing!


Like our hands, we all have arm problems when it comes to dancing.  Many of us still remember being an awkward teenager when we weren’t quite sure what to do with our arms.  Cross them?  Let them dangle by our sides?  Many of us never really get over this, and it shows up in our dancing.  What do we do with our arms?!

Beginner: You have no doubt seen many dancers with lovely arms and feel you’ll never make it there.  Do not despair!  Even more important than having lovely, flowing arms is to have strong arms that go nowhere.  Why?  Because too many dancers get nervous and their arms and hands never stop moving.  This is distracting to an audience, when what they should be looking at is your hips, not your hands waving nervously around.  Practice strong, “silent” arms and hands first.  If you are practicing a new move, keep those arms up and out.  And KEEP THEM THERE.  No chicken wings, “tandoori chicken arms,” or “T-rex” arms (to name a few nicknames I’ve heard throughout my belly dance career).  As you are trying to master new moves, you’ll tend to forget about your arms and they’ll drift inwards until you look like you’re trying to imitate a plucked chicken.  Not the look we’re going for in belly dance.  So, your challenge is to, when practicing moves, check in with your arms every 8 counts.  Drill for 7 counts, check the arms, and then keep drilling.  If you drill with those arms up, you’ll be able to keep them there when you are actually doing the movement in dance.  Don’t worry right now about how to move them around.  Just get them to sit still!

Intermediate: Now we’ll work on moving those arms around.  If you tend to flip your hands, or wave your arms around while you dance, you may want to go back to the beginner level challenge and work on improving those silent arms.  But if you think your arms look pretty good while you drill and you aren’t in danger of clucking any time soon, go ahead and continue with this challenge.  In dance, of course, we don’t want to just keep our arms out and to the sides while we move.  That’s boring.  Therefore, we tend to frame movements.  Again, belly dance is about the body, not about the hands.  I see too much hand waving (and I’m guilty of it too) and that distracts from the hips and chest, especially with small, delicate movements.  So frame the movement.  Doing a hip drop?  See what lovely things you can do with your arms to frame that hip.  One arm up and one down?  One up and one out?  Both down?  What looks good?  Your challenge is to pick two movements and find ways to frame them with your arms.  Then move between the two, back and forth.  Make sure you don’t get into this problem.  Keep the movements smooth between, and it’s okay if your arms trail behind the hip movements as you transition.  It will look a bit more natural than heaving them quickly into place.

Advanced: While more traditional belly dance tends to frame the movement done with the hips, we, as artists, of course want to be able to do more interesting things with our arms.  Yet, I still see too much arm waving.  Arms should enhance what you are doing, not distract from it.  If you are doing really awesome hip locks, don’t go into a flurry of fleureos over your head.  Your audience will watch your hands, not your hips.  So, do the fleureos by the hip.  Your challenge is to get your arms to work with your dance, not against it.  Find ways to use the arms to enhance your movements and become part of the dance, not a distraction.  And don’t forget that moving your arms in a lovely pattern while, say, doing  mayas, is much lovelier than just mayas with your arms stuck out to the sides.  Your arms can be layered on top of body movements to enhance and bring the entire dance together as a whole.  But also don’t forget that it’s okay, when doing a complicated set of locks, if your arms can just stay still and let the hips speak for themselves.