Tag Archive | belly dancing

Weekly Challenge for 8/13/12

Does it count double that it’s Monday the 13th?  Ugh.  But there’s no time to complain; Monday means another challenge!

Hands

We all have them.  We all have no idea what to do with them.  Hands.  They flip, they sag, they turn into claws.  They get forgotten or we get self-conscious about them.  What the heck to dancers do with their hands?

I have actually been to entire workshops that focus on hands and arms.  It’s that difficult…and yet it seems so stupid.  Our hands are probably one of the more important body parts in our daily lives.  They help us do just about everything we do–make phone calls, type, cook…  But they are the LAST thing we think about when we dance, and that’s just not good.

Humans are pre-programmed to watch hands.  Why do you think we gesticulate so much?  Why do you think politicians actually get trained on what to do with their hands while they make speeches?  We watch hands.  And if you flip-flop your hands like dervishes while you dance, no one will notice what lovely hip movements you are doing.

Let’s get those hands under control!

This week’s challenge is another all-level one, and this applies just as much to beginners as it does to professionals.  You gotta watch those hands.

Video yourself dancing to whatever it is you are working on right now.  Whether it’s a simple class combo to a full choreography, record it.  Now watch the recording.  What are your hands doing?  Are they limp rags?  Do they flip and flop all over the place?  Do they look too stiff?

Belly dance is lucky in that there is no “right way” to position our hands.  We can go ballet with it, or we can be a little more relaxed about it.  But one thing is true: they have to look nice.  There should be energy in the fingers, but they shouldn’t be stiff.  They should move smoothly, but not too much or they distract.  If you’re not sure how your hands should look, ask your teacher.

Now, get to work on improving those hands this week.  Be aware of them when you dance.  If you know your combo/choreo/whatever really well, then concentrate on your hands instead of what the rest of you is doing.  Keep your video in mind.  Practice, practice, practice.  Keep those hands still, and make sure they look nice.  Pause once and awhile in your dance and check in.  What do your hands look like?  How do they feel?  Reset them, and notice how they feel now.  The more you practice with your hands in the right position, the more likely you are to go back to that when you are thinking hard about the rest of your body.

Here’s something I did, though I don’t necessarily recommend it.  My hands were so bad that I taped them in place with black electrical tape.  Yep, tape.  I wrapped a bunch around my wrist, and then around my hand, criss-crossing over the palm.  Whenever I bent my hand, the tape pulled on my skin and I was able to notice just how much my hands moved.  It really helped improve, but it is a little extreme.

Let’s all dance with pretty hands!

Happy dancing!

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What Are You Afraid Of?

Failure?  Looking silly?  Too fat?  Too skinny? Not pretty enough?  Not skilled enough?  Performing?

What am I talking about?

These are all reasons people have NOT taken my or other teachers’ belly dancing classes.  I’ve heard it all.  I’ve been told that people are scared to take my classes because they know they will never be able to do what I can do.  Seriously?

How can you know until you try?

Let me tell you a story:

There once was a lady who was a bit overweight.  She had asthma (or an equivalent that caused similar problems), she hated exercise, and had no self-esteem.  One day, a friend suggested getting some exercise videos instead of moaning over yet another missed day at the gym.  This lady found three belly dance videos on sale and, on a silly whim, decided to buy them and try them out.   She had heard of belly dance, but had never actually seen a performance before, so didn’t know what to expect.  Would it be hard?  Would it be silly?  But try them she did, and she found that belly dance was actually a lot of fun.  It was hard, sure, but there was a deliciousness in the challenge of trying to make her hip move this way instead of that way.  Ever so slowly, the lady’s body began to change.  Awhile later, bored with the videos and not sure where to go for more, the lady decided to see if there was a teacher in the area.  Surely, in a town this size, there would be a teacher, right?  Lo and behold, there was.  Scared, unsure what to expect, and feeling extremely self-conscious, the lady went to her first class.  She stood in the back, away from the other dancers who seemed skinny and flexible to her.  But surprisingly, the teacher was no yoga-hard-body, and the class was fun.  However, the lady still felt self-conscious, and would not bare her belly for the class.  But she resisted the natural urge to wear T-shirts as large as tents and picked up a few work-out tops that were more form-fitting.  She went to class after class, and soon, rolled up her shirt and bared that belly to the world for the very first time.  It was scary.  But she did it anyway.  To her surprise, the teacher asked her to move into the intermediate class, and before she knew it, she was in the performance class.  A new world of costumes, makeup, and performance lay ahead of the lady.  It still was scary, but she enjoyed it.  Sure, being part of a troupe was hard, but it was fun.  The other ladies in the troupe became her friends, and they had fun together.  Soon, it was time to strike out on her own.  Now the quiet, overweight, scared lady became a professional belly dancer.

And now I’ve said it…that lady was me.

I NEVER in a million years thought I would want to perform in front of other people.  I NEVER thought I would get good enough in belly dancing to perform it in front of others.  But you know what: I did.

I told you my story not for self-aggrandizement, but to help others realize that it’s OKAY to not be skilled in belly dance.  It’s OKAY to be overweight in belly dance.  It’s OKAY to not want to perform.  These things should NEVER stop you from starting a class, or trying a new teacher, or rolling up that shirt.  I started out as a newbie just like everybody else.  Here’s a secret: Rachel Brice was a newbie sometime in her life, too.  So was Jillina.  So was every single person that pops up on YouTube when you search “belly dance.”  You gotta start somewhere!

And if you DO want to perform, how can you expect to get better if you are too scared to even go to class?

Humans, on the whole, are afraid of failure.  Mix in our society’s pathological fear of failure with the ease in which failures and mistakes can make it out to the entire world through the Internet, and you get people who are terrified of trying anything new.  It doesn’t matter that you might never want to perform.  If you want to learn belly dance, don’t let ANYTHING stop you.  Go to class and have some fun.  Think of the difficulties you have in learning it as fun challenges instead.  If you want to perform, don’t let ANYTHING stop you.  Go to class, and improve yourself.

Don’t EVER be afraid of failure.   Failure is a part of life.  Yeah, it sucks, but you pick yourself up and move on.  How can you grow if you never make the move towards change in the first place?  Not good at hip circles?  Don’t just moan about how bad you are at them; put yourself in front of a mirror and work on it.  Or take a class with a teacher you respect.  Never done belly dance?  Try a class (many teachers have drop-in deals or free trial classes) and see how much fun it can be to challenge yourself.  And don’t be afraid of failing.  Don’t be afraid of not being perfect.  I sucked at belly dance when I first started, just like everyone else.  Getting good at something takes a brave heart, a strong mind, and a will to improve yourself…and we can all have those if we just put away the fears we have inside.  NEVER let fear stop you from doing what you want.

Now go out there and take a class!

Another Weekly Challenge!

This week’s challenge is another all-level challenge, but it’s an important one.

Working on weaknesses

None of us are perfect dancers.  None of us ever will be perfect dancers (sorry to burst everyone’s bubble there…).  And you know what, that’s OKAY!!  Being perfect is a burden that too many of us attempt to carry and fail, and so we think of ourselves as failures and losers because we can’t hold up the unattainable.  However, we don’t always need to stagger under all that weight.  Of course, this doesn’t mean we should just all give up reaching for perfection because it is a goal none of us will ever attain.  We can still strive for it, push ourselves, and reach the next level closer.  This post, and another post I am working on, will cover some important issues about striving for improvement.

Dancers can be really hard on themselves, and I’m not immune.  We watch our videos in horror, commenting on how awful that arm was, or “what was I thinking with that costume?” or “Geez, do I really have that many chins when I do a back bend?”  We are all our own worst critics.  None of this is very helpful, however, in improving our dance.  Criticism rarely works.  On the other hand, I’ve also heard of  many dancers who never take classes or workshops, never video themselves, never analyze how well they are doing, and somehow still expect to morph into professional dancers.  This isn’t helpful, either.  You still need to work on improving yourself as a dancer.

So what’s the challenge?

Get a piece of paper and draw a line down the center of it.  In the left column, write, “Things I need to work on” and in the right column, write, “Things I know I’m good at.”  Now we are going to take a compassionate, but serious, look at ourselves and our dancing.  Pick a song you absolutely love to dance to–whatever that may be–and video yourself.  It doesn’t have to be professional, you don’t have to dance in front of your husband or friends, you don’t even have to do any special choreography for this.  Just set the camera up on a shelf and dance in front of it.  Dance the way you would dance if you were in a show, though (you could even put on a hip scarf and some lipstick if that helps), to make sure you dance your best.

Now, sit down with the video and your piece of paper.  Repeat this out loud: “I am going to be compassionate and helpful to my dancer-self.”  This may seem silly, but saying it out loud may just help you fully realize that.  Now watch your video.  For everything you list as “something you need to work on,” write something in the “good at” column.  I try to relate my two columns together.

Here’s an example:

Things I need to work on                         Things I know I’m good at

arms aren’t soft; too rigid                                  hands look nice

figure 8s get lost in the middle                         figure 8s great on right side

Toes aren’t pointed                                            good footwork

You may feel a little bummed about the left column, but that’s why we have the right column.  It’s now a law: every time you read the left column, you MUST read the right column.  Sure, you may have a lot to work on, but look at how much you do right!  And keep this in mind: DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHER DANCERS.  Only look at yourself, and how YOU do.  And another thing: if you have nothing in the left column, you may need to reexamine how you view yourself as a dancer.  If you have nothing in the right column, you need to be more compassionate with yourself.

Here’s the challenge: pick ONE…just ONE…of the left column “problem areas” and work on it this week.  Again, be compassionate.  Whenever you feel down about how hard it is to keep your arms soft, just remember that your hands look great.  Now take a deep breath and work on those arms!  Keep this list handy; we’ll be using it again soon!

Happy dancing!

Weekly Challenge for June 4, 2012

Geez, can you believe it’s June already!?

And it’s Monday, so that means it’s time for another weekly belly dancing challenge.  Except…this week isn’t going to be about belly dance…

Cross training

Occasionally, I will have challenges that go across all levels, and this week is one of them.  Cross training  is training in an activity that is NOT what you normally train in.  So a soccer athlete might try skiing for a season.  Cross training helps prevent repetitive strain injuries by using different sets of muscles than the original activity while still keeping the body moving and training.  Many athletes will cross train in an activity that complements their original activity in order to build strength and/or flexibility that will help with both activities.

Beginners probably don’t (yet) have to worry about repetitive strain on their belly dancing muscles because they haven’t been working them as much (yet).  However, cross training can be a benefit to all dancers, of all levels.  So how can belly dancers cross train?  Oh, there are lots of complimentary activities.  Other dance forms, for starters.  Ballet is a good one, not only because it works the muscles in different ways, but it is also becoming nearly mandatory for advanced dancers to learn.  Hip hop might be a good choice for fusion dancers.  Many, many, many dancers choose something that isn’t dance, like yoga or pilates, to increase their core strength and their flexibility.  These are just suggestions; there are lots of different activities to choose from out there.  But I will give this advice: make it something fun, and something you can stick to, or else it will do you no good.

Your challenge is to try cross training this week.  Just don’t kill yourself by throwing everything into some new activity.  Meet with a doctor or a fitness expert first, and see what they recommend, especially if you already have an injury.  Lay off belly dancing (mostly) for this week and give something else a try.  Then see how your body feels once you come back to belly dance.  Of course, one week isn’t enough to really get the most benefit from cross training, but it’s a great place to start.  Again, these challenges are a way to incorporate things into your dance that you might not normally try, not necessarily a suggestion on how you should train.  Give it a try and see how you like it!

Happy dancing (er…or whatever it is you’ll be doing!!)

Weekly Challenge for 5/28/12

Last week’s challenge had to do with one belly dance “prop,” zills.  This week’s challenge is also going to deal with another prop!

Veil

First of all, let me say this: too many dancers become prop queens.  They know how to use every prop in the book (and then some), but can’t ever seem to actually dance.  So, what I am NOT suggesting here is to learn props in order to “prop up” your dance.  Some props are just expected to be in the repertoire of a professional dancer, so there is almost no getting around learning some of them.  But still DANCE, just with the prop.

Beginner: Veil is not always the easiest prop for a beginner to learn.  But, there are still lovely things you can do with a veil without having to seemingly have 4 arms and no bones in them.  In a lot of traditional dance, the veil is only used as the “lovely piece of fabric” that is dropped about 30 seconds into the song.  Try this first.  Learn how to hold a veil (ask your teacher or find a video…there’s lots) and then just practice walking with it trailing behind you (arms up or down, both can be pretty), do a swish, and then drop it.  Then continue dancing to your song.  Get used to holding the veil, what the weight is, how it feels.  Every veil is different, whether it’s silk or chiffon, light or heavy, rectangular or half-circle.  All you are doing this week is getting used to idea of having a piece of fabric in your hands, and what you can do with it.

Intermediate:  Find a good veil video and start learning the “moves.”  There are tons of videos on the Internet and on DVD, so I’m not going to go over all the moves here.  But this is your chance to learn them and get good at them.  Right now, you aren’t yet “dancing” with the veil; you are merely getting the movements into your muscle memory.  This is an important step; without it, you cannot dance WITH the veil.  But, pick one veil move, and start thinking about what you can do with the veil while dancing.  Can you do a turn with the veil move?  Can you do an arabesque?  It might not work, or it might look weird, but try it out. Your challenge is two-fold: learn the “moves” and start figuring out what you can do to dance with just one of those moves.

Advanced: Admittedly, I did not start learning any prop until this level.  I’ve had to work extra hard to bring my prop skills up to par, so if you can start learning before this point, you should.  By this level, you should pretty much know the “moves” for veil and be comfortable with them.  But instead of dancing…and then doing a veil move…and then dancing…and then doing a veil move (or worse yet, standing in one place while only moving the veil around), try incorporating the veil with the dance.  Try an arabesque with a veil toss (either clap your hands together overhead or toss one side of the veil over your shoulder).  Try “doing the laundry” (a Delilah move) while turning.  Here’s a video for inspiration (yes, she’s actually using voi, but the same method applies).  Notice that there are some moves where she does stop dancing in order to do the lovely veil move, but it fits with the piece.  And then she dances with the veil, while also doing “moves.”  Your challenge is to learn to use the veil as a dance partner, not as a prop.

Also try out different veil types.  I hated veil until I bought my first silk one, because the chiffon was just too heavy for me to heave around and look graceful.  Others may hate silk because it’s too floaty and gets everywhere and would much prefer the control of chiffon.  Another important note: many veils have sequins or beading around the edges.  These are not suitable for anything other than “lovely pieces of fabric.”  Sequins and beads hurt when they hit you in the face.

Happy dancing!

More Thoughts on Fusion

Tribal Fest 2012 is now over, and the videos are rolling in.  So, apparently, are the negative comments.  I’ve tried to keep myself out of it as much as possible, because 1) I don’t have the time, and 2) it’s infuriating and I don’t need my head to explode.

Why is there such a problem with tribal fusion belly dance?  Why do so many dancers either hate it or love it?

I’ve blogged about this before and seen some snarky comments about “oh, I’m an *artist* so I can do what I want” blah, blah, blah.  This is a really negative and childish attitude to take, and doesn’t help the already not-so-great image of belly dance.  Yes, ALL dancers are artists, and we can do whatever we want, within reason.  If I want to “I’ll wrap my small intestines ’round my neck/And set fire to myself on stage” because I “perform this way.*”  Dance is an art, and art is about creativity.  We aren’t going to stop dancing just because a few people can’t expand their horizons and appreciate the art, skill, and talent that goes into tribal fusion, even if they don’t particularly care for it.

I’m not going to retread my entire previous blog post, because you can just go read that.  But I will say this, and put it in bullets to make it clearer:

  • Belly Dance is already a fusion art.  Even “traditional” dance has movements from different cultures and art forms.  Modern belly dance wasn’t conceived of, fully formed, in a vacuum.  If you don’t believe me, watch this video and then ask yourself if this is how YOU belly dance (and gee…that certainly looks like an ommi to me…)  For comparison, here is a modern Egyptian belly dancer. Don’t much look the same, do they?
  • “Art isn’t safe” (a quote I heard from Rob Zombie).  If it makes you angry, I’ve done my job.  Art–including dancing–speaks to our emotions, and it doesn’t always have to be the happy, safe, glittery kind of emotions.  I’ve seen belly dance so beautiful, I’ve cried.  I’ve seen belly dance so powerful I was riveted to my seat and wouldn’t have noticed if I had started drooling.  Fusion dancers: when some narrow-minded person tells you that what you are doing isn’t belly dance, just keep the thought, “They felt something, so I did my job,” in mind.  At least they are watching your videos and commenting on them.
  • If you don’t like it, DON’T WATCH IT.  And don’t be a jerk and make negative comments.  It devalues all of us.  At least respect the skill and the time that went into learning and perfecting the movements, picking out the music, doing the choreography (yes, fusion dancers often choreograph), rehearsing, pulling together the costuming, putting on the makeup, getting over the stage fright, and opening our hearts and souls to the audience.  For many of us (introverts), sharing our art is giving you a peek into our souls.  Don’t devalue that by commenting, “That isn’t belly dance!  I hate fusion.”

I’m going to go take some deep breaths now to calm down.  In the meantime, don’t forget to go read my full blog on this subject.

*Lyrics from Weird Al’s “Perform This Way”

Weekly Challenge for 5/21/12

Happy Monday dancers!  You know what that means…another belly dancing challenge for the week!

A reminder that the challenges are meant to be tried EVERY DAY.  How can you challenge yourself if you don’t try this out at least once daily!  Of course, many things you will not master in one week, and that’s not the point.  The point of the challenges is to get you out of your comfort zone and get used to expanding your abilities.  So…onwards with this week’s challenge!

Zills!

Those of you who followed my previous blog will be familiar with this, but that’s okay.  You need to do it again!

Beginner: Zills are intimidating.  But beginner level is the perfect time to start with them.  There are lots of zill videos on YouTube and elsewhere online.  Pick the easiest pattern, which will be “3s” and try it out.  Get used to playing them, but don’t just stand around and play them.  If dancing and zilling is too scary, try just walking and zilling.  Everyone knows how to walk, so this shouldn’t be a problem!  Just make sure to walk on beat and get used to playing the 3 pattern with your fingers.  You’ll strengthen your hands and fingers as well as get used to playing them while moving.  Make sure to warm up your hands and forearms before playing and stretch them afterwards in order to build your muscles up.

Intermediate:  Here’s where it gets challenging!  You need to DANCE while zilling, so pick a good, long song (might I suggest 10 minute heavyweight Gana Al Hawa from the On Fire! CD) and dance while zilling.  It doesn’t have to be all the fancy patterns you might know, just the basics: 3s, galloping (also known as 3-3-7), and beledi.  If these are the only patterns you know, that’s good, because these are the zill workhorses and will usually be appropriate for any performance.  Just make sure your dancing doesn’t suffer while you are concentrating on the zill patterns.  Pick easy steps, ones you know really well, and dance to those while practicing your zills.

Advanced: Zilling skills might just be a requirement at this level!  If you haven’t learned to zill by now, you really should learn (yes, even fusion dancers might need to know a little something about zills…you never know!)  Practice zilling with the beat of the music, no matter what beat that might be.  You may need to branch out and learn the lesser known/used patterns like masmoudi, saiidi, ayuub, and chiftitelli (this is not an exhaustive list, by any means).  These patterns will not always be used in whatever piece you are dancing to, so make sure they fit the music before attempting in performance.  When practicing, make sure you DANCE while zilling, even if it’s easy steps at first.  But make sure you can do any movement in your repertoire with all of these rhythms.

Good luck…and happy zilling!

Weekly Challenge for 5/7/12!

I hope you have enjoyed your first weekly challenge with the new Kamrah page!  Here’s your next one:

Assessing your dance

So…let’s be honest with ourselves today and this whole week (you really should be honest with yourself always, but let’s just try it for a week, shall we?).  Being honest with yourself is difficult.  Especially when we love something so much, we want to think that we are the absolute best at it, because NO ONE can be more passionate about it, right?  That’s not always the case, unfortunately.  I have seen a lot of dancers get moved ahead into advanced level classes they are not ready to take on.  I’ve seen dancers start teaching after only a few classes or, worse yet, after buying every DVD they can get their hands on.  I’ve seen excellent dancers cringe when they see themselves on video, criticizing every perceived flaw.  This isn’t healthy.  In order to grow in our dance, we need to assess where we are now, and whether we are truly meeting our goals and dancing to our true level, or if we are pulling the wool over our own eyes just to imagine ourselves at the point where we think we should be.  Being honest is hard, but it doesn’t have to be cruel.  Be honest, but be fair and kind to yourself.

What I am NOT going to do is have you compare yourself to other dancers and figure out whether you are better than they are or not.  That’s not a healthy attitude, either.  We should only challenge ourselves, not criticize ourselves, and comparing ourselves to other dancers, to me, is criticism.

Beginner: Your challenge is to determine if you are meeting the goals you and your teacher have set out for yourself.  Take a good long look in the mirror–make an assessment–while you practice.  Does your posture start to wilt half way through a drill?  Do your arms drift down into T-Rex territory?  Do you really have that hip drop down, or are you still bouncing?  Be honest.  Yes, we want to look at ourselves and go, “What!?  I’m doing this right!  I’ve got it and don’t need to do YET ANOTHER drill!!”  Well, do you really have it down?  Are you doing exactly what your teacher has asked?  Take a look in the mirror again, and be honest.  But that doesn’t mean critical!!  If you are still bouncing in your hip drops, don’t scold yourself and despair of ever getting it right!  Instead, ask your teacher what needs to change.  Or try doing it a slightly different way.  Do you get it at first, get tired (or bored), and then get sloppy?  How did your body feel when you were doing it right?  Try to reproduce that every time.  Keep yourself motivated to have perfect technique each and every time you do a movement.  You may not get it at first, but if you strive for it, you will get there.

Intermediate:  Intermediate can be dangerous territory.  We have a lot of the movements down, and now we are ready to refine them, make them look great, and show them to others.  But…that might not mean you are ready to teach others.  Be honest.  Do you know the mechanics of the movement?  Do you know what muscle groups are being used in order to perform the movement safely?  Check yourself in the mirror and see if you maintain posture during your entire drill or choreography.  Do you get tired half-way through and then get sloppy?  Your challenge is to delve deeper into your movements.  Pick a movement, and find out (from your teacher) what muscles you are supposed to be working (if they haven’t told you from the very beginning), and make sure those are the ones you are using.  Of course, always make sure your posture stays perfect through all of your movements, even six sweaty minutes into a shimmy drill.  Work on refining your technique so that you perform it 100% each and every time.  Remember: the way you practice is the way you perform.

Advanced: Your challenge is going to be the hardest.  By this point, you should know what you need to work on.  At this level, we all know what we are weak in, what we are strong in, and what just needs a kick in the pants.  Advanced dancers tend to stick to what we are good at, and drill that, because it’s easy and we know we can do it.  This is not the right attitude to take.  And if you do not think you have something to work on in your dance, you need to work on being more honest with yourself.  Again, don’t compare yourself to other dancers at your level, but take a good long look in the mirror and see what needs to be improved.  If you are honest, you will find something.  Is your face frozen while you dance because you are concentrating on getting 13 different movements into 8 counts?  Do you let your shimmies get sloppy because no one is actually going to count hips at this speed, right?  Right?  Being a great dancer is knowing what you need to work on, and WORKING ON IT.  No excuses.  I suck at certain types of layering, and I know that.  So what do I do?  It’s the first thing I work on when I practice.  Assessing your dance is how we improve.  The flip side of this, of course, is not being too critical.  Because we are advanced, we know what we are supposed to look like when we dance, and so therefore we know when we don’t look like that.  And when we watch ourselves, we often get horrified because one hand was too twitchy, or for some reason the floor seemed much more interesting than the audience for half the dance, or we messed up the choreography.  Don’t let this get to you!  Learn from it, then practice keeping your hands still, or keeping your chin up, or drilling the choreo a few more times before performing it again.  Mistakes and things-to-work-on should not eat you alive and keep you from enjoying your dance.  Your challenge: work on what you suck at, which of course means you need to be honest with yourself and find what it is that you need to work on.

This is a tough challenge, but we can only grow if we challenge ourselves.  This is what the weekly challenge is all about, and assessing your dance is how you know what level you are on, what level you can strive for, and what needs to be done to get there.  Happy dancing!

The Return of the Weekly Challenge!

If you kept up with my webpage in its previous incarnation, you may know that I used to do weekly belly dance challenges!  They kind of fell by the wayside when I got into the webpage redesign.  So, now that the new design is set and I’ve managed to catch up with everything else, let’s get back to the challenges!!

Here’s how it works: every week, I’ll throw down a challenge for three levels of belly dancers (beginner, intermediate, and advanced).  Your challenge is to try it EVERY DAY.  Yes, every day.  Of course this does not mean that by the end of the week you’ll have mastered whatever move, idea, etc. that I throw at you.  But it puts you into the habit of not only practicing every day, but challenging yourself every day.  You can’t get better if you only practice the moves you already do well.

Feel free to comment on your progress, moan about the challenge, or ask for helpful advice!

So here’s this week’s Belly Dancing Challenge:

Put a shimmy on it!

Beginner: You may not have mastered a shimmy yet, and that’s okay.  This week, try to master one form of hip shimmy.  It doesn’t matter which one, just pick a shimmy you have been taught in class and DO IT.  No excuses!

Tips:

  • Pick a fun song and shimmy for the entire duration
  • Make sure your weight stays even on both feet (for now)
  • Keep a slower speed so that you can not only keep it up for an entire song but also that you don’t lose the timing.  Remember, a fast shimmy isn’t always the best shimmy.
  • Keep the shimmy timed to the music.  Your hips should be moving to the beat of the music, not just randomly twitching.
  • And, the most important tip for loose and relaxed shimmies: LOOSE GLUTES.

Intermediate: Can you walk and shimmy at the same time?  Try either a 3/4 shimmy or a 4/4 shimmy (whichever is HARDER for you right now) and walk with it.

Tips:

  • Make sure your steps are on the beat, either full time or half time, depending on how fast your music is and how much space you have.
  • Time your shimmies to your steps, it will make it easier.
  • LOOSE GLUTES.
  • Keep a slower speed so that you don’t lose the timing.  Remember, a fast shimmy isn’t always the best shimmy.  You can always speed it up later, once you are used to the movements.
  • Make sure your posture stays intact, and SMILE.  Remember your face needs practice just as much as your body.  Practice with a frown or with your tongue sticking out, and you might just do that on stage!!

Advanced: We’re really going to walk, talk, and chew bubble gum at the same time!  Pick a shimmy, pick a song,  pick a movement, and then WALK with it.  For instance, you can walk with a hip figure 8, adding a shimmy as you go.  Or, you can walk, shimmy, and do chest circles.  But make sure it looks good.  Some combinations may not work well, so check yourself in a mirror before practicing too much.

Tips:

  • Make sure everything is on time.  It won’t work if you are stepping at off times while concentrating on your movements.  Your walking steps should be on time, your shimmies should work with the music, and your movement should make sense.
  • Make sure your walk looks nice.  Don’t just wave a foot around until the beat.
  • Play around with timing if you can, but still maintain the beat.

Happy dancing, and good luck!