It’s July! Obviously, last week there was no challenge. I had just returned from Tribal Revolution, and had some other things to deal with, so I didn’t have a chance to get anything down. I hope you had fun with creating your dance character! That challenge was on my mind a lot, because at Tribal Revolution, I took a fantastic workshop with Mira Betz that was all about expressing emotion through our bodies! Perfect timing!
So what’s up with this week’s challenge? Well, after all that drama, let’s shake things up a bit and loosen up!
It’s time for a shimmy drill. This is a true challenge–how long can you keep your shimmy going without losing the timing?
Pick a song (or three or four!), pick a shimmy, and get to it!
- Make sure your shimmy stays even on both hips/legs, no matter what shimmy you have chosen.
- It doesn’t matter what shimmy you practice, but try to pick one you aren’t so good at in order to improve it.
- Maintain posture, even after you get tired. If you only shimmy through one song, spot check your posture every 16 counts or so, or if you use multiple songs, do a posture check in between each.
- Arms – no chicken arms, T-rex arms, whatever you want to call them. If you want more of a challenge, layer arm patterns over your shimmy.
- Only go as fast as you can maintain the beat. Marry your hips to the count!! If the beat changes, change with it!
Lastly, remember to have fun, and give your quads and glutes a good stretch afterwards!
After a long hiatus for NaNoWriMo and the big move to Chicago, the Weekly Challenges have returned! Are you ready to get back to challenging yourself every week?
A refresher: these challenges are designed to be done EVERY DAY. A week is not enough time to master the skills that I am challenging you with, but it does give you a chance to work on things you may not normally drill or practice. It gives you a taste of all the different things in the world of belly dance! It also gets you used to practicing every day. To improve your dance, you MUST practice every day (or at least most days of the week). Going to a workshop once or twice a year does not cut it. Not even once a month is enough. Every. Day.
So here’s the challenge!
Back to basics
What was the first move you learned? Don’t remember? That’s okay, but think back to your earliest days of belly dance. What moves did you practice all the time? Did you have a move that absolutely drove you crazy because you couldn’t do it? And how often do you practice that move now? Not that often? You got it down, right, so no need to practice it now, right?
Your challenge this week is to pick one of the most basic moves you know, either the very first one you learned, or something equally as basic. A hip on the up, or maybe shoulder shimmies. Now practice it.
Wait. This is supposed to be a challenge, right? Doing basic drills isn’t challenging, right? Wrong. Take a look in the mirror and see how that move looks. Has it gotten sloppy? Are you cutting your mayas off halfway? Do you find your mind going, “Yeah, we got this. Next!” Then you haven’t been practicing this move enough! The challenge is to get that basic move back up to scratch and drill it for one song every day. No more sloppy figure 8s. No more lazy shoulder shimmies! Watch your form carefully and make sure you are doing exactly what your instructor told you to do (and here’s something even more basic–check your posture and arms while you drill).
I bet you that you can definitely find room for improvement in any move you can do, even the most basic ones. Even advanced dancers need to practice the absolute basics often. Get back to those basics!
I’ve been posting lately a lot about challenging yourself (see those weekly challenges!) and about failure. It’s important to understand that, as artists, we don’t always succeed. But that does not mean we should just give up.
Why do I take the time to think up and write up all those weekly challenges? Why do I bother? Because I do them, too. Because I try to improve myself all the time. If we do not challenge ourselves, we stagnate, get bored, and then quit. Or we wonder why we haven’t magically become better dancers. You CANNOT grow unless you challenge yourself. Sorry, law of the universe here, can’t be helped. Enlightenment doesn’t just come from sitting under trees. We must go through trials first, then we can be pleased at our growth.
If you find that you are not growing, that you are not as a good a dancer as s0-and-so (and I dislike making those types of comparisons), or that you aren’t where you want to be with your dance, maybe you should challenge yourself more. Don’t be afraid of trying something new, different, or hard. As I said in my previous post on this subject, humans are afraid of failure. Unfortunately, we also want to be masters of everything we do, right NOW. NOW I say…how about YESTERDAY? Now? How about now? No one has any patience anymore, and growth takes patience (ask anyone who has tried to grow a garden…you don’t get pumpkins in three days now do you?) Yeah it sucks to think about how long it might take you to get where you want to be, but the journey is important. Think about how much fun it will be to challenge yourself every day to be a better dancer. Think of the relief and elation that comes when you finally master that move that’s been your nemesis for the past three weeks. Shouldn’t that be delicious?
Again, I’ve had people tell me they don’t want to take belly dance classes because they think it might be too hard. After much reflection, I have to say this, and it won’t be very nice: that’s a really poor attitude to take. You don’t even want to try something because you don’t want to even take the chance you might not be a genius at it the very first time you try it? I apologize for being mean there, but I think a lot of us need a kick in the pants, not sweet words, to shake us up a bit. You cannot master any form of dance–belly dance included–in six weeks. Sorry, it just doesn’t happen. If your current teacher isn’t challenging you, maybe you should ask for more. Or find another teacher. If all you ever practice are the moves you already excel in, why bother? (of course, as a side note, all dancers should practice even basic moves often, but not to the exclusion of all else).
I like this quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. Even though he was talking about something quite different, it still applies: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Here’s another, from Robert Louis Stevenson, “We must accept life for what it actually is–a challenge to our quality without which we should never know of what stuff we are made, or grow to our full stature.”
Rise to the challenge, reach for the stars. Grow, change, evolve. Don’t stagnate, don’t be afraid of failure or of challenges. How can we know what we are made of, if we don’t reach out, fall, get up, and keep going? If it’s worth it to you to be a better dancer, then you have to be willing to pay the price…challenge and growth.
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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!