It’s Monday, so it’s time for another challenge!
Dun-dun-dah! The dreaded word: improvisation. Many dancers hate it. But belly dancers thrive on it. Whether it’s traditional or fusion, improv is the lifeblood of belly dance, so it’s a skill you really must cultivate. ATS®/ITS ladies, this challenge will be a snap for you, but try a solo or two on your own anyway!
Beginner: You have probably never improvised anything before, and the mere thought of it is terrifying. But that’s okay. It’s scary for everyone. I hated improv when I first started, but I made myself do it every single day. Yes, that’s right. Every. Single. Day. And you will too, for at least a week! Here’s how: pick two moves. Just two. Make sure they are ones your teacher has taught you and you know you can do well. Pick a short song–keep it about 2 minutes if possible–and improvise using those two moves. See if you can go smoothly from one move to the other and back again. Don’t try anything else yet, unless the spirit really moves you. Once you feel comfortable with those two moves, try traveling with them, or throw in a turn or two, just so you don’t feel like you are drilling those two moves. There! You have improvised for the first time!
Intermediate: Pick a song you like (and know backwards and forwards) and see what you can do with it. Take a deep breath, know that no one else is watching you (well…maybe the cat…) , and dance. Do make sure your moves are still executed correctly. Don’t throw everything into the dance, including the kitchen sink. Keep it simple and clean. Do 8 counts of one move, then move on to another. The biggest mistake dancers make in improv is trying to do too much in one song. Hold back the mystery for the next song!
Advanced: By this point, hopefully you are comfortable with improvisation. If not, it’s time to get there. Improvisation is important to all forms of belly dance. In traditional belly dance, you may be called to perform to live music, or just one drummer, and you can’t always have an entire show choreographed because the band may not know your songs! Fusion’s dance mother is improvisational tribal style dancing (ITS and ATS®), so you better know at least a little bit of improv! If you haven’t improvised before, try one of the other two challenges this week. If you are a pro at it, challenge yourself. Download (legally, please) a totally new song–one you’ve never ever heard before–and record yourself improvising a dance to it. Did it look good? What needs work? What moves can you pull off at the drop of a hat, or what totally flubbed? Be honest, but be gentle. There’s no need to criticize; you’ve never heard this song before, so you can’t expect it to be perfect. Keep these exercises in mind so that you know what you can do if you ever do find yourself surprised by a live band, or there’s a mix-up with your music, or some other musical catastrophe happens and there’s no way to fix it and the show must go on! Keep to your strengths.