Monday! For me, this means another day closer to Tribal Fest! Eek! I’m looking forward to it, but at the same time, I’m a little scared! I can’t wait to perform! But it also means that it’s time for another weekly belly dance challenge!
Layering with Traveling
Yikes, another layering challenge! But not to worry. Layering isn’t just doing the crazy hits with two different parts of the body. It’s also about dancing while moving.
What does that mean? It means just not standing still with the arms out to the sides and busting out some cool hits. Let’s do something more with that!
Beginner: Don’t worry about the fact that layering can be scary. If you can walk and do shoulder shimmies, you are layering. This week, work on doing just that! Take a upper body movement, like shoulder shimmies, and take a walk! The challenge will be to keep the walk looking nice (keep it on beat and don’t stomp) and keeping the shoulders going at the same time. Practice this every day this week for at least one song!
Intermediate: We’re going try hip movements and walking. Hip locks (hip bumps, hips on the up, whatever you happen to call them) are relatively easy to pair with walking (and I mean relatively easy…it won’t be easy easy, so don’t give up or get too frustrated!) Some teachers get their students walking with hip locks early, so if you already know this, great! Turn it into a three-quarter shimmy, but keep them sharp! Practice walking with hip locks for a whole song every day this week. If you got this, layer the locks over dance steps, like a grapevine or a salsa step.
Advanced: It’s great to see a dancer that can do layering bust it out when the song calls for it. But sometimes the locks get sloppy, or it’s boring to watch a dancer suddenly stand still and do a bunch of layering locks (if it’s done too much). We should be moving, at least some of the time. This week, practice dancing while you layer. Do arm movements when you shimmy or do a series of body locks. Do a grapevine with those ummis. Walk with your chest locks. Make a foot pattern while doing mayas or three-quarter shimmies. Do something weird while shimmying. Just make it interesting and keep the layers separate and precise. Don’t let the locks get sloppy just because you are walking! Practice every day this week, and let me know what you come up with!
Once again it’s Monday (can you tell I hate Mondays?) and it’s time for another challenge (which I don’t hate!)
Oh, here it is. The dreaded word of belly dance: layering. Layering classes tend to sell out, but most people leave them frustrated, annoyed, and sometimes, discouraged. Layering is the most impressive and possibly the most difficult aspect of belly dance. And yes, layering is for ALL belly dancers, not just Tribal Fusion dancers.
Layering is not just about moving the hips and chest at different times, with different moves. Layering includes walking and arm movements too, so shimmying with an arm pattern counts as layering. The trick is to make sure your shimmy doesn’t suffer when you move your arms.
The other problem I have seen is that layering doesn’t always look good. In practice, sure, it’s awesome to be able to bust out some crazy layering, some brain/body challenging moves. But does it look good? Or does it look like you are having some sort of fit on stage? Do your hips stay at the same speed or do they speed up when you layer? Do your arms drift inwards?
So let’s work on some layering!
Beginner: If this is the first time you are trying layering, don’t panic! Yes it is hard. Yes it will take you awhile to get good at it. Such is the case with anything worth doing. So let’s start with a basic layer. Pick a hip movement you know well and walk with it. That’s it, just walk. You can walk with mayas, you can walk with hip bumps, you can walk with ummis. It’s all possible. Pick a nice slow speed and, at first, step each time you do the movement, linking both movements to the same speed. If you’ve done this before in class or this is easy, try stepping more slowly. In other words, play with the timing of the two movements. But keep them linked together and to the beat! Practice for one song every day this week.
Intermediate: We’re going to try soft and hard layers! Pick one chest movement and one hip movement, one soft, one hard. For example, hip bumps and chest circles. Or ummis and chest squares. Or a hard shimmy with belly rolls. But here’s the challenge: make them look good. Don’t just plant yourself in one spot and struggle through it. Relax, smile, make it appear as though you do this all the time. And the most important thing: keep your timing. Belly dance is about the drum, the beat, so make sure your hips are on the beat, and that your chest matches it. You can play with the timing of the two movements (one half time, one quarter time, for example), but make sure there IS timing in your movements and you are not just flailing around. Practice for one song every day this week.
Advanced: Your challenge is a bit different. You can probably layer pretty well. But if you are like me, you don’t use it much in actual performance. Why? Because it looks awkward. You are dancing, and then you plant yourself somewhere and then bust out your most awesome layering. For some songs, that might work. But in many it looks like you are just showing off (nothing wrong with that, but if that’s not a part of your piece then it can look out of place). But let’s work to make this more organic. Can you fit a layer into a choreography? Can you layer and move at the same time? Make it look natural, not like you are cramming it into the piece in order to show off what you can do. Give it a try and see what you can come up with!