Are you ready for another challenge? Remember, these challenges are for one week, to be done every day. Now, this doesn’t mean that you will master these after only one week. These challenges are meant to, well, challenge you, make you think, make you get into the habit of practicing every day, and to help improve your dance.
The Other Side
No, not that Other Side…your other side. We all have them…the weak side that we forget to practice, or don’t practice at all. ATS® ladies will especially be challenged in this one, because you’re gonna have to do everything on your LEFT. It’s important for your body to be balanced and strong on both sides, or you risk repetitive stress injuries. Give your right side a break and use your left!
Beginner: Ummis (or interior hip circles)…we all have a direction that sucks. Everyone is different, so some may find that counter-clockwise is awful, others will be challenged by clockwise. Whatever your weak direction is, try it. Keep an eye on your direction! It will happen: you think you’re doing fine going your weak way and then suddenly find how easy it is! Wow, that was simple!…and then you realize that you had switched back to your “good” direction. Dang. Keep at it! If your teacher hasn’t taught you ummis yet, not to worry. Either ask for it or switch to hip drops. Most of us only do hip drops using the right leg. Try your left. When you are practicing this, don’t actually neglect your good side/direction. Just focus on your weak side. ATS® ladies, you should practice these ummis, too! If that doesn’t appeal, try Arabic leading with your left foot, facing the other diagonal.
Intermediate: Turns. We all have a direction that we do naturally, and the other way we risk falling over. Find out which one that is, and practice your “bad” way. You’ll need lots of space, so be careful! No injuries from falling over, okay? Just make sure your posture is good when you do your turns; it makes a huge difference in your balance. Make sure that your arms also match your “good” direction. Some of us (me included) tend to do strange things with the arms when we turn the “weak” way because we’re more focused on not falling over than what our arms are doing. Pick a turn that you like and practice! For you Tribal ladies, try any turn that interests you, but I highly suggest paddle turns or barrel turns.
Advanced: Remember that sword you used last week? Heh, heh…you’re not done with it. While it seems silly to hold your sword in the left hand, you do still want to practice. You never know when you might need to use your left instead of your right. What if your sword spins around on your head? Do you awkwardly try to grab it with the right, or gracefully reach up with the left to take it off and do some other move with it (…the sword was supposed to do that, really!). Practice all your sword (hey, even your cane) movements with the left hand! It will be weird, but this is a great way to keep your left arm strong and make yourself more flexible with using your prop. This will also prepare you for double sword and double cane work! Tribal ladies can do the same!
It’s Monday, so it’s time for another challenge! Are you ready?
Whoa…so, like, swords and stuff right? Yep. But don’t worry…there’s a reason!
Beginner: Most teachers would (rightfully) balk at putting a sword or a candle tray on a beginner’s head. This is not the sort of skill a beginner needs to worry about. HOWEVER, in my experience, balancing helped me with my isolations more than anything else, including hours and hours of drilling. Why? Because balancing something on your head forces you to keep good posture as well as keep your movements crisp and isolated. If you are having trouble isolating those hips on the down, slapping a sword on your head certainly makes you think about how much you sway from side to side. So, while this challenge is about balancing, it’s also about isolations. Wow…two birds with one stone! My kind of practice! Now, your challenge is to pick one movement, just one, and practice it with something on your head. If you don’t have a sword or a tray, that’s okay. Try a book. It only needs to be something with a little bit of weight so that it sticks to your head a little bit better. Practice every day for one whole song.
Intermediate: We’re going to layer and balance! Scary! Remember that the object you are balancing is meant more to force your posture and improve your isolations than to be the focus of the exercise. So if you have a sword, great, but a book works too. Pick a move you are having trouble with, get that book on your head, and then walk with it. You can do it! If your move is hips on the down, you can certainly walk and balance at the same time. Keep those isolations crisp. If you aren’t, it will be obvious (your book will end up on the floor more than on your head!)
Advanced: If you’ve never balanced anything before, go back and try the intermediate exercise. Make sure that all your isolations can stand up to a sword on your head. There is NO EXCUSE for not being able to do just about any move in your repertoire with a sword on your head. Turns (except the really fast ones), isolations, drops, floor work, even traveling steps and back bends all work with swords. If your posture is good, and you have good isolations, you should be able to do it. The movement may have to be slower, but 95% of what you can do can be done with swords (the only moves I can think of that do not work are hair flips and other moves where the head is involved as the primary movement or where the head must change position). Your challenge is to try those movements, like back bends and turns, where you are most likely to drop your sword. Make sure you keep the movements crisp and isolated.
A word of caution: if you are working with a sword, give yourself a break once and awhile, especially if you have a heavy sword. The extra weight can be hard on your neck. Also be careful with the sword because of its weight. It can really hurt if you drop it on yourself, a kid, or your cat. If you are scared, practice on your bed until you feel more confident.
And…hey, did you know that I am now offering a sword workshop? If you are interested in hosting this workshop, drop me a line. This workshop is not for the faint of heart! Learn more than just balancing that sword; learn how to dance with your sword as a partner, with new and interesting moves. Learn two exciting combos to integrate these fiery new movements into your dance!