Archive for January, 2012

Blogger “Dinky” recalls her journey as a belly dance student:

So I am a Belly Dancer

Dinky has been studying now for four years. She’s just begun performing in hafla settings in a student troupe, and she dreams of one day soon making her solo debut!

I liked this article because it reminds me of my students.

Some of you, with just a few classes under your coin belt, are wondering where this will take you.

Some of you, with just a little more experience, are wondering when you’ll make it to the stage.

And some of you are also transitioning from student to semi-professional.

Embrace the journey! 🙂

Thank you, Dinky, for sharing your experiences.


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Although they can never replace live instruction, practicing from home with DVDs can nicely compliment your study of Belly Dance. There are literally hundreds to choose from, so I put together a few of my favorites (Cabaret style) here:


Instructional Bellydance with Jillina, Levels 1 -3

Jillina breaks down moves in a way that’s easy to understand and follow, putting them into combinations and finally a choreography. A good tool for building movement vocabulary, although there is less emphasis on practice and drills. My home study tip: use these DVDs to add more movements to your repertoire, but be sure to apply what you’ve learned to practice. Try to incorporate them while improvising to your favorite music.

Turkish Style Belly Dance with Artemis Mourat

If you’ve never taken a class with Artemis, you should! But if you can’t get down to Washington D.C., then this DVD is probably the next best thing. Artemis is a phenomenal dancer,  instructor, and person. On this DVD she breaks down each move with several explanations that are great for different learning styles. With so few Turkish DVDs available, this is a real gem!

Bellydance Basics and Beyond: Technique for a Solid Foundation

Jenna has put together a fabulous tool in this DVD, from movements to combinations to choreography. Beginners will find a clear introduction to the dance with ‘room to grow’ as their technique improves. More advanced dancers will learn the finesse that comes with mastering movements and transitions. This is my top choice for new dancers, and at over 2.5 hours of content it’s quite the bargain!



Bellydance- The Next Level: Transitions, Turns, and Layers

Another wonderful DVD from Jenna and World Dance New York. If you liked the Bellydance Basics and Beyond, you’ll find the same easy to follow instruction and clear camera work that shows each movement from the front and the back. I especially like this DVD because it covers a subject that is,  unfortunately, ignored too much in many classes: transitions! If you already have solid movement vocabulary, the instruction in this video will teach you how to weave everything together to create beautiful choreography and improvisational work, too.

Preparation, Drills, and Cool-down

This DVD comes from the 2003 winner of the Belly Dancer of the Universe Competition, Azhia. Designed as the “dancer’s companion”, the video leads the viewer through training exercises to increase strength and flexibility. Perhaps most valuable, Azhia demonstrates how familiar movements can be modified an infinite number of ways to add texture and variability to circles, eights, and shimmies. This is great choice for dancers who feel comfortable in their basic technique, but who are ready for an expanded approach to their study.



Flawless Floorwork: The Lost Art of Belly Dance Floorwork

This video is really wonderful in its scope and depth of the topic,  providing much more than a nice breakdown and practice of the movements. There’s also a fitness section to help build the considerable amount of strength and flexibility required for floorwork, and a brief introduction to its history and place in the dance. Anyone who’s done it knows that the most frustrating part of moving around the floor is your costume always being in the way. Well, Ruby addresses that, too!

The Heartbeat of Bellydance: Rhythms and Bellydance Combinations for Drum Solos

This video by Jenna works as a great introduction to dancing to drum solos and live music. Viewers learn several movements and combinations, but also how to dance to the various drum rhythms in an improvisational setting. There’s three choreographies to learn, too, one each for beginner, intermediate, and advanced dancers. The introduction to Middle Eastern rhythms and musicality, an important component of any dancer’s study, is nicely done by Raquy.

Belly Dance with Veil

Sarah Skinner introduces veil turns, wraps, and traveling steps in this comprehensive DVD that also covers topics like selecting the right fabric. A great resource for beginner students, there are a few combinations or variations here that will interest intermediate or advanced dancers, as well. Certainly for all that it includes, this is a great value.

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“Wait… I should have a New Year’s resolution related to belly dance, too?”

If you’ve had trouble sticking to your goals in the past, the idea of setting new ones for 2012 might not be appealing. But taking the time to check in with yourself, figuring out what you want most from your dance practice, and then making it a reality can be a very rewarding experience. Don’t give up on it just yet.

The good news is that although people are often quick to blame their own inadequacies, failure can often be attributed to poorly set goals. In other words, the goal fails you and not the other way around! Crafting a New Year’s resolution that is specific and realistic to your needs is the hardest part, but a plan that is easy to stick to is a worthwhile reward.

Crafting Your Belly Dance Resolution

What Do I Want?

Without opening a can of worms that is too big here, let’s take a moment to examine the difference between internal and external motivations. One of the most commonly made (and broken) New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight. Of course there’s nothing wrong with being fit and healthy, and for many people achieving this goal would require them to shed a few pounds. The issue is that when women say ‘I want to be thin’ what they often really mean is ‘I want to feel attractive’. Ask any woman who’s lost a lot of weight in order to feel more attractive and I’m sure she’ll tell you that it wasn’t enough to get what she wanted. This is often why people fail to lose weight, or fail to keep off what they’ve lost in the long run. So how did these two ideas of being thin and being attractive become connected in our heads? Watch any commercial for a dieting or exercising product on television to find out. Just remember that the resolution that serves you best will be the resolution that serves what you want best.

So ask yourself what you want, and then ask yourself why. Sometimes the ‘why’ is actually closer to what you really want:

“I want to be able to do a back bend like Rachel Brice” Why? “Because I want to feel as fit as I did when I was in my twenties”

“I want more gigs” Why? “Because I want more money”

Essentially what you’ve now done is taken things a step backward to a root desire. Why is it important to do this? For one, sometimes your initial thought on what you want is not really what you really need. Are awesome back bends a fair measure of twenty-something fitness? Definitely not. Maybe regular yoga practice would serve this need better. Other times you may unknowingly trap yourself in just one manifestation of your desires. Does getting more gigs make you more money? My guess is yes, but it’s not the only way. If you want to make more money from dancing professionally, don’t limit yourself to achieving this goal just through more performances. You might be ignoring other possibilities (like teaching or producing a DVD!).

Hopefully now you have a few statements that reflect some of your general desires. What you really want, and not what your husband/teacher/troupe mates/the television wants you to want.

How Do I Get What I Want?

Now it’s time to take the general want/desire you’ve already outlined and brainstorm the ‘how?’. I recommend setting aside some time and space where your thinking won’t be interrupted. While you make your list don’t judge or pre-edit anything that comes to mind, just write it all down. The key idea to focus on would be “How would I measure a success?” or “What would make me feel like I’ve satisfied this need?”

Let’s look at the previous example of “I want to make more money from dancing professionally”. What would make you feel like you’ve accomplished this goal? Is it a certain amount of money that you’re looking for, or do you just want to feel less strain on your budget in general? Maybe you measure success as x number of gigs per week, or x more students per class. Again, write down any measure of success that comes to mind.

Give your thoughts some time to percolate, and revisit your list a few days later. For each measure of success that you’ve listed, ask yourself if it really fits your initial desire or need. Look for any outcome that is not within your control. Try not to cross anything out, and edit what you can instead. If your initial want was ‘to be a better belly dancer’ and one measure of success you came up with was ‘to win a belly dance competition’ change it to ‘enter a belly dance competition’. Winning the competition is not within your control, but you can work up the courage to register and dedicate yourself to preparing for your best performance.

Select a few measures of success from your list to further develop into resolutions. You just need to set a few parameters first…

Setting Some Parameters

Quite simply the best resolutions are realistic, specific, and progress by steps.

Realistic goals can be accomplished with a reasonable amount of effort or change. If you’ve never even touched one before, wanting to perform with a sword on your head at the hafla two weeks from now is not realistic. With things that are new to you, it might be helpful to consult other dancers or a teacher for advice. She might tell you that just being able to balance a sword while walking around the house is more achievable in a two week time frame. Sometimes the best way to set realistic goals is to be process-oriented, not-product oriented. Different people learn and progress at different rates, and some things will always be harder for you than for others. Instead of holding yourself to a certain outcome, why not hold yourself to working towards it instead? Your goal would then be to work on balancing the sword while walking or dancing for at least fifteen minutes every day. This is a reasonable amount of effort and time to spend towards your resolution, without the pressure of trying to meet a deadline.

Specific goals have a clear outcome within a give time frame. “I want to practice more” does not translate well into action. A better choice would be “I want to practice my shimmies two times a week for a half hour”. These kinds of statements are much easier to schedule and maintain in a routine. So if you only practice your shimmies once during the week, you know you have a session to make up. How can you judge how well or not you are sticking to ‘I want to practice more’?

The goals you set can be very intimidating if you don’t break down the steps you need to reach them. Make sure that for every goal you have a good understanding of where to begin. Taking the first step is always the hardest, so start small. Calendars and other planners are helpful in making really large goals happen in a series of smaller tasks. ‘I want to host a show in June’ becomes ‘I want to research a list of potential venues by next Saturday, and to have called all of them for their rates by the following Wednesday’. Make sure you include in your calendar a date to check in with your progress, and to reassess how things are going. A good plan is one that is dynamic, and can support the adjustments you make to it when things change or you become more knowledgeable about the process.

Sticking to Your Goal

So now you’ve created a list of well-crafted resolutions that will hopefully serve you well. How do you stick to your goal? There are a few things that can help:

Gather Support

Can you and your friend learn to play zills together? Will your sister call you to check in and make sure you’re updating your website monthly? Enlisting your friends and family to help you reach your goal is very powerful. Don’t be shy- they want you to succeed and will probably be happy to assist. You can always do the same for them.

Keep a Diary

Write down your thoughts, brag about your successes, whatever keeps you invested in the process. This is a great tool for keeping track of what does and does not work future reference, as well.

Revise and Update

Are things going as planned? Wonderful! Are they not? Well then, why? Was your goal unrealistic? Not specific enough? Did your situation or what you need change? This is not the time to abandon your resolution, it just needs to be updated! All resolutions need revision at some point, make it work for you the way it’s supposed to.

Fun, Free Tools Available Online

StickK let’s you set a resolution enforced by a contract. You choose a goal to achieve by a certain time frame. You have the option of listing some stakes should you fail to meet your goal, a certain amount of money that will be charged to your credit card and donated to the person or organization of your choice. A friend or family member acts as your referee and decides if you’ve met your goal.

HabitForge is based on the principle that it takes 21 days to form any habit. It emails you every day for the length of time you designate, reminding you of your commitment. In the email you receive you select either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ that you completed your goal for the day.

Joe’s Goals is a simple tool that let’s you check off your goals as you complete them each day. Goals can be listed as positive things that earn you points, or negative things that subtract points from a total score of the day. You can track your progress over weeks by your daily scores.

Fill in the Blank Belly Dance Resolutions

I will practice ________ for ________ minutes ________ times per day/week/month.

I will attend ________ classes/workshops/shows  ________ times per week/month/year.

I will perform at shows/gigs ________ times per week/month/year. My first step is ________.

I will perform in my first show by __(date)___ . My first step is ________.

I will create new choreography at least ________ every week/month/year.

I will create my first choreography by __(date)___. My first step is ________.

I will update my website/Facebook/social networking site every week/month.

I will create a website/social networking site for my business by __(date)___. My first step is ________.

I will recruit ________ number of students to my classes by __(date)___. My first step is ________.

I will start teaching belly dance. My first step is ________.

I will open my own studio by __(date)___. My first step is ________.

I will host a show by __(date)___. My first step is ________.

I will join/create a troupe by __(date)___. My first step is ________.

I will enter a belly dance competition. My first step is ________.

I will reduce my costume/prop inventory by ________ percent and sell/trade these things by __(date)___.

I will practice yoga/tai chi/ etc. to supplement my dance training. My first step is ________.

I will get a friend to join me for practice/classes/ shows.

I will try a new style of belly dance. My first step is ________.

What is your belly dance New Year’s resolution? Post it as a comment here!

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