Are you frustrated with your dance progress? Is your creativity on the down swing? Do you have big goals that never seem to get any closer to reality no matter how much work you put in? Maybe you are like I was. Maybe you are limited by techniques that can only get you so far.
Like most of you, I was hooked on belly dance from the first class. I didn’t know it yet, but there was something unique about belly dance that kept me coming back week after week. Every class we’d do a warm-up, then moves. I got to watch some of the next class of more experienced dancers also learn choreographies. With my second teacher, it was the same thing. We’d do a warm up, then basic movements, and then learn some choreography. In addition, I danced almost every day on my own. It was all very fun, but once I had mastered the basic steps, I felt I was ready to teach because I knew I wasn’t really learning anything new. What a fool I was!
So, I started teaching and went on a self-study track. I went to every workshop within a reasonable driving distance for the next few years and sponsored over 30 events myself. While I learned stylistic nuances, costuming differences, and increased the width of my dance and cultural knowledge, I hit a glass ceiling I could not get beyond because my foundational skills were lacking. When I say, “foundational skills” I am not talking about moves, combinations and choreography. Those are the basic building blocks of dance and of teaching dance, but if that’s all you have, you will always be a beginner. No, you need something more.
Don’t be held back by ignorance like I was
What you need to get ahead is the when, how, and why. Moves and combinations do not make a dance. You definitely need more than that to dance well. With choreography, you do something because the choreographer said so. You might learn a bit about dance from doing things this way, but that technique is very hit and miss. For example, I saw a professional level dancer free styling at a hafla who could barely string two moves together. How could it be that someone who had danced so wonderfully earlier that day was now struggling to keep a beat while transitioning between a few moves? I’d guess that she never learned the when, how and why.
Oh, you might think, “I can choreograph just fine and I never dance without it.” That’s what I used to think. Unfortunately, I didn’t know enough to know that my choreography was crap. I didn’t know the when, how and why, so I just put together some cool moves and was careful to not be too repetitive and called it a day. My students even performed those choreographies in public! ACK!
Yep, when we don’t know what we don’t know, it’s easy to make mistakes like that
You might say, “I am an improvisational artist. Choreography doesn’t interest me.” I am primarily an improvisational artist too, but there is good improv and bad improv. If you know the when, how and why, you will not only be able to be more successful at giving your audience a satisfying performance every time, you will know why you got the results you got and what you can do to improve poor performances an repeat good ones. Success never again has to be random.
If there is no other reason for learning the when, how and why, I’d say that is it. Nothing will help you improve faster than that.
So what is the when, how and why?
When tells you when you do a thing. Sometimes you get an idea or see something somewhere and you just want to use it, but it’s not always a good idea. For instance, how many of us have seen a dancer use a zeffa for a drum solo? Or what about the old random Khaleegi hair toss for no reason? Generally speaking those things are not good choices because they are stylistically wrong, but dancers make choices that are musically wrong and artistically wrong as well. (I am not saying that these are hard and fast rules because a highly skilled dancer can break rules effectively if she understands the when, how and why – just look at famed choreographer Bob Fosse!)
How is not about technique although technique is very important. It’s about the quality of movement that you use in any given time. Haven’t you seen dancers dance with the same intensity all the way through a song? Listen to a song, any song. Music generally doesn’t move at the same pace or same volume from start to finish, not even pop, which is about as structurally simple as it comes. It dives and jumps. It quivers and whispers. It rolls and yells. If your dance isn’t following the structure of the music, it’s not as effective as it could be.
Why is about understanding the reasoning behind the choices. If you have a good understanding of why, you will tend to make sound choices most of the time. When you experiment, you will be able to identify what works and what doesn’t. When you bomb, you will have a good idea of what went wrong and how to fix it. You will also know when to leave something out which can be as important as when to put it in.
The BDT Dancer/Teacher has the holistic edge
Most dancers are drawn to either technique (body) or improv (heart), so they teach primarily technique or improv. This creates students who are well developed in one sphere. A handful of dancers can do both well. Doing both well doesn’t make you slightly better. It exponentially increases your ability. Learning the BDT way adds the head piece which, when combined with application, will catapult you to the stars!
It wasn’t until I got involved in competition that I really started to look at what made one dancer and one routine better than another. Before that I cared, but I didn’t have the same skin in the game as I did when my students were being judged. I found out that it doesn’t have to do with beauty, make-up, costuming, or the fame of the choreographer or teacher. It has to do with the dancer’s knowledge and artistic application of that knowledge. It has to do with when to do a thing, how to do it, and why. The skillful application of those things can make a basic performance bring a tear to your eye. It can mean the difference between the flat delivery of a flawless choreography and a standing ovation. It can mean the difference between getting the same feedback year after year in competition and coming home with a win.
If you want to give yourself the edge, study with me. 😉 If you can’t do that, get Beyond Moves, Combos and Choreographies
The concepts in Beyond Moves, Combos and Choreographies are the glitter that makes the steps shine.
I know it’s a bold claim, but it worked for me and can work for you. I can say this because fourteen of my student won 46 awards between 2002 and 2007 using these techniques. (I stopped teaching weekly classes in 2007). Every single one of them improved tremendously. The best part about it is that it’s not something that relies on you going to class week after week, month after month, year after year. Once you have the knowledge, it’s yours forever to use to reach whatever heights that you desire.
Not sure if this will benefit you?
- Did your instructors teach (or do you teach) using primarily moves, combinations and choreography?
- Do you perform using primarily choreography or improv (meaning you have one strength, but not both)?
- Are you stuck and can’t seem to move forward?
- Do your dances all look and feel the same?
- Do you continue to learn, but feel that you are progressing at a snail’s pace?
- Does what makes dance enjoyable seem to be mysterious and undefinable to you?
- Are your performances hit or miss?
- Do you have a goal that seems impossibly far away?
- Can your classes use more structure?
The more times you said “yes,” the more you can benefit from this book.
Still not convinced? Here is what some Amazon reviewers had to say:
“I purchased this book because I wanted new ideas on teaching concepts — beyond just how to move — in my bellydance classes. What I received was an absolute treasure trove of ideas, games, exercises, things to look out for, new ways to describe concepts, and even coverage of concepts that I had never thought to include in my classes. I am so pleased with this book!” ~A. Niehaus
“I highly recommend this book for bellydance instructors. It would probably also provide some interesting exercises for a dancer working on her own…” ~Annya
“I highly recommend this book… It Raq’s!” ~Corinna
” Seriously, the best book I’ve ever bought for lesson plans. Love it.” ~Marguerite Abaddonais
Would you let $30 and a little effort stand between you and belly dance success? No? Then click here to order now.
* For best results, work with a buddy so that you can do the team exercises and ALWAYS utilize the assessments. Doing the exercises without the assessments significantly reduces the benefit. If you want more help, I am available for mentoring via skype or email to give you feedback on how you are doing.