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How to Practise Bellydance

I like practising bellydance because it makes me feel good. There's the struggle at first, which feels kind of good in it's own way. Then comes the breakthrough and suddenly I have a new movement that I can play with. And the real fun begins. I have a few different types of practise sessions.

Sometimes I’m working on advanced routines

Sometimes I do simple things like body conditioning.

Other times I don’t dance at all - I may meditate, stretch or explore some aspect of the dance that interests me.

I’ve found that with consistent practise, things that used to be hard eventually become my warm up. So to help you practise more consistently, here is the core idea of how I go about one type of practice.

First I choose something to practise based on how things are going with my dancing. Lately it’s been arms and feet. I noticed I’ve been doing mannequin arms lately and using the same floor patterns over and over. So I want to bring more of my dance vocabulary to memory so I can have more movement pathways to draw from.

Then I pick a playlist from an arabic pop artist. Pop music tends to have a simple structure so you can actually choose to practise something specific without being pulled in all kinds of other creative directions. Also if I just choose one artist even though each song is different, they usually have a consistent style. We are going for ease, so you want music that’s nice enough to inspire but doesn’t make you crazy with creative options.

I like artists like Fadel Shaker, Wael Kfoury, or Ragheb Elama for drilling, because the rhythm usually has a steady pace that’s slow enough to feel the weight changes. The feeling of rolling my pelvis into a full weight shift when dancing is something I find immensely satisfying, possibly because it gives such a feeling of support and presence. With pop music I can also look up the song lyrics which gives me something to muse on emotively as I practise. It’s important not to inadvertently practise the ‘resting beast face’ that can happen when a dancer is really focused.

Ok, back to the practice.

The reason we stick to a handful of moves when performing is because we haven’t practised the others enough to do them well on command. This is something that never changes no matter how long you’ve been dancing – you have to practise each move, each routine, each combination 1,001 times to really get it. Don’t ever think ‘well I’m advanced now so two, three tries, get the general idea and I’m good’. It doesn’t work that way. Practise really does make perfect.

For me, maybe the first 50 tries are about coordination. Then another 30 reps to clean details. By then I start to feel like I have it, but I look like a robot. That last 20 reps is where I start to own it. My muscles relax, my weight settles to where it needs to be, I’m breathing into the movement, I can easily hold my posture just right and I can be expressive and add nuances of feeling and personality without losing the step. My eyes stop rolling up in my head because I’m feeling instead of thinking. Then I try it with different music – faster, slower, change the rhythm. I can fall out of the sequence, do something else and pick it up again. Deconstruct it and change the order of the movements. Use a different music style and change the energy to suit – you know what I mean – take a soft, sensuous combo that was made for a romantic song and make it more defiant to use with shaabi.

How about you? What practise techniques do you find helpful?

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