Wednesday, 7 May 2014

The end of an era... and the start of a great summer of bellydance in Glastonbury

OK, so it's only a very short era, but last night was the last night of my first "Dancing with the Red Goddess" course, and 6 week Fundamentals course.

I've had such a wonderful 6 weeks, sharing the dance with some fabulous people, some new dancers, some more seasoned. I am going to miss them all!

The Fundamentalists ended their course with some combinations and some improvised social dancing. It is really great to see how much progress they have made. They worked really hard and put up with my bizarre technique descriptions and there is no doubt now that they an excellent set of fledgeling raquesahs. I am really looking forward to seeing them again for the next step of their dance journey.

I'm really proud of how the Red Goddess course turned out, it was an entirely new course, and I have been rewriting and adapting the content as I went. I've had a lot of great feedback, and a lot of interest from dancers who live outside of the local area. My next plan for this course is to adapt it for a weekend intensive to accommodate dancers who wish to attend it as a residential.

So what now?

Well I have been sorting out the summer of course.

I'm doing a bunch of private workshops for visiting groups, school sessions etc. I am putting together an awesome Dark Cabaret themed choreography workshop, and some folkloric sessions. Then of course I am  looking forward to the Scarlet Lotus Summer School session.

Summer School is the next 6 week block, which will actually be 2, 3 week blocks. The first block is looking at veil technique, 3, 90 minute sessions covering basic veil, double veil and veil fans. The second block it "unusual props" and we will be looking at poi, fans, palm candles and, my favourite, stuff you can balance on your head.

Another Fundamentals course will run alongside this, for new dancers, or anyone who wants to take time out to really focus on strong basic technique.

Michelle Manx

This July we are also welcoming a fabulous guest teacher for a one off, not-to-be-missed workshop. Michelle hails from Texas and has a distinctive, individual dance style that draws on the aesthetics of '50s pin ups. The workshop will be running from 2-4pm on Sunday 20th July in the Red Brick Building Glastonbury, and is just £15. Reserve your place while you still can.

If you would like to learn more about Michelle, take a look at this excellent mini documentary, this interview, or grab some popcorn and watch some of her dancing.

Looking ahead

In the Autumn we have the third of the 6 week courses, this time it's Dark Fusion basics and I will be looking at tempting some dancers over to the dark side, at least for a little visit anyway.

I've been getting a lot of great feedback from students who are interested in a weekly evening class, and potentially a bit of a hafla/dance party, so watch this space.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Getting good at bellydance, one day at a time.

Part 2 - Getting the most out of your dance through focused training.

In my last post I talked about some of the basic ideas and attitudes that will help you get better at your dance.

This time we are going to look at the ongoing work, the dancing you do every week or every day, and how you can optimise your progress by using your dance time (and budget) effectively.

Defining goals for more effective dance practice

Once again I have to iterate, that "getting good" can be defined however you choose. Pick your own goals and make them achievable. If you must have a goal that is far off, or hard to reach, break it down into smaller goals.

My recommendation is that you work on a long term theme that arches over several weeks or even months. For instance you might choose "Improvising to live music" or focus on a specific performance you want to really shine at. On the other hand you might look to improve your current level, as a whole or in a specific area that you know is lagging behind.

Then break down your goal into smaller chunks, to work on for a week or a month. So you might choose to spend a month working getting better at responding to instrumentation in a specific piece of music, or a week focusing on making your sharp hipwork stronger.

Finally you have to decide how you are going to achieve those small goals. You might choose a particular song and practice dancing only to certain areas of instrumentation at one time (dance the whole song only responding to the drums, then again, but only responding to the strings, etc). For the hipwork goal you would work on drilling the specific movements, and perhaps identifying and conditioning the muscles you use for those movements.

Goals can be technical ("make my hip figure 8s bigger and smoother") or artistic ("express the emotions of Lissa Fakir"). Just take something you would like to improve upon, make it specific, achievable and try to have some way of assessing it - this could be feedback from a teacher, or you could video yourself for comparison.

Don't forget to ask your teacher for ideas, I provide students on my short courses with a selection of appropriate goals to work on for the duration of the course and I am always happy to make suggestions based on my observations during a regular class. If you are formulating your own goals, do let your teacher know what you are working on, it's great to see a student with enthusiasm and autonomy, and they may be able to support your progress in class, or offer private lessons to help you through a tough patch.

Once you are aware of what you need to work on, and how you are going to do it, you can start looking at your regular classes, at-home practice and other training options in order to spend your time as effectively as possible. We shall look more closely at that in my next installment.