posted December 1, 2010
“Why does my teacher have us practice figure eights year after year if I already learned how to do them on my first day of belly dance class?” “Can’t I move on from those slow boring drills and just dance?” “Why do I need to practice technique at home when I’ve dancing for over __ years?” It is because mediocre or non-existent practice makes for a mediocre performer and perfectly consistent practice makes for a perfect performer.
That Girl’s Got Skills!
“Skill equals knowledge plus 10,000 times,” said Dr. Suzuki, founder of the internationally renowned Suzuki method for learning how to play musical instruments. This concept is crucial for musicians and dancers alike. It means that once a belly dancer has learned how to do a move, they need to practice it 10,000 more times in order to be skilled at it. Belly dance drills that repeat one move through a series of variations are necessary for belly dancers to do, no matter what level they are that. It is akin to a musician practicing their scales every time they rehearse, even if they have played them 10,000 times before.
"Practicing basic technique is for beginner dancers- I don’t need to practice that anymore! I want to learn choreography!" some experienced dancers may say. Well, you’ve got to do it all as you get more advanced: drill old technique, practice new technique, practice improv and practice choreography. This requires a much more substantial regular time commitment to practice than many dancers realize.
High level mastery of any skill requires 10,000 hours of practice. Malcolm Gladwell proves this fact in example after example in his mind-opening book Outliers. Whether you are Bill Gates or Aziza, the talents of extraordinary people can be directly correlated to the number of hours that they practiced their skill (in addition to being in the right place at the right time after they clocked in their hours of practice).
Slow Down, You Move Too Fast
To practice perfectly, you need to start practicing your technique slowly every time. The slower you go, the more you can engage your muscles and train them accordingly. Once you start slow and are able to maintain correct posture, you can build up in speed and add variations such as shimmies.
Keeping your isolations and technique alive in your muscle memory will create the foundation for your perfect practice.
Hours upon hours of perfect practice will yield a perfect performance down the road that appears effortless. On the other hand, dancers who take shortcuts in their practice because of a “been there, done that” attitude will often perform in a way that leaves their audiences thinking the same thing.
From Techy to Arty
Through methodical repetition and practice, you may find nuances in the dance that you have never realized before. Perhaps after practicing variations of the omi – clockwise, counter clockwise, on releve, with a walk, facing diagonals, with a twist, with a dip, with a turn – you discover that changing the direction of your omi every four counts while doing a slow turn on releve would work perfectly for that drum solo you were working on. It is at that moment that you transcend being a belly dance “technician” to becoming a belly dance “artist.”
Spending quality time with your own body in repetitive movement is one of the best ways to ignite your creativity and originality in your dance.
The understanding that focused practice of belly dance technique (as well as improv and choreography) will make you a better dancer seems obvious. But the implications of this concept are empowering. It means that through your own hard work and dedication, you can improve your own dancing. If you simply put in the hours of focused practice, year after year, you will grow tremendously as a dancer. It’s not a matter of “Oh, that dancer is so naturally gifted and I’m not,” or “I don’t have what it takes to be a good dancer.” You have what it takes if you practice with precision over and over again.
Thus, practice does not make perfect- perfect practice makes perfect.
After years of perfect practice, you will exude a sense of self-confidence and ease in your performance that only comes to the polished performer.
Ready for more?
- 2-26-09The Girlz Got Skilz: DVD review of Asharah’s Modern Tribal Bellydance
Those who are interested in tribal fusion, I would definitely recommend this DVD to get a feel for the specific moves that are popular among tribal artists. If you’re already a tribal enthusiast, then this is a must have in your DVD library.
- 11-30-10 More is More, Mohamed El Hosseny
Some might find El Hosseny’s creations busy. The popular approach is to slow down to interpret the music whereas El Hosseny’s approach is just the opposite.
- 11-27-10 A Dancer’s Dancer in 19802 Hollywood, Interview with Yasmin
L.A. was heaven for fabrics though. You could find anything you wanted, and if they didn’t have it, you could have it made, like the beautiful gold lame’ sunburst skirt and veil I had pressed for a costume.
- 11-26-10 Struggle for Legitimacy, History of Belly Dance in Quebec, an Overview by Marthyna
They were not always accepted by the general public because of the revealing costumes but also because sometimes dancers performed between two strippers. This created a taboo around bellydancing. No one wanted to be caught learning it or performing on stage.
- 11-22-10 Part 5: The Dinner Shows, More Photos from the New York Theatrical Belly Dance Conference 2010, Photos by Photos by Sal Romano, Stacey and Clement Lespinasse, Eric Troudt
We held the dinner shows at two of the most supportive environments in New York for bellydance: Je’bon Noodle House on St. Marks Place in the East Village and the Lafayette Grill in Tribeca. We made it our goal to give every conference participant the chance to perform, either to recorded or live music from one of our great local bands.
- 11-21-10 Part 4: More Photos from the New York Theatrical Belly Dance Conference 2010, Workshops, Garmet District Shopping Tour Photos by Lena Helt, Smita Kadam, and Eric Troudt
Offstage, we browsed the fabric-and-accessory mecca that is Manhattan’s garment district; embodied animals, clowns, and archetypes; learned to enhance our stage presence; shared experiences in panel discussions; and much more.
- 11-17-10 Personal Impressions, Fantasy Belly Dance in New York City by Ayshe
Looking back on it all, I can now only assume that, from the very beginning, I was already damaged goods. A “purest” I would never be!
- 11-17-10 We Will Rak You! My Dance Experience with Queen by Stasha Vlasuk
I’ll admit I wasn’t too familiar with the music of the British rock group Queen. The year was 1977, the month of December, in Los Angeles. I was invited to perform at a dinner party where Queen, in Los Angeles for several concerts, was the guest of honor. The job came to me through Dianne Webber.
- 11-15-10 She’s Got the Look! Establishing Yourself as a Professional, Part 2 by Naajidah and Ashiya
Right or wrong, the average person hiring dancers has certain expectations.