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Attending Workshops

7 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Them

Sahra, Adriane and Aubre

by Adriane
posted September 7, 2012

We’ve all been there.  You get home exhausted from dancing for four hours at a belly dance workshop with some outrageously talented belly dance artist, but then, you cannot remember a bit of what you were supposed to have learned. 

Sure, it was worth it to just soak in the presence of a Belly dance master for a few hours, get a good workout, and network with your Belly dance friends, but how can you make that time and money spent upon a workshop with a master teacher benefit you in the long run?

Here are seven tips for getting the most out of your Belly dance workshops:

  1. Take Notes 
    Bring a Belly dance notebook in which you can take notes at all of the Belly dance workshops that you attend.  Take quick breaks throughout your workshop to take notes on what you’re learning (even if everyone else is still dancing!).  Try to write down as much you can remember during your water and lunch breaks.  You will have these notes to which you may refer years down the road and they will jog your memory concerning what you learned that day. 
  2. Ask Questions
    Most instructors appreciate students who are engaged with the material and ask questions.  If you don’t understand how to do a particular move or didn’t quite get a transition during a combination, ask your instructor!  If the instructor does not have enough time to answer your questions fully, he or she may be able to help you after the workshop.  Especially if your workshop teacher is an expert in a particular style, don’t be shy to ask questions and learn as much as you can in the little time you have together.
  3. Film with Permission
    Many instructors will permit their students to film the choreography that they are teaching at the end of a workshop if they promise not to post it on the Internet.  Ask your workshop instructor for permission to film beforehand and respect his or her wishes.  I think it is most helpful to film the choreography from behind so that it is easy to follow at home.  Having a video of what you learned at a workshop is the ultimate tool for mastering the material down the road!
  4. Buy the Workshop Instructor’s Music
    Some of the best Belly dance CDs I have are ones that I have purchased from a workshop instructor.  Not only do workshop instructors tend to have good taste in music, but it is critical for you to get the music that the instructor used in the workshop–if she or he taught a choreography.  Try to purchase the music from your instructor (if you can afford it) because it supports your instructor and the musicians who have recorded the music.  If you can’t afford to purchase the music right there and then, make sure you find out the name of the song your instructor used so that you can download it from the Internet later.
  5. Practice at Home as soon as possible!
    It is most effective to practice  at home what you learned as soon as possible while it is still fresh in your muscle memory.  Even if you aren’t able to return to the workshop material for awhile, if you have the workshop material filmed, you’ve got it made!  The ideal way to retain what you learned in a workshop, especially if it was a choreography workshop, is to break down what you filmed into bite-size chunks.  One strategy I use is to analyze a combination from the choreography that I videoed and then write it down in my notebook in my own words.  Through the process of writing it down, I’m figuring it out in my own body to make sure I understand the technique and transitions.  This also helps me see nuances in the instructor’s movement that I didn’t catch the first time.
    I proceed, combination by combination, analyzing the instructor’s movement, writing it down, practicing the combination alone, then practicing the choreography from the beginning.  It may seem like a painstaking process, but I find it to be a satisfying and effective way to completely saturate myself in what I have learned.
  6. Perform What You Have Learned
    Once you have fully analyzed the choreography you have learned at a workshop, you are two steps away from being able to perform it!  The next step is to drill any technique or transitions from the choreography that were challenging to you.  Don’t shortcut this step or your performance will look sloppy and unpolished.Then, start rehearsing the choreography over and over for weeks and weeks until your technique and transitions are clean and the choreography flows automatically without thought.  Now you’re ready to perform what you have learned!  (Be sure to credit the original choreographer if you perform the piece in a show.)  If you have learned movements and combinations at a workshop, find ways to integrate what you have learned into your own dancing and choreography for performance.
  7. Review
    Why abandon what you learned after you have worked so hard to get it just right?  Run through any choreography, combinations, and movements that you learned from a workshop at your home practice sessions.   Keep it alive in your muscle memory and continue to improve on what you have learned during practice and in performance.

By following these seven tips for getting the most out of your Belly dance workshops, I hope that you will be able to retain more of what you learn at workshops so that your skill and enjoyment of Belly dance will grow.  Let me know how your next workshop goes!

Adriane and Jillina

Jillina in her Malibu studio in September 2011 and
(top photo) Journey through Egypt I in Sierra Madre with Sahra and
Aubre from July 2009

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  1. Thea

    Sep 18, 2012 - 06:09:08

    This is all good advice, but my biggest frustration is that the workshop is rarely long enough to learn the whole choreography properly – and even if you film it, with all the participants jockeying for position, you may not capture the moves clearly enough.  The result is that you don’t have enough to practice WITH, at the end of the day.
    I have attended a couple of workshops where the teacher has sold a DVD of the choreography.  It made such a difference to have a well-filmed copy of the choreography, it was money well spent to buy the DVD. 

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