Wednesday, December 28, 2011

365 Days of Belly Dance-The Recap

The 365 Days of Belly Dance challenge that I started on December 14th, 2010 has officially come to an end, but I'm unofficially carrying it out until the end of this year with gentle and restorative yoga while recovering from the longest and most tenacious cold I've ever had in my entire life.

So exactly what did this commitment mean?  It meant I devoted a minimum of 30 minutes a day to improving my belly dance skills by way of well....belly dancing.  But I also included yoga, other dance forms, and exercise into the mix. 

For the past 379 days I didn't like silly little things like colds, migraines, or eye surgery keep me from my 30 minutes a day.  Right now you may be thinking,  "Wait. What?  You belly danced on the same day as eye surgery?!"  By golly, I did!  I woke up a little earlier on surgery day and did a half hours worth of drills; and with a little bit of advanced planning I was able to do some simple yoga poses and zil practice the day after, too.

Notice how I didn't say anything about boredom?  I wasn't, not once.  In addition to my regular classes and troupe practice I used yoga, Zumba, DVD's, on-line classes, workshops, and horizon expanding classes like Tribal Fusion and Tribal Skirt to keep it interesting.  On days when I was super busy, or just didn't want to practice, I broke it down into easily digestible 10 minute segments.  And there were oh so many days when I didn't want to practice.

I had some days, usually several in a row, when I would think "I just don't want to do this.  I must have been totally insane to commit to doing this every single day for one year."  For the most part I had those days in summer when doing any sort of vigorous activity in 110+ heat seemed completely stupid and pointless.  Once the temperature started dropping back down to a more reasonable 90 degrees it was easier for me to find the necessary enthusiasm to practice. 

All in all I had major fun and I'm thinking of continuing on into 2012 with this challenge.  If I do, and seeing as how I am currently troupeless, I will focus more on yoga, fitness, and more horizon expanding classes like Isis Wings and East Indian Dance, and a one-day Lebanese Belly Dance workshop. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Gluing Your Fingers To Your Hips

....or your arms, legs, and any other moveable body parts is what dancing with finger cymbals, also known as zills, is all about, and it's probably the most difficult and elusive skill for belly dancers to acquire.

My first belly dance teacher, Nancy Ireland, handed me a pair of finger cymbals and started teaching me to play and dance with them on the very first day of class!  Of course I was beyond lousy, but after a few weeks of practice I began to see steady improvement.  It's something I'll always be grateful for because teaching finger cymbal playing skills from day one is no longer the norm for belly dance classes.  Most students can study for several years before they ever learn how to play them, let alone dance with them, and I find that extremely sad.  Once people do decide to start using zills in their dance it can be extremely difficult to successfully blend the two arts together.

In my mind it would be like learning how to surf before learning how to swim.  There is a vital link missing.

I recently spent a week reviewing and enhancing my zills skills with Ansuya's "Finger Cymbals" DVD by IAMED

This is a great DVD for beginner or intermediate dancers who want to start playing finger cymbals and work on a bit of their dance technique at the same time.  Advanced dancers with limited zill skills can add some interest to the drills by adding arms paths, or layering shimmies over some of the easier steps.  

After a brief introduction to finger cymbals Ansuya moves on to the heart of the matter; playing a simple percussion instrument while dancing.  The four rhythms taught are; 4/4, Beledi, Bolero, and Chiftitelli.  Each one has it's own chapter which makes it easy to pick and choose the rhythm du jour.  

Each section starts with an introduction and a detailed break down of each zill pattern followed by a variety of easy drills using basic belly dance steps that will help build the foundation for "gluing your fingers to your hips."  

The final chapter is a simple routine using all four rhythms followed by a dynamic performance by Ansuya.  

On a personal note, I'm recovering from a sore throat that turned into walking pneumonia so my dance practice has become a healing yoga practice until next Monday then I'll spend a week with Ansuya's "Advanced Finger Cymbals" DVD. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

I had every intention of splitting my belly dancing bead blog into two separate entities at the beginning of October, but that was before my daughter got sick, followed by my husband, then me.  The Snot Monster seems to be trying his best to make my house his permanent residence.  

I had originally intended to start this blog off with a few DVD reviews but I think I'll save those for the weeks to come and start off with a question that MECDA, The Middle Eastern Culture and Dance Association originally posted on their Face Book page a few days ago.
"When you think of summer school for belly dancers, what would it be like?"

Here is my answer:

If it were local I would say one month of technique, yoga, a basic introduction to any of the following: ballet, modern, jazz, Flamenco, Bollywood, Afro-Cuban, etc. for people with little to no other dance training, zills, props, music theory, costuming, make-up and hair lessons applicable to a wide range of styles, ages, and body types, dance history, cultural etiquette, at least one or two spa days, on-site masseuse, performance opportunities on the weekends, and field trips for mingling with other dancers in the community. 

If I had to travel then I probably could only afford one week of technique, yoga, zills, props, performances, and field trips for mingling with other dancers in the community.

After thinking about it for a while I think I would also like to include floor work, fitness for dancers, dance etiquette, choreography, and stage craft.  

That's all for now.  The DVD reviews will be starting shortly.  Don't forget to check out my bead blog every now and again!