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.