No matter what level a Bellydancer you are, we each have the power to improve our Bellydance abilities and get more out of the time we spend in Bellydance class. We can control and change much of what holds us back from progressing or breaking through a plateau just by being aware of the things we do to ourselves that can hold us back from success. Things such as self-criticism, comparing ourselves to others, setting unrealistic expectations based on our level and not having a smart practice regimen. Here we take a look at some of things that we can alter when we are spending time in class and practicing at home that can make a huge difference to how we approach learning and improving.
When in class do you compare
yourself with others around you?
We’ve all done it. The time in class when you see a fellow dancer that you can’t stop watching. You really like how she moves and you start to wish you could move the same way. Comparing yourself to someone else in class on a day when you’re feeling a little insecure or feel like you’re falling behind can of course make you feel a little down. We’ve all been there. There’s nothing wrong in comparing yourself just so long as you keep it positive and use it as a way to look at where you are in the dance and see where you still can go. All too often we’re way too hard on ourselves and this only results in us being overly negative and derailing all the great progress you are making. Again there’s nothing wrong with doing a bit of healthy comparison and by approaching your time at the studio a bit differently you can get a whole lot more out of your class time. Here are some things to keep in mind which we know will help:
Everyone learns and progresses differently.
Let’s face it. Bellydance is not an easy dance form to master. Your teacher might make it look easy, but we all know anything that looks easy, usually isn’t. What’s more, no two dancers learn the same way. Nor will they progress at the same rate. So take the pressure off yourself when in class and give yourself permission to learn at your own pace. You will enjoy the journey so much more when you feel less pressure to keep up with the person next to you and simply have fun with what you are being taught. So what if you don’t get it right this week or the next? If you practice and work at it, you’ll get it down the road. In the meantime there will be lots of things that you do get and do well at in class, so give yourself high marks for that and realize that the stuff you’re not getting will come in time and with more practice. Don’t expect overnight results because you will only get frustrated and give up. One thing is for sure, expecting perfection from the get-go will turn you off your goals.
“But I’m a perfectionist!”
As dancers, most of us possess traits of perfectionism to one degree or another. Knowing that you are is a good thing just so long as you’re able to channel this quality so that it doesn’t end up being self-destructive. The great thing about perfectionists is that we work hard and persevere in order to reach and surpass our goals. The downside is that we can self-criticize ourselves to death and apply unrealistic expectations and pressure on ourselves.
Does Teacher Correction Rattle You?
Don’t let negative thoughts take over if your teacher points out something that needs to be corrected. Realize that you are there to learn and be patient with yourself. Focus on applying the correction or make mental note of it so you can practice it at home. A good teacher is patient and feels responsible for pointing out corrections because they sincerely want you to learn and get what they are teaching. Don’t take it personally. Step out of the comfort zone and realize you will always have things to learn and areas to improve. Even the most advanced dancer is still learning and improving. Dance is an endless journey of learning. Wouldn’t life be boring if we knew how to do everything well and had nothing new to learn?
How and What to Practice.
For me this is the most eye-opening tip of all and one that the best professional athletes live by. It’s easy to practice all the moves you do well. Makes us feel good when we see how good we are at these moves as we practice them in front of the mirror. But those dancers who really, truly desire to improve are the ones who put in the extra time to overcome the moves they don’t do well. They focus their practice time on their weaknesses much more than on their strengths. You’ve got to be diligent. And you’ve got to put in the time and the effort but shift your focus from the ego boost moves to working on what you don’t do very well and this is where you will see vast improvement in your dance. It doesn’t mean neglect your strengths because you have to keep those skills sharp but stop avoiding what you don’t do well. It won’t get better without practice so just move the emphasis of your practice to what you don’t do well. Big “aha” moment here!
Now go one-step further and ask to sit down with your instructor and ask for an honest and thorough assessment about what you need to work on most. If you are serious about improving and if you are willing to put in the time and the work to improve, your teacher should be more than happy to give you this type of consultation and feedback. This will give you an action plan of what to work on from your teacher’s perspective and will really help you take your dance to the next level.
Watch. Observe. Apply.
Studying other dancers whether watching them live or on You Tube is a great way to learn and find new things to add to your dance style. Of course watching You Tube is by no means a replacement to the work you should be doing in the studio by taking regular classes and workshops. By watching other dancers objectively you can look for things that make them really stand out and this can help you enormously. Don't just look just for things you don’t like. Look for the nuances and dynamics that make them particularly effective. Look deep into their technique to see how they do things that give them an extra special something. Turns, Arabesques, weight shifts, spotting techniques, accents etc. All students should know the classic Bellydancers of our time and there's a wealth of video on You Tube where you can see them all and study them but please train yourself to look at not only how they move in a certain way but why they move that way. What are some of the common threads that run through their performance that really appeal to you? What skills do they have that resonate with you? Write them down and then when start practicing and try to apply these aspects in your own way, into your own dance.
Embrace the Quirks
Building solid technique is important for many reasons. Helping you prevent injury is a
major reason. And we have to commit to building our technique always. But sometimes
we find ourselves doing something very unknowingly that’s kind of quirky and very
possibly kind of cool! Someone may point it out to you and ask you how you do it because
they want to learn it. You may have to ask them to show you what they mean because the
quirk is so organic to you, you don’t even realize or know that you’re doing something
endearing in your dance style. Master choreographers from virtually every dance form
have probably brought something less than technically astute into their work that has
become something that other dancers love to adopt. So at a certain point embrace who
you are as a dancer because these little quirks are what help make you YOU and will make
you unique from others around you.
What’s your dance plan?
Get beyond comparing yourself to others by working on intense improvement of the one
person that matters most ... you. If you’ve got essential input from your instructor and
you’ve observed and are ready to apply all that’s on your list ... there’s nothing holding
you back from reaching your dance goals. Don’t overwhelm yourself with having to
tackle it all in one shot. Break it down into modules that you will practice one practice
session at a time. Make it manageable for yourself and this way you will be able to see the
results because you’ll be more focused and more inspired by what you see. Check in with
you instructor for a private lesson every so often to review your plan and get some
additional feedback and encouragement to continue moving forward.
The 10 Point Plan to Improving Your Dance! Let’s Summarize:
- We will refrain from comparing ourselves to others in the classroom.
- We will give ourselves permission to learn and grow at our own pace.
- We will channel our perfectionist tendencies in the most positive ways – no negative self-talk.
- We will not take our instructor’s feedback personally but will value it and use it to help improve our technique.
- We will spend time practicing what we don’t do well versus what we are great at already!
- We will ask our instructor to give us an open and honest critique of what we need to work on.
- We will spend time watching and observing other dancers and look for things that make them stand out.
- We will continue to build strong, clean technique though we will learn to embrace our stylistic quirks because these are what make us unique.
- We will put together a dancer game plan of what we want to accomplish in the next year and will bite off manageable chunks of the plan to focus our practice.
- We will check in with our instructor periodically for a check and balance on how we are doing with our game plan.