Thursday, 22 January 2015

Getting Better Every Day!!!

In my role as a dance teacher (love it!) I am often asked by students what they can do outside class to improve, help the moves to stick, accelerate their progress .... I love it when I'm asked this! It's always so good to see them taking this dance seriously (but still having fun with it!). Some people think that learning bellydance is easy, that it can be picked up in just a couple of lessons, that it's all about a bit of wiggling in a fancy costume. It isn't!! It's just like learning anything else whether that be maths or learning to drive a car. You get out of it what you put in. Yes, it's fun - but that doesn't mean that you don't have to work at it too. Once you have got some basic moves into your body then you can relax into them and really start to feel the power and connection of improv.

So here are some of the top tips I give to my students .... if you read my blog last week you will know that I respect ALL the students who come to my classes. If this isn't for you, if you just want to focus on coming to class each week, dancing, having fun and leaving the world behind then that's great. I LOVE that you're there and you are just as important to me as everyone else! 

Please also bear in mind that I'm writing from the perspective of a Gypsy Caravan Tribal Bellydance (R) teacher. This post will be relevant to all dancers, but in recommending resources I have stuck firmly to GC. 

OK - having got those disclaimers out of the way, here goes!

1. Attend class regularly. Not just because if you don't then classes can (and do) have to fold (teachers do need to live too, and much as many would love to, quite simply can't afford to subsidise your learning). But, more importantly and quite plainly and simply because if you don't then you will not become familiar with the moves. That means that your own learning and progress will be slowed considerably but also means that if you are trying to improvise you won't effectively gain that shared vocabulary that underpins dancing with others. We're all in this together folks!

2. Practise in between classes. Even if you only drill a new move for five minutes a day it's better than nothing and will really help that move to stick in your body and muscle memory. In my class we often work on short sequences of new moves that students can take away and run through on their own - getting used to transitions between them. And of course don't forget to take some time to just dance - to put moves together for yourself, respond to the music and just bask in the joy of it all! 

3. Following on from that - listen to music  that suits your dance style. Get used to the rhythms, phrasing, patterns, different tempos. Think about the types and qualities of movement that 'fit'. You are dancing WITH the music, not just 'to' it. Music is your friend, your dance partner! 

4. Support your learning with online classes. I always point my students in the direction of Paulette's online  Gypsy Caravan tribal bellydance (R) classes, available at They are superb - excellent value for money, really clear and well- explained, joyful and inspiring. If you dance a different style there are lots of classes out there to suit everyone. 

5. DVDs are another great resource - to practise with, to remind yourself of moves and so on. Again Paulette's are available from her site (as, incidentally is music from Gypsy Caravan, Mizna and the Caravan Project - great stuff!) Most of her DVDS are available for digital download so you don't even have to worry about postage! 

6. Practise those zills!! Need I say more ?! It really is the only way to make them your friend! 

7. Learn from other teachers whenever you can. Grab those opportunities! Next month I'm hosting a workshop in Wigan from Deirdre Macdonald, a GC Master Teacher, which is an ideal chance to not only learn from someone else but also to feel a part of the wider GC  community. It's also well worth getting together and planning a few road trips with your friends to get to other workshops too - here in the north of England we have the fabulous Jewel of Yorkshire  festival of course and there are also good things happening in Glasgow, Deirdre's home stamping ground (only 3 hours up the motorway!). We are so lucky to have things like this - as well as individual workshops - going on around us so let's use them! Don't dismiss workshops in other subjects and styles either; they will all aid your development as a dancer. Performance skills, make up, folkloric, tasters in other styles of tribal - it's all good! Learning makes me glow - I love it!
And yes - once you've been learning a while you can start to think about GC intensives with Paulette and her Master a Teachers! Collective Soul is a truly amazing experience - maybe you will even find yourself on a teacher's path! 

8. Use a notebook - jot things down straight after class (we don't usually have time during sessions as we're too busy dancing and you don't want to miss stuff whilst you 're writing!). Make a note of new moves, key points to remember (you might think you 'll remember everything from one week to the next but trust me - it's highly unlikely !), cross reference your moves with DVDs, online classes or You Tube /Vimeo videos. Write down things you particularly need to focus on in your practices, note questions you want to ask (you'll have forgotten them by next week !). This is a working document - make it work for you ! 

9. Think about keeping a dance journal. There are lots of ways of doing this - I may well blog about it next week! For some people that might be their book of notes, but for me it's very different. Mine is full of reflections on my experiences, my own dance development, lightbulb moments that I want to capture for posterity, things I need to do in order to move forward, feedback from my own teachers and so much more. You can even include photos, cards, wonderful memories .... But more of that next time. 

10. Last but not least - have fun with it ! You dance this dance because you love it. Make sure that your practice supports and reinforces that love (and of course learning and progress is its own reward too!). I love to dance with others; I get lonely on my own! Awwww! So yes, I do drill moves and dance alone because some things have to be done - but then I stick on a DVD or online class and and dance along with Paulette, Cinzia , Gina, Nina, Karen and the rest! And yes, sometimes I chatter along to them whilst I'm doing it ('Yay Paulette! I got it!') It all adds to the fun and keeps me learning and loving it !

So there you go. I'm sure lots of people have other ideas and thoughts too. If you just want to come along to class each week to have fun and dance that's great - nothing wrong with that. If you really want to improve as much as you can, to become as Paulette says, the best dancer you can be, then going that extra mile is well worth the effort. As I said last week - it's all good!!! 

Until next time - happy dancing!

Cayte x

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