Exercises for Improv Belly Dance
Here are some things that may help with your solo improvisation. These are great to practice at home.
1. Relax – CALM DOWN! The biggest problem that I see with most dancers when they first start to improv is that they panic. It is amazing how much better you can dance when you stop over-thinking each step. Relax, breath and just dance.
2. Listen to the music – Of course you are listening to the music, but are you listening closely? Try practicing improv to just the drums or vocals. Pick a musical instrument and improv only to that. I am not saying that this is how you should perform a song, but it will give you a strong understanding of the various layers in the music. In turn, that will help you improv better to that music.
3. Focus on emotion – Tell a story with your dance. Make sure you know that tone/emotion of the music you are performing. Is the music sad, happy, subtle, strong or cute? Practice using the right emotion in your improv and don’t be afraid to over exaggerate.
4. Have a safety move – This works well for solo improv and improvisational Tribal Style. A safety move is a step that you know very well and don’t need to focus on to perform. It is the step that you do when your brain stops working. We have all had those moments when our mind goes blank and this is when I do my safety move. I use that time to think of the next thing to do. It is good to have a fast and slow safety move to make sure you are still dancing with the music.
5. Know the style – Please be true to the style that you are dancing. Do not put on an Egyptian song and do tribal fusion. The audience may notice that the movement does not quite fit. Practice the correct style for the performance that you are doing. I common mistake for a dancer with a tribal background is to start improving ITS syllabus moves when there mind goes blank. This is fine when you are hangout with friends and dancing, but it does not work as well for performance.
6. Focus on Arms and Face – When in doubt a good smile and strong arms will cover any flaws. It is a sad fact of dancing that more than half the people watching will only focus on your upper body. It is not because they don’t want to see your amazing undulations, it’s just where their eyes take them. Use this to your advantage. If you get stuck, just smile and have strong arms. It is surprising how much it helps.
7. Keep it simple – The biggest problem I notice with first time improv dancers. They try to do too much. You do not need to move every part of your body. I have seen dancers that have their arms, hips, head and feet all dancing at the same time. It is not that they are doing anything wrong, its more that they are doing too much for the audience to understand. Keep is simple! Don’t use 3 moves when one will do. Do not layer ever moment of your dance.
Take some of these home to practice, but don’t be scare to video your improv. Look back on the video without judgement, but just for aspects to make better.
Tribal Makeup Tips
I have a few performances coming up and that has me thinking about stage makeup.
Some of my favorite makeup tips:
1. Always use a base or moisturizer before putting on your make-up. Make sure to put it on your eyes (carefully) before applying shadow or base. You will be amazed on how much better your makeup stays when you give it something to hold on to.
2.Have fun with eye liner. This is really for the tribal dancers. Invest in a good black eyeliner that you can use well and use often. I am not one to preach about kinds of eyeliner because ever dancer has their own favorate. If you haven’t found yours then go and experiment. I like to test a good eyeliner out on my hand first. If I can make a nice line on the back of my hand, I have a better chance at making one on my eyelid. This also gives you a chance to see how easy it is to remove the liner.
For some basics and ideas this article is great for eye liner.
3.Use great color. I like to invest in strong colors. A good mix of bright and deep colors is usually good for a smokey and exotic eye. You can use a little water on your eyelid first before you apply the shadow to make you color richer.
Check out some of these videos for some great ideas for eye makeup. I was inspired.
4. Take your time. The biggest mistake I see dancers make is when they rush their makeup. Doing makeup correctly is like painting a picture. It takes time! Do not rush it and always give yourself more time then you think you will need.
Keep Working on Zills
Febuary is still the month to practce zills. We are almost through with February and I don’t feel that I have been practicing enough with my finger cymbals. I haven’t annoyed my neighbors enough… Here are some helpful suggestions and videos that are free online that may help you (and me) in that final push to the end of the month. Next month is choreography so get ready.
Thank you to Nika Feyrouz of DancingBelly.com for this great video on the basic zill patterns and how to practice them.
Also this video from www.saidializ.com is a good example of changing the zill patterns to work well with the music.
This is my last suggestion for those who have the time. This is Taming Your Zills: A Roadmap to Becoming Comfortable Dancing with Finger Cymbals. You can find the seven part series on youtube from http://www.tashkin-rhythms.com/aslahan . This is ideal for beginners and reviewing the basics. Perfect for the dancer who has no idea how to start adding zills to their dance.
Keep practicing and good luck. I would love to hear how things are going. Please leave a comment and keep dancing.