Friday, September 2, 2011

Dialing Down Your Ego

A few weeks ago, thinking I was hot stuff, I put in a ballet workout DVD to work on leg strength and work on some of the finer points of my posture.

Instead, I was beaten by the DVD about halfway through the warmup. Now, I know ballet is hard, but it's harder still when you find out that you're not as flexible, strong, or as good as you thought.

I found a saying once, when I first started belly dancing, that went like this: "Beginning belly dancers want to be good enough to dance with everyone, even the advanced dancers; intermediate belly dancers are too good to dance with anyone; and advanced belly dancers are so good they'll dance with everyone, especially beginner dancers!"

I guess that would put me squarely in the intermediate dancers.

It's important to remember to humble yourself as a dancer. I'd say it's important to stay humble, but that's a lot harder than it sounds, especially when you're getting praise from all sides, are performing regularly, and practicing frequently.  So how do you humble yourself?

Ask Your Teacher
Now, don't start out by asking her to tell you what you did wrong. Instead, go to her honestly, see if you can arrange for a private class, or even just some time before or after class, and ask her for pointers. Tell her you're looking to get better and want to know what you can improve, or what you can do to perform better. Chances are, she already has a list of things she thinks you could improve on and didn't want to do an info dump on you. If you think that's the case, make sure you bring a notebook first, so you can take notes on everything you tell her. This has the added benefit of showing your teacher how serious you are about your practice, and how willing you are to take advice and instruction.

Fight Your Weakness
Is there something you've been struggling with? It doesn't have to be something you've been banging your head against--even something that you know you don't do as well as you'd like will work. Commit to a performance that consists of mostly that one thing you're struggling with, and then practice it constantly. My teacher likes to tell us of the time she committed to performing with zills even though she was struggling with them, so she forced herself to practice every day until she mastered them. Maybe your shimmy isn't as good as you'd like, or you've noticed that your arms aren't always perfect. Commit to a choreography with whatever your weakness is, and battle it until you come out the victor.

Try Something New
Take a new dance class, try yoga or pilates, start strength-training. Do something that's not belly dance, that you've never tried before. Trust me, all your belly dance training will not help when it comes to a completely different style of exercise! By the end of your class, you'll come out feeling like a beginner again--and maybe even with a new hobby!

Take an Advanced Class
Try one of the advanced classes offered by your teacher or studio. Even dancing with the advanced girls for one class will show you how much more you have to learn. Another advantage to this is you'll probably be shown things that, as an intermediate dancer, you wouldn't have access to. If you do take an advanced class, make sure to take notes and apply it to your regular practice.

A Final Note
Whatever you do to humble yourself, make sure it's not discouraging. The last thing you want to do it try something that's so hard you feel like giving up dancing entirely. If you find yourself getting discouraged, think back to the days when you were a beginner dancer, and 3/4 shimmies seemed completely beyond you. Remember what it felt like to be a beginner, and how eager you were to learn. Regain that beginner's mind, and forge ahead to new dancing heights!

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