Friday, December 9, 2011

How Much is Enough?

Ruth St. Denis, New York Public Library
If you're a worrier like me, you might find yourself wondering, "Am I dancing enough?"

Well, enough varies from dancer to dancer. Whether you're a hobbyist or recreational dancer, a pre-professional, or a professional making money teaching and gigging, enough can be as little as just a class or two to several hours a day. For example, a recent poll on the Middle Eastern Culture and Dance Facebook page asked professional and pre-professional dancers how often they practice outside of class. The answers varied from 'not at all' to 8-10 hours a week. Most dancers said they either didn't have time, due to outside interests, or that they taught so often that they didn't have much time for practice.

We've all got plenty of other things that demand our attention: errands, family, our survival job, social lives--these things demand their own time, and it can be hard to find places to fit in your practice. Then you feel guilty when you realize that another day's gone by and your hip scarf and zills are still sitting in your dance bag, untouched. So how much is enough?

In order to determine what's enough for you, you have to look at two things: your time and your goals.

Goals: What do you want to get out of bellydance? Is it just a hobby? Or do you have dreams of the stage? Figuring this out will help you figure out how much time a week you want to spend practicing. If you're just dancing for fitness and recreation, you definitely don't want to spend 5-10 hours a week outside of class, practicing. However, if you want to break into professional dancing, two classes a week isn't going to cut it.

Take some time to work out what you want from bellydance, and what you hope to achieve. You may even want to set a time frame on it, such as "In five years, I want to be teaching and performing x number of times a week." This will give you something to aim for, and once you know what you want, you can figure out a plan to get there.

Time: If you find yourself constantly pressed for time, try keeping a time log. This is a lot like a food log, except you're going to write down what you're doing every day, and for how long. Since this will be an extremely detailed log, you'll only want to do this for a week, unless you want to drive yourself crazy. But this will help you determine what it is you're actually doing with your time, and will help you find places where you can condense activities, or clear a space to practice. Once you figure out how to space things, try your new schedule for a week or two. If it's not working, scrap it and try something else.

What if you've looked at your schedule every which way and there's just no room for practice? Try getting up 15 minutes earlier. Fifteen minutes isn't going to affect your sleep, and that's plenty of time to warm up with some shimmies and do a song or two of drills, with some stretching. Or, see if you can get an hour or two on the weekends for some intense practice time.

Whatever you decide, make sure that your 'enough' is whatever it is that makes you feel like a better dancer when you go to bed. And remember, what's 'enough' for you may not be 'enough' for another dancer, or even too much for another dancer. Don't waste time comparing yourself to others and making yourself feel guilty. As long as you are dancing for you, that's enough.

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