Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Chorus Girls, State Library of New South Wales
You don't know it, but every dancer out there has it. Anyone can catch it, no matter how long you've been dancing. And once you have it, it's difficult to get rid of. What is it?


Comparitis is comparing yourself to any other dancer. It doesn't matter if she's younger than you, been dancing longer than you, or does a completely different style then you, you'll ultimately end up comparing yourself to another dancer at more than one point in your dance career. You'll see her on the stage or in a video, and think, "Why bother? I'll never be as good as her."

I nearly caught Comparitis last week. I've been practicing with Rachel Brice's new online studio, Datura Online (check it out--classes for every dancer!), and as I tried and failed at the combination that Rachel (of course) made look like a child could do, I started to get that feeling again. For me, it starts as a sweaty, panicky feeling. Then the worry starts in the back of my mind: "What if I'm not good enough? What if I never get this?"

Luckily, Rachel had already taken to Twitter to help other dancers beat Comparitis. After someone mentioned difficulty learning a combo from one of Datura's new videos, Rachel replied that it had taken her days to memorize and learn the combo, even though she was the one who created it!

When you find yourself coming down with Comparitis, take the following remedies to hold it off--maybe even make you immune forever!

1. Remember that every dancer, including the one you are comparing yourself to, started out somewhere.
2. Every dancer is unique, especially you. You have different bodies, different background, may have done different types of dancing, had different teachers--the list goes on. No dancer takes the exact same path as you.
3. Realize that the dancer you're comparing yourself not only had to come up with what she's doing, but she had to practice it, drill it, do it until she could do it in her sleep. You're seeing the end result of months and years of hard work.
4. You're comparing your insides to someone else's outsides. The dancer you're comparing yourself to has probably looked at another dancer and said the same thing: "I'll never be as good as her."
5. Keep practicing!

After working with the new Rachel combo for 30 minutes, I was confident enough with it to think about adding it to a performance I'm doing next month. But first, I'll have to practice it a couple times!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Structuring Your Practice

Ruth St. Denis in the Cobras, New York Public Library
Now that you've figured out how much time you have to spend on dance practice, what do you do with that time? What's the best use of it, and how can you make sure you get in all the practice you need?

Fifteen Minutes
If all you've got is fifteen minutes, then it's drill, baby, drill! Make sure you warm up first, so do a minute of jumping jacks or jump rope or something to get your blood flowing. Then pick three short drills. For instance, maybe you can do 3/4 shimmies, chest lifts, and head slides. Put on your favorite music, and drill for about fifteen minutes. Then cool down by stretching out for a minute or two after.

Thirty Minutes
Thirty minutes gives you a little bit more time. Spend longer warming up, about five minutes. You can drill here, and you can even practice combos. Or, if you're getting ready for a show, just dance out your music for half your practice time. Thirty minutes give you plenty of time to throw in a couple of drills and then experiment a little. Finish up with five minutes of stretching.

Forty-Five Minutes
You've got forty-five minutes! What's a technique you've been wanting to learn or practice? Start with a five-minute warm-up, then drill your basis for about ten minutes. Then you can dedicate a solid chunk of time to working on a specific technique.  Fifteen or twenty minutes, and make sure you don't over-do it. Then you can throw in a couple of creative things, maybe put on a song you've wanted to solo with and see how your body responds. Finish with a nice long cool down and stretch out your muscles--you'll need it.

One Hour or More
If you have an hour or more, you can really spend some time in the warmup and cool down. If you're a yogi, do a couple of yoga stretches to warm up your muscles. Some sun salutations will get you all ready to go. If you can't tell your downward dog from your cat pose, then some jumping junks, lunges, pushups, and squats will get your muscles nice and warm, and will help you build strength. Once you're all warmed up, you'll want to keep things interesting. Drill for about twenty minutes, then switch to technique, then go to creative, then maybe go back to drilling. Or, if you have a bellydance technique video, put that on and do some of the exercises. You can even try to learn something new by watching YouTube videos or performances. When you're out of time, do a nice yoga cool down. You've been working hard, and you'll want to avoid any soreness the following day.

No matter how little time you've got to practice belly dance, you always have time to do something. Now you have no excuse to not practice, so figure out how much time you've got, and get out there and dance!