Dance Rituals

I wanted to take some time and outline some dance rituals of mine, and also to gain some insight into other people's. This is also where I want to manifest my ritual goals, or continue things that I've started gaining momentum on but haven't turned into true "regular routines".

First, I want to dispel the myth that all professionals drill shit for like 6 hours a day. I'm sure that SOME DO, and to them I tip my hat. However, I'm a full time student, performer, instructor, choreographer, and I like to get laid sometimes, so I don't always take the time to drill combinations for hours and hours and hours.

I recently had a workshop with my FAVORITE belly dancer of all time ever, Sharon Kihara, who had some wise words on "daily practice". She said that if "You want to spend 30 minutes a day three times a week practicing dance, that's fine. If you wanna do yoga every day and not practice, that's perfect too." Basically, the point here was that if you're the type that gets the most benefit and pleasure from having a strict daily routine, then that's perfect — for you. If you're a little less restrictive about your constraints, then it's okay to have periods in your life when you're not actively practicing dance. It's okay to stop for awhile. If it's not feeding you at that moment, do what does feed you, and trust that you'll fluctuate in and out of dance practice rituals.

This workshop helped me a lot because I am always someone who never feels good enough. I'm never thin enough, or muscular enough, or I never practice enough, drill enough, prepare enough. So hearing this from Kihara put me at ease that, just because I'm not doing barre for an hour every day, doesn't mean I'm not growing as a dancer. My dance rituals are just a little different than that. So, what do I do?

Due to my weekly class constraints and my influx of private students, I'm constantly trying to challenge myself and think of new, exciting pathways and combinations for my students who are paying good money for my time. I feel like they deserve fresh, challenging things every time they see me. A couple of times a week, usually Tuesdays and Sundays when I'm a little less overloaded with school, I put on some of my favorite dance music and freeform it until I configure something that confuses me. Then I break it down for myself and drill it until it makes sense, and I bring that to my students. I try to do things that challenge me, so that I can be assured that they'll be challenging enough for them, and if need be, I take it up or down a notch.

I work out. I'm not a "lifter", in my opinion, but I do weights about 4-5 times a week and if I haven't danced a lot that day, I'll cardio for 15-20 minutes. I try to maintain stamina in my thighs, because I think as a dancer, core and legs are so important to maintaining strength, posture, and getting the full range of movement. I do a lot of weird dance styles that require me to be in a very deep plie for extended periods of time, so I try to train myself outside of class to always improve that stamina. I love shimmy drills, and if I'm warming up to start drilling or choreographing, I will turn on music and shimmy my brains out in the deepest plie as I can for the entire song. I'll vary it up, do some knee shimmy, choo choo, African, twisty, 3/4, etc. But always maintaining as much of a bend in my knees as I can without pitching forward.

I drown myself in music, so even when I'm not consciously putting combinations together in front of a mirror, I am formulating them in my head. Often times for months, or years, before I outline them in person. This way I've already got some spaces filled, and I just worry about filling in the holes when I'm finishing.

I like to stay enrolled in dance classes, and in college this semester I'm in a weekly ballet class on Mondays and Wednesdays. I also take West African and I drop in on Samba, hip hop, modern, etc, if I have time. I think it's good to keep a steady influx of movement pathways put together by another dancer.

Rituals I'm going to try and maintain are working out, watching my protein intake, and doing more dance videos at home. It's no substitute for a teacher, but it's better than nothing just to mix it up. In the past I've kept a pretty steady stream of "Middle Eastern serpentine-style fusion + hip hop fusion dubstep", so over the next few choreographies, I'm working on expressing another facet of my fusion. I'm consciously making myself focus on my modern, African, and ballet fusion to integrate it more deeply into my muscle memory. I'm also chin-deep in dance study books, and am currently working through "Grandmother's Secrets: The Ancient Rituals and Healing Power of Belly Dancing" "Gypsies and Flamenco", and "Appreciating Dance", which is actually a text book. I'm taking notes and highlighting and all that for reference, and for my future academic dance assignments!

What are your dance rituals? Practice, before a performance, for choreographing, etc.

Posted on October 14, 2014 .