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  1. #1
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    Creating a practice session - tips

    I'm reposting this here, because I've had other people tell me they enjoyed it and it was helpful, so if it works you for, then yippee!


    Dance students sometimes find themselves stumped when trying to put together a practice session. So I'm posting this in the hopes that it might help some of you.

    You have to look at your dance practice sessions in a different way than you would, say sports practice.

    What do you hope to accomplish during a practice session? (any of the following or more/other)

    1. Drill technique on movements that are challenging.
    2. Drill technique on movements that AREN'T challenging, but you don't want to start looking sloppy.
    3. Learn new choreographies or combinations from videos.
    4. Create your own choreographies or combinations
    5. Rehearse choreographies you already know.
    6. Practice dancing and playing finger cymbals
    7. Practice improvisation skills
    8. Practice performance skills
    9. PLAY with dance -- interpret, emote, improvise, have fun!
    etc.

    I think a lot of us tend to view belly dance as an activity to be mastered, and we tend to forget to actually have FUN with it. Instead of calling it "practice time" call it instead "studio time." See how that changes the expectations?

    If you can allocate an hour every day you will absolutely notice progress faster than if you just do it on weekends, or for an hour here and there.

    (Most adult learning research suggests that doing something for a short period of time EVERY day, at the same time of day leads to greater success than "cramming" all your practice into one or two days a week.)

    I tell my students the bare minimum is 20 minutes a day EVERY day. That's really not much, and is easy to schedule into the busiest of lives. Depending on what you want to accomplish, 20-90 minutes of daily practice should be your goal.

    First figure out your goal -- are you hoping to go pro? If so, 20 minutes a day is not going to cut it. Do you want to be considerd an accomplished soloist? Try 45 minutes a day. Just want to master what you've already learned? You will require less daily practice than the aspiring pro. Be realistic in your goals. Don't forget you have other hobbies and family and work obligations. Don't bite off too much or you'll just depress yourself.

    Look at your studio time on a monthly calendar, instead of a daily one. This is a rough approximation, but you basically have four weeks, of seven days each.

    So, why not block those 7 days and 4 weeks into different goals.

    For instance, you could say on Mondays and Wednesdays, I'm going to drill technique for 15 minutes on movements I'm already comfortable with. Just so they don't look sloppy.
    On Friday I will practice performance skills or practicing new cymbal patterns for 15 minutes.

    On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I'm going to drill technique on challenging movements for 15 minutes, then play for 15 minutes, doing whatever I want, to whatever music I want, just focusing on having fun with dance.
    (There, now M,W, and F you have 45 minutes of "syllabus."

    On Tuesdays and Thursdays maybe you'll work choreography or combinations, either creating your own or learning someone else's, and practice dancing with zills or props, or whatever. On Saturdays you'll work with one specific video of your choice, practicing it for a month or as long as needed. On Sundays you can rehearse choreographies you already know. For 20 minutes on Tues, Thurs, Sat, and Sun you can put on music and work on improvisation skills.

    The you can figure once a month -- say the first Saturday of the month -- you can do a self-evaluation and decide what needs to be added to or taken away from your MWF drills.

    If you work with videos a lot, take one day out of the month, for example, the first Sunday of the month, and review videos you've already mastered.

    The idea is if you break up what you want to accomplish into manageable "chunks" you'll see improvement and success faster. And if you can break up the month or the week, (or even the year if you're really ambitious) into scheduled chunks, you might find you get more accomplished than if you just work from day to day.

    But don't forget to block time for FUN. Where you go to your "studio" (even if' it's just a corner of your bedroom) and just dance for your own self, not performing, not practicing, just moving to the music -- whatever music you want. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, and an uninspiring performer

    For more info on adult learning strategies, try the following books (you can adapt their content to suit your needs):

    - The Inner Game of Music by Barry Green and Timothy Gallwey
    - The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
    - Making Music at the Piano: Learning Strategies for Adult Students by Barbara Maris
    - Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards

  2. #2
    V.I.P. Yasmine Bint Al Nubia's Avatar
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    Great list Aziyade! I already use some of your techniques and I especially like that they are grounded in common sense too. Oriental dance reuires lifelong learnng and there is no reason wh it shouldn't be fun too!
    Yasmine

  3. #3
    Member Freya's Avatar
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    Aziyade, you are just a treasure-trove! What fabulous practical advice!
    Freya

  4. #4
    Senior Member miss_shimmy's Avatar
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    Default :)

    awesome guidance,thankx so much for sharing

  5. #5
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    Grateful for ur useful info!

  6. #6
    Moderator Safran's Avatar
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    Those tips are useful indeed... I am still struggling of making daily practice a regular habit. I don't have a problem starting it - I have a marvellous floor-to-ceiling mirror in my room, and it taks no effort to get into my practise gear and put on the music. I even manage with the warm-up. But then I usually discover myself thinking "and what the hell am I supposed to do next now!?"

    To help myself overcome it, I sit down after every "official" class or after watching a video and write down the specific elements or combinations that I feel I should learn/work on. This way, when stuck, I can always refer to the list. Secondly, I am also trying to go through all the older choreographies to keep them fresh and perfect them technically.

    Aziyade, any tips on self-assessment? Because even though we know how easy it is to criticise ourselves, how do you make it constructive?

  7. #7
    Member Babylonia's Avatar
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    Great advice, thanks. I had also read a piano teacher who said he could tell which of the students practiced for just 15 minutes a day as oppossed to the ones who practiced an hour a week. It makes sense that it would apply to dance.

  8. #8
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    that's a great list! As a newbie teacher, I have been wondering just how to articulate how to practice, and you gave a great list there. I always just practiced, but I know its not that easy for everyone and some structure can be really helpful. thank you Aziyade!

  9. #9
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by maariku View Post
    Aziyade, any tips on self-assessment? Because even though we know how easy it is to criticise ourselves, how do you make it constructive?
    I'll be back shortly, but this is just for real quick:

    Again with the lists -- if you're the easily frustrated type, try making a list of "stuff I can do really well!" Heck, make it a poster and hang it in your practice space. Put stars on it, draw in crayon, whatever inspires you. List all of what you consider to be your positive dance attributes:

    - I can do a full backbend
    - My 3/4 shimmy is fast and lovely
    - I have a lovely pointed foot
    - I'm so good at cane, it's like I was born with one!
    - I have a good ear for Egyptian music
    - I can layer shimmies effortlessly
    - I can balance a 3-tiered shamadan on my head WITHOUT hairspray

    ... and so on. Be specific, and be detailed. Make this a long list! Do you have really sharp hip work? list it. Are your gushy moves really gushy? List that!

    Then make another list. This one is "stuff I want to perfect." Start with the things you're closest to really getting right:

    - I want to learn 15 common ME rhythms
    - I want to learn to spin without getting sick
    - I want to be able to speed up my 3/4 shimmy
    - I want to have more control over my lower abs

    etc.

    Add to this list as you go, and once you accomplish each task, cross it off the "to do" list and add it to your "Stuff I can do" poster.


    Also, after each practice session, you can make a list of all the things you practiced that day, and how long (approximately) you did them. For some people, including me, just seeing all your hard work in print is enough to motivate you to greater things.


    But if you're asking about how to really judge your level of ability and how much you've accomplished, that's a different post and I need to think on it. Teachers are a great source, as are self-tests, videotaping yourself and critiquing it, etc.

    If you're critiquing a video'd performance, I'd do the same thing with the lists -- first, if you're video-phobic, watch the thing 10 times. Then, make a list of all the things or aspects of the dance where you thought, "that's pretty cool!" Be sure to list the positive first. Then you can make another list of things that didn't look as good as they could. Add those things to your practice sessions.

    Of course, you hit plateaus in everything -- learning piano, dancing, studying a language. The key to success is to work through the plateau, and everybody has a different method. A lot depends on how well you can actually teach yourself -- or if you need someone guiding you. There's no shame in being either kind of person, or being a blend. One of my favorite piano teachers could NEVER teach herself how to knit or crochet, although she taught herself conversational Japanese well enough and taught piano to other people for a living.

    Blah blah -- I could go on forever, but I love talking about adult learning. Maariku, can you be more specific with your question? I'd like to help if I can't but I'm not fully sure I know what you're asking.

  10. #10
    Senior Member miss_shimmy's Avatar
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    this is a great thread



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