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  1. #1
    Member maylynn's Avatar
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    Default What to do when a student just doesn't get it?

    I've been having a little problem with one of my students and would love your advice.

    I've been teaching this lovely lady private lessons for a little while now. She picks up things relatively well and is particularly good at grasping fast/sharp movements such as any kind of shimmy. She has basic knowledge of some of the basic movements now and I've started introducing variations and movements that are slightly more difficult.

    My problem is that I cannot, for the life of me, get her to do proper undulations! Any smooth slow movements really, but this is most noticeable with undulations. I've never had a problem quite like this in 9 years of teaching.

    I suspect the main issue is lack of focus on her part. She is often flustered or distracted and while she can whip off some fast moves pretty well due to general coordination and muscle memory, things that need more control and subtlety are very difficult for her to do. I've tried breaking the movements down to the atomic level, tried describing them many different ways, tried demonstrating different ways, tried physical adjustments to try and help her understand the movement, tried to drill it in, tried to be casual about it, tried to slip it into combinations to see if this would help it flow better - but all to no avail.

    So what do I do? I can't really think of anything else to try with her so that she gets undulations right. She likes the movements and says she wants to get them right, but when the time comes to learn/practice her mind is in 387 different places and things just do not come together. At the moment for example, with chest undulations for example she's leading with her neck and shoulders and the undulation is not undulating.

    For the moment I keep trying to go through them with her in the hopes that it will all fall into place one day, whether through consistent attempts at it or a variety of angles of approach. She is making some progress on them, albeit pretty slow. She obviously enjoys the lessons and is gaining confidence, but I can't help thinking if she focused a bit more it would be a lot easier for her!

    Anyone been in similar situations or have any suggestions on how I could make this work for her?

  2. #2
    Senior Member walladah's Avatar
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    Default Hi!

    Sometimes, for reasons that usually are beyond scientific explanation a part of the dancer's body is just like being "locked".

    THe locking is revealed by a particular movement that for reasons that no structured explanation exist about, hits "locking reason" at its heart and then the body and mind become allies and use inertia to perpetuate the situation they are accustomed to.

    In that case, if you want to help a dancer overcome the locking point you have several options

    1) wait. keep practicing the movement even if it is not right, wavy, flowing, etc. One day the dancer wakes up and does it. No explanation for the change.

    2) make it theatrical, as if the parts of body involved want to do something specific toward another person that is fictional. Make it body language (that is muzzled).

    3) make it as much un as it can be. If the dancer laughs at any silly thing you can say about the movement, the dancer will do the movement.

    4) make it essential/primitive. Many oriental dance movements have an internal structure that is common to several traditional dances. F.ex. ondulations have integrated a pendulum in the body parts that move, forward-backward-forward-backward. Pretend being a pendulum before an elegant dancer. Find the extreme points of the pendulum movement - find the 4 directions that a full movement requires... it will look like break dance or modern dance or butoh but after a while, wave-like movement will emerge.

    5) Follow the old teaching advice: you do it now and you understand and learn it later! no explanation exists for dancers imitating perfectly and being unable to understand explanations... maybe because if it was possible to be said, it would not be worth it to be danced. Sometimes, teachers (esp. the good ones) talk too much. Sometimes they should not.

    I hope this helps...

  3. #3
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    well ,that s weird

    she can do shimmy but can`t do undulation!!

    anyway , let her do a square with her chest
    and if that did not work with her let her downolad and bellydance dvd or watch clips on youtube ... she needs home practice l think

  4. #4
    V.I.P. Reen.Blom's Avatar
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    And practice it SLOW and FOCUSED. I guess patience is the key, Im much better at sharp moves, cos slow take a lot of control and patience... LOL

  5. #5
    Moderator Daimona's Avatar
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    Be patient and keep practicing. I'm sure she'll get it sooner or later.

    If her minds wanders while practicing, perhaps she needs some tools to help her focus as well as learning dance moves?
    Breathing excercises related to dance might help.
    --
    Daim.

  6. #6
    Member Pleasant dancer's Avatar
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    Does she go to classes as well as privates? I say this because sometimes private lessons can become very intensive and focussed on the individual (as they should be!) but this can become too much concentration for some students and they get frustrated, then they lose their concentration and the movement gets blocked. I think this is especially true for students who haven't been dancing for very long. Sometimes it helps if students can "lose" themselves in a class, having a look at what other students are doing, and then try the movement knowing that they are not being scrutinised by the teacher too closely.

    Just a thought, hope it helps.

  7. #7
    Member Anthea Kawakib's Avatar
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    I know, but a shimmy & an undulation are comletely different!

    We do a contraction/arch stretch in each class, contraction meaning your back is making a "C", and arch of course, is arching your back. They're both done with plie, and hands clasped either in front or in back; and head down or head up.
    Then later when they're working on some movement (like an undulation) it's easy to take either the top or bottom half (i.e. pelvis or rib cage) & relate to that stretch: "remember the contraction stretch...etc. etc."

    My question is can she do either the arch or contraction?

    Bottom line is, if she can't do the move, tell her she may not. It's forbidden until she can do it right. No sense in her half-assing it & building bad muscle memory.

    Quote Originally Posted by haifaa View Post
    well ,that s weird

    she can do shimmy but can`t do undulation!!

    anyway , let her do a square with her chest
    and if that did not work with her let her downolad and bellydance dvd or watch clips on youtube ... she needs home practice l think

  8. #8
    Moderator Farasha Hanem's Avatar
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    Maylynn, I have an idea that hopefully will help her, because it did me. First of all, suggest some good DVD's on undulations, so she can watch them on TV to see how they're done. Sometimes, watching something on TV will click better than watching your teacher do it (and sometimes the opposite is true). Weird, I know, but sometimes DVD's can help supplement what you've been trying to get through to her in class. You know how kids can be unfocused in school, yet will devolve (de-evolve?) into a zombielike state in front of the TV at home? Watching a DVD might help her absorb the info better. I hope this makes sense.

    Secondly, if she has a camcorder or a digital camera with video capability, have her keep a "bellydance diary" of her home practices, and give her homework. Have her practice and video her undulations, then have her watch herself to see exactly what she's doing, and what she needs to work on to finally "get it." Keeping a video diary of my practices has helped me a lot, because I can actually see what I'm doing, but in a "third party" sort of way, if that makes sense. I can stand in front of a mirror all day, but somehow, seeing myself on video helps me to be more objective and realistic.

    When I first started bellydancing, I had trouble with undulations, too, and your student sounds like she's doing the same thing I was doing. With me, I felt like I had to overcompensate for being short and small, so I thought leading with my neck and shoulders would give me a running start, so to speak, and make my undulations look bigger and more noticeable. It took seeing myself on video to finally realize I was going about undulations all wrong.

    Hope what I did will help you help your student. Best of luck to you both.

  9. #9
    Member maylynn's Avatar
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    Default she got it!

    I had a lesson with this student last night, and she got the chest undulation!!!

    Well it's not perfect of course, but the foundation is now definitely there. I guess it just needed a bit of time to sink in. I gave her lots of encouragement yesterday and pointed out what she was doing right and a helpful way to think about it while she practiced - but that obstacle I think might be done and dusted!

    We'll have to see how it goes next week, hopefully we can build on this progress now but she knows how it feels to do it right now, has seen herself do it, and has the confidence to do it again! I'm so happy!

  10. #10
    Senior Member walladah's Avatar
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    Default Bravo to the student

    Bravo to the teacher!

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