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  1. #31
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    Well, hold up. There's no need to beat ourselves up over not being in class 8 hours a day!

    I said:

    How many of us actually train the way a ballet dancer or modern dancer trains? We're not in class or in rehearsal 5-6 hours a day. Some of us are not in the best physical condition -- I know I'm not, post baby. And even if you're not talking physical training, how many of us actually STUDY the music or the lyrics or the culture for an hour or two a day?

    And that wasn't meant to be a criticism, just really a question.

    More to the point -- Does our art form REQUIRE extensive training?

    I mean, I have discussed this with Tribal Fusion dancers who have danced or still dance with "a certain traveling show" and they all tell me they train and practice between 4-6 hours a day. Now those are pros -- who are actively dancing in shows pretty much 5 nights a week, if not more. But how much actually training time do Oriental dancers need? And what do we classify as training? The TF ladies count yoga and time at the gym as training time. They sometimes count working with the music as training time too. Rehearsal, drilling, etc. It adds up.

    Personally I think we need to spend as much time working with the music as we do working with the movement. But I'm very music-focused, so that's my prejudice.


    There is so much more to serious dance training than just talking class an hour or two a week, and drilling "the moves" at home. Can you imagine a modern dancer trying to get by on that kind of schedule? Why do we set the bar so low for ourselves?

    The above may sound snarky, but I'm fighting my own students on how many times they need to listen to the music. They don't know it inside and out and sometimes get "surprised" by a bridge or second chorus, and I keep telling them "listening to it only when you're dancing it, 3-4 times a week, is NOT enough. PERFORMANCE is completely different from just dancing for fun. There is a lot more energy and work put into performance, and I don't think a lot of people see that.

    As for "if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck ..." Shan -- ABSOLUTELY! I was just reading an article about how people who wore lab coats tested higher than those who didn't (I'll try to find the link. The idea was that if you feel smart, you'll BE smart.) I think "dressing the part" definitely helps you focus your attention on your goal. THINKING of yourself as a dancer can go a long way in making your performance more interesting and exciting. But we have to always temper that with also thinking that we're continually students. I have seen WAY too many mid-level students decide they were "dancers" and suddenly they stopped growing and their performances suffered.

    So I ask again:
    So what would "serious dance training" encompass for you? How many hours a day? What subjects? What would you expect a Serious Dance Student to continue to study, outside of movement?

  2. #32
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    Since I brought it up, I'll start:

    So what would "serious dance training" encompass for you?

    For me, it's two parts: PRACTICE and STUDY

    1. Practice means focused, REGULAR practice -- with a goal.

    2. Study is analyzing videos, reading books, listening to and taking apart the music. Anything that doesn't involve me actually getting up to move.



    How many hours a day?

    (Again, just for me personally, I have to be sort of rigid in how I approach my training, otherwise I would just sort of wander off and just dance randomly with no goal, whenever I feel like it. I need a pretty rigid structure, but others might not.)

    Personally, now that my child is taking 2-hour naps, I can pretty much devote 2 hours a day to the PRACTICAL or PRACTICE part of dance. This has to include warm-up and cool-down, although sometimes I can stretch outside the studio with him. (My "studio" is in the basement, in the other half of the laundry room. I had to have a place of my own with no distractions.) Sometimes if I'm lucky I can sneak in a ballet or modern dance class here and there, and I simply HAVE to find time to start working out again. I need to lose the last of this baby weight before he's in school! My absolute minimum is 90 minutes. I NEED that time to get done what I want to get done.

    Because I need the rigid structure, I dedicate my PRACTICE time out in daily chunks: 15 min for this, 30 min for this, 20 min for rehearsing this, whatever. And I have calendar goals: This month I'm focusing on the skeleton for this improv piece. Next month it's learning this Tito choreography. After that it might be putting all those Saidi combinations together into a cane piece, whatever. This week I'm going to master that combination, or work on this layered shimmy, etc. I also sometimes have to "schedule" in just plain free dance time, to play with new music, or just to take a break from all the structure.

    What subjects?

    PRACTICE: Drills, Choreography, Improv practice -- whatever skills I'm working on currently or need to stay good at.

    STUDY: books, magazines: books on choreographic theory, books on Arab culture, books on music, etc. Also watching and analyzing my own videos, other people's videos, videos of other dance forms. Also listening critically to music, listening to music just to get the experience of listening, analyzing the music.

    What would you expect a Serious Dance Student to continue to study, outside of movement?

    The culture(s), the language, the music, the trends in dance, costuming I guess, dance as art (and dance theory) psychology of dance.

  3. #33
    Senior Member Sophia Maria's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade
    So what would "serious dance training" encompass for you?
    I would say that if you're trying to train "seriously", you would need many things to contribute to the training. You need to train technique. Then you need to have a professional give you regular feedback on your technique (in person). You would also need to keep up with fitness as well, because if you're working towards performing professionally, you need endurance. Equally important as the technique training is setting aside solid time each week to just dance. One doesn't simply "drill" everyday, and learn how to dance. This means complete improvisation--it's something that I think every BD student needs to train seriously.

    "Serious" training also involves studying, this is very true. Personally, I think it is so important. I spend a few solid hours a week (sometimes more than I will admit ) researching on the internet or reading books. Then I participate in discussions on OD or on Bhuz, which always teach me something new. I also started an Arabic course this semester at my university. To be quite honest, sometimes I really wish THIS was a required part of "serious" part of bellydance training--to learn at least basic conversational Arabic. (or Turkish? Who knows?)

    I would also list music as a separate point because it is so important. Hopefully this would come naturally. I do not understand people who pursue bellydance without loving Middle Eastern music. It would be like doing hip-hop and hating rap. I love Middle Eastern music and listen to it half the time I'm listening to music. Then when I say I am "studying" music, I'm doing things like finding new songs, finding translations, and memorizing lyrics to try to learn more words.

    Serious dance training also involves variety and interaction. What I mean by that is that one cannot dance in a bubble. One must go to train with other dancers, talk with other dancers, go to performances (even ones you're not sure you'll like), buy different DVDs, learn other styles, learn the basics of other dance styles.

    I would argue that bellydancers do not have to train like ballerinas to be "serious". But I would argue that they do have to partake in daily practice and commitment to the dance.

  4. #34
    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    THINKING of yourself as a dancer can go a long way in making your performance more interesting and exciting.
    In over thirty years of teaching and studying dance I've seen so many examples of this. I've also seen how identifying oneself as a dancer affects every aspect of one's self-confidence. My favorite example is one I've shared before:

    About ten years ago, two young women signed up for my class together. One was a cheerful babbler, the other was a self-proclaimed "klutz." The babbler happily and loudly seconded this evaluation of her friend. I told the second girl (Tiffany, I think her name was) that there is a difference between being a klutz and being untrained and that I believed she was simply untrained.

    She worked hard (the babbler not so much) throughout the semester. In one class toward the semester's end, she executed a lovely spin and drop to one knee. That girl shot up off the ground like a rocket, yelling, "I'm NOT a klutz- I'm a DANCER!"

    It was a life-changing moment for her and a golden moment in my teaching career.

  5. #35
    V.I.P. Yame's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade View Post
    Well, hold up. There's no need to beat ourselves up over not being in class 8 hours a day!

    I said:

    How many of us actually train the way a ballet dancer or modern dancer trains? We're not in class or in rehearsal 5-6 hours a day. Some of us are not in the best physical condition -- I know I'm not, post baby. And even if you're not talking physical training, how many of us actually STUDY the music or the lyrics or the culture for an hour or two a day?

    And that wasn't meant to be a criticism, just really a question.
    But is it really a question we should be asking? Is it a comparison we should be making?
    I'm not singling you out for asking it, because personally I've found myself making the same comparisons and asking the same questions. However what I've found is that this line of thinking isn't going to do anything but depress me. It just isn't a fair comparison. Only 0.0001% of us (sorry for the totally arbitrary percentage) will ever actually be paid to rehearse 5-6 hours a day, because the dynamics our community and market are completely different... so this isn't a common model for us. In other dance forms, that is something that is very commonplace. And the people who don't get accepted into the dance companies, they usually either just end up teaching, or drop out of dance altogether. With us, we have to make it all happen. We have to pay for our own training if we want to keep going. Expecting to be able to rehearse or practice that many hours a day just isn't realistic for the typical belly dance professional.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade View Post
    More to the point -- Does our art form REQUIRE extensive training?
    It depends on so many things... for example, it depends on region. There is so much regional variation not just in style but in the quality of the professionals and and serious students, it's impossible to have an answer. Even if we lived in a world where standards were about the same across-the-board, it still would depend a lot on the individual. Some people pick up and improve extremely fast, while others take a really long time.

    So I always sort of avoid that answer. However I think I can answer for myself as an individual... for me, I think it does require extensive training. Because whenever I ask myself the question of what I should be doing to get better, my answer is always "more." Whether I'm going through a lazy period where I just take all my classes but hardly ever practice at home, or whether I'm going through my motivated period where in addition to my classes I'm also practicing daily. It doesn't matter how much I do, I always feel like I should be doing more.

    It's partly because there are so many things I want to work on, and no matter how much I improve there is always more. Perhaps if I could train 4-8 hours a day, I would have already hit a plateau past which I just can't really improve, and perhaps then I'd be satisfied with my level of skill (I doubt it), and perhaps then other people would see me as a great dancer, but even then, I'd still want to keep doing it... because I just love doing it.

    So even if we don't actually NEED the extensive training... I want it anyway. Because I want to dance, all the time. And I don't mean dance by myself at home (I've been REALLY unmotivated to practice on my own lately). I mean actual classes with other people, plus rehearsals, plus performances, plus dancing socially. The few times a year I get a chance to take workshop intensives where I am dancing for 4-8 hours a day for multiple days in a row, that's when I am the happiest. I wish I could have that in my life, all the time.


    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade View Post

    There is so much more to serious dance training than just talking class an hour or two a week, and drilling "the moves" at home. Can you imagine a modern dancer trying to get by on that kind of schedule? Why do we set the bar so low for ourselves?


    The above may sound snarky, but I'm fighting my own students on how many times they need to listen to the music. They don't know it inside and out and sometimes get "surprised" by a bridge or second chorus, and I keep telling them "listening to it only when you're dancing it, 3-4 times a week, is NOT enough. PERFORMANCE is completely different from just dancing for fun. There is a lot more energy and work put into performance, and I don't think a lot of people see that.
    I'm really big on telling people that coming to class once a week and doing nothing outside of class to improve their dancing isn't going to achieve much. With that said, again, the modern dancer point is just not a fair one to make. I know I already said this a lot, but I really want to drill the point home here... there is basically nothing we can do--not right now at least-- that would make our training schedule less laughable to a modern dancer. Unless you are in a belly dance company that offers and pays for your training (do they exist?), unless you have access to some sort of belly dance academy that offers multiple belly dance classes every single day with reasonable package prices... there is just nothing you can ever do that won't be laughable to a modern dancer.

    Even if you take a one-hour class every day of the week, and then go home and practice for hours... that's still laughable. That's not serious, elite training. Practicing by yourself in front of a mirror is something, but it's not the same as being in class constantly being corrected by a strict teacher for hours and hours everyday.

    Even if you perform multiple shows everyday. Performing is not training. I mean, sure, it is training. You're practicing a lot of things when you perform... you're practicing stage presence, you're getting movement practice, you're practicing transitions, you're developing your own persona... but you're also developing bad habits. Anyone who has been performing for years and years and not supporting that with regular training ends up with some technical issues, most often one side being MUCH stronger or better than the other (For example people who can only turn one way, who do most movements on only one side, etc. We all have these issues whether or not we practice, but when we practice we try to balance out both sides and when we perform we favor one. The most one-sided dancers I've seen are seasoned performers who haven't taken classes in a long time).

    So I think no matter what you'll do, it'll still be laughable from the perspective of someone who dances ballet or modern professionally. That's why I don't think we should be using those comparisons at all. We should still set the bar high for ourselves... in areas like mine, certainly the bar should be higher than it is right now. But I think we need to find our own balance, not try to base it off of these other dances that are so different from ours.
    Last edited by Yame; 03-01-2013 at 08:46 PM.

  6. #36
    Junior Member Roxannya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jane View Post
    There are dance teachers from other genres of dance that yell, demean, cuss at, and even hit students to correct them
    Honestly, I don't know how they even keep clients coming back to their studios with behavior like that. It's incredibly disrespectful. If the tables were turned, I'm almost certain the student would be asked to leave the premises. While good, honest, heart-felt correction should be expected, and welcomed by the student, physical and/or mental abuse has no place in the classroom.

    I have never experienced this. I do not think this is acceptable. I can't see how it would be effective. If an instructor has to resort to tactics like this, they may want to consider another vocation where the public is not involved.

  7. #37
    V.I.P. Kashmir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roxannya View Post
    Honestly, I don't know how they even keep clients coming back to their studios with behavior like that. It's incredibly disrespectful.
    Never had any contact with children's ballet then? Not only is/was this common, the classes were packed. And yes, the parents were aware of it as they sat outside the studio and could hear what was happening inside.

  8. #38
    Moderator Darshiva's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sophia Maria View Post
    Occasionally I have heard of teachers having to simplify choreographies instead of pushing the students to do more. It seems a shame.
    Actually, this is one of the reasons I have taken choreography out of my regular classes and turned it into a class on it's own - that you must pass an audition for. If you want to learn choreography, you have to earn it!
    Bellydance in Kyabram!
    Skype classes a specialty.
    Email kyabrambellydance@gmail.com for more information.

  9. #39
    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    My poor students are forced to participate in developing choreography: a group dance is a group effort all the way, although She Who Must Be Obeyed has the final say.

  10. #40
    Junior Member WaterLilly's Avatar
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    It's true that in ballet almost every teacher is a bit aggressive (some more, some less) but I think this comes mostly from the type of dance. With arabic dances I have never seen a teacher that would yell or hit a student. I explain this to myself like this: every dance requires training and seriousness, and hard work but I may say that ballet requires an extra amount of hard work on the technique. Of course, this doesn't give teachers right to abuse their students but it's one way to understand why they behave like this.

    Btw, all belly dance teachers that I ever met are the most smiling, happy and energizing people - they give out big amounts of positive energy to the students and never act negative.

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