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  1. #1
    Premium Member Aniseteph's Avatar
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    Default Improvisation - help!

    We just did quite a bit of improvising in class today - I think we are starting to really work on it rather than just have the occasional play around.

    I find it really difficult. I think I'm starting to get a feel for what sort of moves go with what music - I listen to belly dance music a lot and I can hear where there should be hip drops or camels or shimmies etc. I can hear the phrasing and the rhythms in the music, the call and response patterns... In my head I'm FANTASTIC at improvising .

    But in real life I end up off balance after a phrase, falling over my feet, missing accents, repeating the same thing and getting stuck etc etc. Horrible. It's almost as if there's a block between hearing the music and moving - my brain frantically thinking "OMG got to do something, this isn't working, what am I going to do next, no that won't work cos the feet are in the wrong place, try it anyway, no that makes it worse, oh crap there was an accent there and I missed it again...." and so on.

    I don't expect to be any good at this stage (and I don't think our teacher does either ), but it wasn't pretty. So pleeeeease, have any of you experienced dancers and teachers, and students who have got past this, got any advice?

  2. #2
    Member Ariella's Avatar
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    I have a couple ideas:

    - Practice outside of class. As silly as this sounds, it can make a huge difference in improvising.
    - Start off giving yourself bounds. For example: pick a really easy song, and only do hip slides or drops. Play around with how diverse you can get doing just these two, try out different arm positions, different angles. It's easy to think what to do if you can only do very few things. Then try adding more moves to what you are "allowed" to do. Also - consider the music you are using. For example, you don't want to limit yourself to hip drops for a taxim, maybe just undulations instead.
    - Practice improvising to the same song over and over. You might find yourself doing some of the same things over and over, but you'll also be learning what moves go with what parts of the music.
    - Pick a coreography you know inside and out. Start practicing the coreography, and when you feel comfortable, start doing your own thing. When you start to feel unsure, go back to the coreography until you feel like branching out again.

  3. #3
    V.I.P. janaki's Avatar
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    For me it is important that I notice the rythms and all the instruments in the music. It is good to improvise to the music you know inside out. I have combiantions of steps I made up for all popular rhythms (malfouf, saidi, baladi, masmoudi, maksoum, ayoub and fellahin). Also instruments in the music tells you what moves to use for the dance. I also have some combinations for taxim. When I improv to the music I am not very familiar with, I'll bring in my combos(i call them my emergency steps). I practice at home with these combos to different songs. As Ariella said it by changing the angles, speed, levels and adding layers takes each move a long way. If you watch the great masters like Fifi, Suheir, they work with limited vocabulary and the way they present them...gosh, fantastic. It doesn't mean they don't a lot. After dancing for 6 years, improvising 90% of the time, I have realised more is not better. Looking too busy in the dance is not good either. Good clean technique, good timing to the beat and dance through your body and soul makes every dance great dance. Happy improvising!!!

    Cheers
    Janaki

  4. #4
    V.I.P. Maria_Aya's Avatar
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    First of all relax !!!
    And be happy that your teacher got you (and the class) in to the beauty of real dancing improvisation !!
    Do you know how many teachers doesnt ever do this? (cause they cant either he he).

    If makes you comfortable ask from your teacher a copy of the cd you are usual using at class, or how/wher to buy it.
    Take that home and work with it.

    Even if it seems strange is more easy to improvize at classic arabic songs because they have a specific structure. Intro, phrases, changes of rythms and feeling, and finale.
    Relax, listen to the music, and dont look around in the class, be focused to what you do, and not to others.
    What are your favorite movements? pick 5
    and work with them if possible in a row, in a turn, in a circle, back and forword, this multiply them, and make them seem and feel different.

    Enjoy dancing

    Maria Aya

  5. #5
    V.I.P. Moon's Avatar
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    I'm not a teacher or experienced student and I find improvisation difficult too, but I feel it helps me (apart from all the great tips above), when you actually have to improvise in class, to find a place where you cannot watch the mirror or your teacher and, ideally, also no other dancers. That way you dance from your heart and you don't compare yourself to others. I know it's difficult to find a spot where you can see no others, but in my class I just turn around to face the wall, because most students choose to face the mirror.

  6. #6
    Member Recnadocir's Avatar
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    Agree with Ariella- practice improv solo. The more you do this, the more comfortable you should become. I have done this many times, and it just takes practice, and confidence.

  7. #7
    V.I.P. Yasmine Bint Al Nubia's Avatar
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    Hi Aniseteph, Practicing improv and dancing improv are really two different animals. While you are in class you are exposed to the concept of improv. Your teacher does not expect you to nail every accent or beat but instead enjoy your budding creative spirit. All choreographies do spring from improv. As Maria pointed out, relax. Don't put too much pressure on yourself. At our school we focus on improv and the students feel like there in a torture chamber!
    Looking away from the mirror(good advice Moon) is a big help as is being aware of your weight placement for easier transitions. feeling joy in yourself is the most important element in improvisation.
    Yasmine

  8. #8
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    GREAT ADVICE!!!!!

    I hate the IDEA of improv because it scares me, but half the time it's what I end up doing because apparently I have NO head for choreography and forget it all the second I walk on stage.

    I'm dancing to a live band for the first time sometime in June and I'm terrified, especially since the advice given to me was "practice improv."

    I'll be taking Ariella's advice, too. Let us know how your improv practice goes!


    Quote Originally Posted by Ariella View Post
    I have a couple ideas:

    - Practice outside of class. As silly as this sounds, it can make a huge difference in improvising.
    - Start off giving yourself bounds. For example: pick a really easy song, and only do hip slides or drops. Play around with how diverse you can get doing just these two, try out different arm positions, different angles. It's easy to think what to do if you can only do very few things. Then try adding more moves to what you are "allowed" to do. Also - consider the music you are using. For example, you don't want to limit yourself to hip drops for a taxim, maybe just undulations instead.
    - Practice improvising to the same song over and over. You might find yourself doing some of the same things over and over, but you'll also be learning what moves go with what parts of the music.
    - Pick a coreography you know inside and out. Start practicing the coreography, and when you feel comfortable, start doing your own thing. When you start to feel unsure, go back to the coreography until you feel like branching out again.

  9. #9
    Premium Member Aniseteph's Avatar
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    Wow, isn't this forum amazing? Thanks everyone for all the advice - now I've got some strategies to try and shut that brain up for a bit while the body tries to catch up.

    I think part of it is the time it takes to get over the self-consciousness, and in class we don't have that luxury. Practising at home is obviously what I need to do (not at all silly), though it's difficult to get time and space and music all together.

    And I agree about it being a good thing for our teacher to be doing with us (even if it feels like the torture chamber!). She certainly can improvise! She improvises dances for us to follow, which in itself is probably a good preparation for learning how to do it ourselves - just occasionally I know what's coming!

    Big thanks to you all.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aniseteph View Post
    Wow, isn't this forum amazing? Thanks everyone for all the advice - now I've got some strategies to try and shut that brain up for a bit while the body tries to catch up.

    I think part of it is the time it takes to get over the self-consciousness, and in class we don't have that luxury. Practising at home is obviously what I need to do (not at all silly), though it's difficult to get time and space and music all together.

    And I agree about it being a good thing for our teacher to be doing with us (even if it feels like the torture chamber!). She certainly can improvise! She improvises dances for us to follow, which in itself is probably a good preparation for learning how to do it ourselves - just occasionally I know what's coming!

    Big thanks to you all.
    OMG.. LOVE to improvise... this is what THIS dance is ALL about!!!!
    BUT.. you must HAVE the VOCABULARY in your body 1ST.. in order for it to come out!!!!
    *turning OFF your brain is an EXCELLENT idea!!! ( I tell my students that like 20X PER class!!!!)
    (but make sure to have have your brain ON when learning new moves/making sure you are isolating etc!)
    *practicing AT HOME is ALSO fab.... BUT I tell my students NOT to music we have a choreography to.... 2 things tend to happen....
    A) you get stuck in the "crutch" of the choreo when trying improv..... & then
    B)when you have to PERFORM the actual choreo... you can't remember it soo well!!!
    ****** in fact I have my students do "homework" for improv= 2-3 songs a night.....
    *if preparing for a taped performance= song 1= THE song you will perform to... plus a random one...
    *if preparing for LIVE music= NEW songs every night!!! (preferably ones you do NOT like... once you can dance to them, you can dance to anything!)
    just KEEP dancing!!!!!

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