Teachers, what do you teach to Beginners
I know I know I'm full of questions but I got my DVD (yay!) and now I'm wondering how many moves should I learn and practice a week and what type of moves. I figured start with the hip drops and stuff, but I'm not sure. Since I am a baby belly (haha) and want to be pretty good so I can perform for my family by christmas, what are some ideas?
Hi Starrbursts, At our school I teach beginners for 6 mos and in that time they learn traditional movements commonly found in all styles of Oriental dance.. For example, hip isolations such as hip circles, pelvic tucks/drops,bumps, lifts/drops:ribcage isolations such as ribcage circles, lift/drops, lateral movements etc.
You mention a DVD, is it geared for beginners? Who is the teacher? Is there a specific style the DVD promotes? I can remember having so many questions when I started and being grateful for having a teacher to guide me. Do you have a teacher? DVD,/videos are great,but they don't replace the feedback one can obtain from a teacher. Especially when we first learn to dance, there are many pitfalls we stumble into. the first pitfall is not paying attention to our posture so we can become graceful dancers. Another pitfall, is becoming a "legend" in our own mind, because we think we are good enough to perform after studying the video.
Depending on how fast you learn(visual learners really benefit form videos), 2 mos may not be enough time to be "really good" by Christmas. In order for you to reach your goal, you'll need to practice a minimum of 1-2 hrs daily, in addition to listening to the music you will want to perform to. It won't be necessary to create a choreoraphy, as long as you understand the rhythmic signatures of the song and have a strong dance vocabulary, you could perform an effective improvisation piece. Good Luck, let us know how it turns out.
Hi Starrburts, I stated learning belly dance with Neen and Veena, They demonstrate the posture but the voice over realy doesn't explain the significance of basic posture. aniseteph is right, your moves won't look very polished without it. Keeping your pelvis/tailbone slightly tucked will prevent lower back problems.
I teach everything from lesson 1 (posture, music, rythm, family with movemetns) in each lesson we add more and more and more and more.
But i guess this could not be done without a teacher.
My advice is to find a good teacher.
Questions are good! Keep them up! That's how you learn.
Here's what I see lacking in a lot of beginners, so I try to reinforce these things in class.
1. Posture -- if you want to get a good video that covers posture, I'd recommend Yasmina Ramzy's Bellydance Movement Foundations video -- plus it's a great drill for the basics. Posture is SOOOOOO important to this dance, and it's so often overlooked. It's easy to stand in front of the mirror and create the proper line, but so often as soon as the student starts moving, the posture falls apart.
2. Hip downs. Not to be confused with the Hip drop, the down is one of those movements that a lot of students struggle with, and if you don't really HAVE these, you're missing out on about half of the movement vocabulary. You can work your hip downs by stretching the hips up and down -- slowly -- every day.
3. Arms. We make beginning students keep the folkloric high V with their arms, because keeping them in some sort of ballet second position seems to encourage slumped shoulders and dead chicken wing arms. Keep energy in your arms at all times, but maintain a relaxed look.
4. Hip circles using oppositional muscles -- Shareen el Safy introduced me to the idea of pushing forward with the buttocks to move the hips forward, and pulling back with the low abs to move the hips back. This is a tough thing to really master and incorporate while you're dancing, so I try to introduce it early on. If you can master this technique, your circles will look much more "Oriental" and much less like Club Salsa or Afro-Cuban dancing.
5. Sharp, "isolated" movements. -- Isolation is a tricky word because we all use it differently. What I'm refering to is the idea of making each movement sharp and defined -- you can see the beginning, middle, and end of the movement. Too many students cut a movement short so that they can start the next movement. If your hip circle is 4 counts, GIVE IT the full 4 counts. Don't cheat and give it 3 and a half.
Isolation to me is not allowing every other part of your body to react to motion in, for instance, your hip. Now, this is DIFFERENT from Reverberation -- when you shimmy, it reverberates throughout your body. A lot (if not all) of the Oriental vocabulary has a tendency to reverberate through your body. But the reverb is INTENTIONAL, and is sort of a happy coincidence of the active movement.
Real control over your muscles allows for REVERB, but not spastic reactions to an action.
I see students doing a hip lift and drop, and they want to lift the entire side of their body (from shoulders to thighs) to accomplish this. It's not necessary. Once you can "Isolate" what muscles are needed to achieve a hip lift and drop, and start practicing that, the movements may look smaller, but they will look WAAAAAY more precise.
The reverb/isolation issue is easily confused by a lot of people. Check out the Janine Rabbit video to see an example of using WAY more muscles than needed to accomplish a movement, and look at how unpolished, sloppy, and amateurish it looks.
6. Small is good (the range of motion issue) -- The way we teach dance is usually: we do the movement, and the students copy it. The problem with that is that we've been doing this a lot longer than the students, and we've built up a much greater range of motion than the new student.
Torso flexibility isn't something we tend to work on in aerobics class. A simple ribcage slide is really a very complex movement, and if you don't have a large range of motion in those muscles, the slide is NOT going to be very big.
I see this in video learners, too: In order to copy the size of the movement, they tend to exaggerate the movement and use more muscles than necessary to achieve it, which results in sloppy dancing. Just keep in mind that you are new to this, and at first, your movements are probably going to be a lot smaller than those of the instructor.
My analogy is this: When you decide you want to start lifting weights, you don't start on a Monday and have big Popeye arms on Friday, right? Well, increasing range of motion is just like that. You work little by little, and over the course of several months you CAN achieve a greater range, and the movements WILL look bigger or more pronounced.
7. SLOW is good. Here's the trick to learning any dance movement and making it look super professional. START OUT SLLOOOOOOOOWWWLLLY. Like boring as can be slow. Like, so slow you think you're going to slip into a coma. So slow you just can't bear to do one more repetition. ONLY -- and I do mean ONLY -- when you can do the movement darn near perfectly at a slow speed, should you try to up the pace.
So you want to shimmy? Want to know how to really screw it up and never be able to do any layering with it? Practice it at light speed. I guarantee you'll never be able to get it looking good.
If, however, you want to have nice clean and sharp shimmies, 3/4 shimmies, drops, whatever -- do yourself a favor and buy a metronome. A cheap one is like $4.99 and it's WELL worth it. Get out the metronome, wind it up, and set it for a low speed. Like, a boring death crawl speed, okay? Seriously. Practice the movement for maybe 1-3 minutes -- whatever you need. Does it look sloppy? Stay at that speed and continue practicing through the week/month. Once you get it where it looks nice and clean -- then and only then should you click the metronome up a notch (just one!) and practice at that speed.
(Other teachers may disagree with me on the start slow thing, but I can testify to it, both as a student and with my own students.)
As for what we teach beginners, movement-wise, you have a good start with V&N, but I'd get the second volume in their series too, which covers more steps and some travelling, if I remember correctly. The third volume covers veil and spinning.
Oh, and finger cymbals -- do yourself a favor and get a cheap pair and a finger cymbal video. Most people seem to like Ansuya's. Walk around the house and play singles -- play the Left cymbal when you step on your Left foot, and the right one when you step on the left. I swear this is the best self-introduction to cymbals. Don't worry about learning patterns -- just get used to actually MOVING your feet and hands at the same time. You can also play cymbals along with movements you have already learned and feel comfortable with.
Keep us up to date on your progress and don't hesitate to ask questions. Some of us (ahem) can think of nothing more interesting than talking belly dance all day long
What a great list Aziyade! Although I've been dancing for a while I'm on a mission to "clean up" my technique, and un-learn a few bad habits. Seeing such lists in writing helps my "cleaning" business.
Starbursts, if you can, find a good teacher from the get-go so you won't have to suffer un-learning later on!