Getting back to dance

Ameline

New member
I was learning belly dance for some years around twenty. I never performed, but I thoroughly enjoyed the art form. I was mostly self-taught from DVDs, but I had a degree of skill. I haven't danced for five years now because stuff sort of happened and I lost the desire to dance. It came back, but I was pretty displeased that while I easily remember the moves and the body remembers as well, I lack the appropriate muscle strength to execute them properly. I know the key is practice, but I'm a little unsure what would be the most effective and least frustrating strategy to get to any working level. I wonder if you could recommend any practice structure, video, DVD or something to start with- I'm a pretty chaotic being and I need some sort of frame or structure and I'm not great at creating them myself. What I have at home is mostly either too advanced for me or it's focused is on teaching, not training.
 

Ameline

New member
I really dislike a class setting. I have some social issues and it's just so depressing going there, dancing your hour or whatnot, not saying a word to anybody, seeing them looking at you weird, seeing them talk and laugh together, including the teacher, while feeling unable to participate. And when I forced myself, feeling awkward, anything but invited, it was just... bad. I felt like I'm intruding on a private group session after a time. I tried three different classes at different points in time and it just didn't work. On top of that I feel like I'm getting a more in depth explanation on DVD, classes were just confusing. I have quite low motor intelligence and I need a very analytical approach. The loud music, all those people moving about, lights... Not a very good learning environment for me. I don't want to become a professional dancer, I just want to be able to enjoy myself moving.
 
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Shanazel

Super Moderator
If truly all you want is to enjoy yourself moving then following pre-recorded instruction is fine. Keep in mind, though, that if you ever do resolve your social issues so that you can attend class, you will find yourself with a number of bad habits to overcome. Having someone to watch, critique, and correct posture, etc. is invaluable and the very best dvd instruction is no substitute.

I'm sorry that I don't understand what you mean by "low motor intelligence." Could you explain so that we have a better idea of what learning challenges you face and can make recommendations accordingly? Two or three of my students through the years have had some degree of Asperger's, for example, and their issues were different than students who suffered from debilitating shyness or those who had lower IQ or those who simply could not hear music patterns.

Just read Daimona's post above. Good suggestions.
 

Ameline

New member
Shanazel: It's funny because I actually had to re-learn a lot of what I learned in class in terms of posture and some of the moves which were putting a strain on my lower back. I haven't seen any of the teachers I had correcting anyone and I found the explanations insufficient and there wasn't room to ask - I have a hard time learning by imitation, no matter how slowly and deliberately it is presented, that's one part of what I mean by "low motor intelligence". Another is that I first need a good intellectual understanding of how it is done from the inside (unless dancing spontaneously) before I can do even the simplest of things. The good thing about videos is that they actually talk about what they're doing in terms of muscles and body mechanics. I need a very slow pace at first both to understand and not to injure myself, something I seem to be very good at, being hypermobile. I can go at my own pace with videos. I can also just study and get a feel of a movement before I try to use it in a dance, as opposed to a class.

My overall life issues can be well explained by asperger's, but I'm not too pressed to get a formal diagnosis. This diagnosis wasn't around when I was a child and I just got one of those "something's obviously wrong and we don't have a name for it" labels. I learned to perform reasonably well in social situations, but the class setting was confusing to me - they sometimes chatted, sometimes not, I never knew when it's appropriate and it was more miss than hit if I tried. I wasn't comfortable talking while changing, but I think nobody is? And I thought others might be uncomfortable if I linger in the changing rooms too long. But they seemed to somehow end up in little groups after a few classes and I never understood how.


Daimona: There are skype lessons? Wow, seems like a very interesting option. I might look around and find a teacher with who I was comfortable enough, around the world, there's bound to be somebody who I won't annoy that quickly :) This, just as any private lessons, is a solution for when I will have a bit of money to spare, though. Then again, I'm starting in a new job, so that solution might be just a few months away as opposed to that "someday" which means "never".
 

Daimona

Moderator
It seems you've hit a teacher that wasn't right for you. Knowing that you need someone to talk about body mechanics while teaching and not only teaching by "follow the bouncing butt" version is a good thing.

One of my joys of teaching belly dance (or really, anything) is to adapt different strategies and explanations to suit the need for different students.



There are skype lessons? Wow, seems like a very interesting option. I might look around and find a teacher with who I was comfortable enough, around the world, there's bound to be somebody who I won't annoy that quickly :) This, just as any private lessons, is a solution for when I will have a bit of money to spare, though. Then again, I'm starting in a new job, so that solution might be just a few months away as opposed to that "someday" which means "never".

Darshiva offers Skype lessons.
You can work as fast or slowly as you need, ask all the questions you might have and probably also get corrections. Make her an inquiry, to at least see if this is an options in your near future.



And of course there are other dancers that offers online classes as well, but I haven't explored these possibilities yet. You can read about them elsewhere on this forum.
 

Zorba

"The Veiled Male"
My overall life issues can be well explained by Asperger's, but I'm not too pressed to get a formal diagnosis.
Ah! I suspected so from your description of environment overload. I too am an "Aspie", although pretty "low in the spectrum". I understand and feel your pain.
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
I was going to suggest Darshiva as well. Farasha takes lessons from her and has been very pleased.

Yep, wrong teacher for your learning style. My student with Asperger's let me know about her learning issues from the start so I had an advantage over a teacher who never gets a hint and is left wondering why she isn't getting through to a particular student. I spent a little extra time with her before class and didn't comment when she went over to sit by herself for a few minutes- or more than a few minutes- when class got to be a bit overwhelming for her. She was also open with other students about it (her Asperger's is moderate to severe) so they were able to give her some extra consideration instead of simply being mystified by her behavior and correspondingly uncomfortable around her.
 

lilya

Member
I have had the pleasure to take a session with Darshiva recently as well and I have been very happy.

I meet some criteria for Asperger's (possibly at the very mild end - not too interested in finding out "formally", either, as I function relatively well in my "niche") and my partner has been diagnosed clinically as a child. I feel that I often need to break down the movements and go through them mentally a little more or differently than my live class peers, and have generally been behind the average at picking up new skills. Now I am usually also several years older (speaking of the little groups that tend to form in class... I usually do not end up in those spontaneously) and quite a few pounds heavier than the class averages, which does not really enhance my comfort level.

I think part of the reason why I'm taking so much time trying to "decode" movement might be that my early environment (well into my 20s) was heavily focused on science and mathematics, with a good dash of competitiveness. School teachers were able to easily replace physical education classes with math because math was "serious", and now I am making a living in science. I need to enjoy the dance class rather than feel too challenged or absorbed into any form of "competition" by it, so the balance between within/outside my comfort zone is hard for me to find and stand a chance to learn something. I have grown uncomfortable with long drills in class because I cannot physically sustain them as well as most peers. On the other hand I cannot easily "let it flow", either, because I'm self-conscious about the way I/my moves look, or "follow" the dancing butt" because my brain needs extra beats to sort out what's going on. I feel that the session with Darshiva has helped tremendously. I could not continue practicing right afterwards for several reasons, one being increasing knee pain, so here (at square one) I am again after having surgery on that knee earlier this month. I've restarted a few times before, only now I'm still recovering and slower than ever. I have Jenna's "Belly dance basics and beyond" and I think l will probably follow that for a while...
 
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Shanazel

Super Moderator
Hope your surgery goes well and that you have a quick, complete recovery, Lilya. There are several of us here that are scientists. Daimona and I are the ones I can think of at the moment. I believe she is a geologist; I'm a biologist.
 

Aniseteph

New member
I have to say I find the term "low motor intelligence" a profoundly depressing concept. If you can learn movement patterns when explained in a different way then, as others have said, it is just that some teaching approaches don't work for you.

Many years ago when I started belly dance, I could not tell the difference between vertical figure 8s going upwards or downwards, horizontal ones going forwards or backwards, different directions of undulations... absolutely baffling. I think I put it down to learning weird movements is hard, but I like this and no way am giving up. I am eternally grateful that I didn't have a label that would have made me feel worse..

Because it turns out that what works for me is mental imagery (although a skeleton with a hip scarf in class would have helped too). Big cake mixing bowls, parallel brick walls, JCB diggers, paper cups with pencils attached, sticks and pivot points, floor polishers... Once the analogy was there I got what I was trying to do, and then with practice the strength and range of movement and control developed. And then the pathways were there and I knew the move and could follow verbal instruction or a bouncing butt.

Finding what works for me (and what doesn't!) has been an education in itself, apart from anything belly dance.

I do appreciate how challenging a class environment can be. Unless you get lucky and the teacher is a perfect fit for you, what's the point of so much stress for minimal if any gain?
 

Ameline

New member
I don’t think the idea of low motor intelligence is depressing, I think it’s quite accurate – at least in my case. I knew a guy who was exceptionally gifted in this regard. He was a bit of a local legend. It typically took him about 2 years to go from a novice in a sport to competing (and often winning) on national level, be it tennis or ballroom dancing. If we define intelligence as how easily can one grasp concepts, I think it’s valid to apply this term to other areas of life than just the mind.

In me it’s not just a need for a different type of instruction. I often misjudge my movements and I’m generally quite capable of tripping over my own legs to a rather peculiar degree. I am terribly uncoordinated. It takes me a lot longer on average to understand how the body should move to achieve something (I was dreadful at throwing in P.E., for example. Not due to lack of strength – I am quite above average in this regard - but it took me several years to figure out how to use the body to generate momentum despite heavy minute instruction coming from several teachers)

I don’t think there’s shame in that, though. My strengths lie in other areas. That does not mean I will neglect the body and movement, it just means I am (finally) aware that it won’t come as easy to me as it does to others. And that is OK. I just need to allow myself more time and not be as frustrated with myself when I have difficulties.

Dance is special for me, though. In dance, especially spontaneous dance, I feel myself transformed, free. The music gives me a lead, rhythm and flow that I lack internally, “pulls” me together where my movement would typically “fall apart”… I feel like I’m echoing the music in the sensations of the body, if that makes sense. My previous bellydance instruction gave me a wider range and expanded my expressive abilities that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I feel it’s unique as far as dance goes when it comes to the fluidity and “internalization” of the movement – the body isn’t just a single instrument, but multiple that work together, if that makes sense. Since I quit, I feel the ability to articulate all the minute expressions I hear has greatly diminished, which is a shame.

I have to say I have no idea how I look when dancing, but I don’t care that much. If people happen to be around, they seem to like it, though. I loved it when I was just happily dancing away at a concert or festival, a bit away from the main crowd and podium, and random people (typically middle aged women) came to me with a compliment and then said they themselves don’t know how to dance. And I just told them “if you hear the music, you CAN dance” and kept encouraging them. We’d create little circles, which somehow kept growing. I loved it when they finally let go and started visibly enjoying themselves. And then I perhaps saw them later, red in the face, with a broad smile, in the middle of the crowd doing their little number. I don’t know why I stopped doing this, why I stopped dancing.
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
"I feel like I’m echoing the music in the sensations of the body, if that makes sense."

It not only makes sense, to be able to do the same is the goal of every improvisational dancer who ever moved through space. If you only knew how many hours I've spent explaining this to people...
 

Zorba

"The Veiled Male"
"i feel like i’m echoing the music in the sensations of the body, if that makes sense."

it not only makes sense, to be able to do the same is the goal of every improvisational dancer who ever moved through space. If you only knew how many hours i've spent explaining this to people...
word.
 

Farasha Hanem

New member
I was going to suggest Darshiva as well. Farasha takes lessons from her and has been very pleased.

Yep, wrong teacher for your learning style. My student with Asperger's let me know about her learning issues from the start so I had an advantage over a teacher who never gets a hint and is left wondering why she isn't getting through to a particular student. I spent a little extra time with her before class and didn't comment when she went over to sit by herself for a few minutes- or more than a few minutes- when class got to be a bit overwhelming for her. She was also open with other students about it (her Asperger's is moderate to severe) so they were able to give her some extra consideration instead of simply being mystified by her behavior and correspondingly uncomfortable around her.
For some reason, I thought the first page and the second page of this thread were TWO different threads, and I'd wondered what happened to the "first thread" (which turned out to be the first page of THIS thread). That's what happens when you read in the middle of the night when you're exhausted, lol.

I've been Darshiva's ongoing Skype student since 2012. I absolutely adore her---she has helped me make some breakthroughs in my dancing. Despite hiccups with tech sometimes, like video not working, audio not working, Skype being difficult, etc., Darshiva still manages to observe my progress, and keeps an eagle eye on my movements in class (she can spot when I'm in pain or having a bad day, and adjusts the class curriculum accordingly). She has introduced me to new concepts in learning to bellydance, and helped me to become more comfortable and confident with improv. She's tremendously helpful and supportive, and she takes joy when her students continue their education outside of her class(home practice, workshops, instructional DVD's, researching topics related to bellydance, etc.). Her classes are definitely worth it.
 
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