Goals and 2014 Resolutions

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The year is rushing to a close like I rush to the shower to wash off the accumulated odor of hookahs and kitchens and the sticky foot goo from slushy dance floors. 2013 was a transformative year for me. It was the year I stopped dancing completely due to a hip injury, dove headfirst into a demanding completely unrelated career, healed my hip with a gruesome injection therapy, ditched the new line of work, and returned with zeal to bellydance brimming with new perspectives.

My dancing in 2014 is going to be about shaping bellydance in a way that is entertaining and relevant to a wider variety of audiences. I’m thinking showmanship, technique, and creating methods for deliberately funneling my audience’s attention.

How was your year? Are you closer to achieving your dreams, be they dance or otherwise? You can achieve your bellydance dreams. Bellydance is now worldwide and appeals to a more diverse audience than it ever has before.

After fifteen years in dance, a studio, an agency, international engagements, and teaching thousands of students, I have studied my own success and the success of many other dancers.

In 2013 I’ve been thrilled to catch up with students who have gotten to teach internationally, reached goals of a higher dance income, and gotten married.

I love seeing people reach their goals, and I think bellydance is stronger when we all strive to reach our potential. Let’s do this! As my gift to you, here is a free e-book that includes an enchanting bellydancer print – perfect for writing your goals and putting on the mirror in your practice space for motivation. This free printable includes my tried-and-true method of goal setting for bellydance.

What will YOU do in 2014?

DOWNLOAD LINK – FEEL FREE TO SHARE!
http://unbouncepages.com/bellydancegoals/

goals ebook cover

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That woman in your audience hates you. Here’s why.

cheerleadersMy friend shared a story with me recently about an insurance convention planning meeting that I thought had nothing to do with belly dance… as it turns out, sometimes being the only woman in the room can give you some serious insight.So, she was at this meeting, in a room full of men, listening to their low-brow locker room talk that kept seeping into the planning of their annual convention.  Macho innuendo, the word “balls” coming up way too much… these guys are all independent contractors, unbound by any corporate rules governing professional behavior releasing an endless stream of nudge-nudge and wink-wink.  The theme of this year’s convention was set to be football, so of course one man excitedly announced: “we should get cheerleaders!”

With no forethought, my loudly and proudly barked – “only if it’s a co-ed team!” – She was shocked to hear herself say that because, being an avid belly dancer, she was often the one performing, in much less clothing than a business suit, in front of a co-ed audience. Up till now, she explained, she had assumed that the occasional woman giving her the major stink eye was some sort of “bitch”, maybe she was jealous! Well, realizing her knee jerk reaction and utter conviction that sexy cheerleaders at the big meeting would drive her to set a bag of dog poop in a furious blaze of fire right on the beige industrial carpet of the convention center floor forced her to see that she’d never considered the position of the scowling bitch! And, it hit her…

She started thinking about the women in her own audiences… especially the woman sitting next to the badly behaved men like the ones at this meeting.  Were those scowls from the female audience members an indictment of the bellydance performance, or were they a response to the childish behavior of the men? Because, face it, almost women actually love bellydance! We love to do it, we love to watch it, it strikes a profound cord.

The moral of the story?

#1 Raise your sons better than the previous generation!

#2 Consider having a co-ed option where you have a sexy male gymnast in an Aladdin vest or perhaps a male drummer in a flashy outfit.  (Especially for corporate events, with an audience where belly dance doesn’t have a traditional/cultural context.) Having both a male and female body for available for ogling diffuses the pressure on the women.

#3  Be truly skillful as an artist. Let your technique, skill, and showmanship outshine your physical allure. (I know this is a tall order because  ALL  of my readers are stunningly beautiful!)

Have you experienced this at your shows?  How do you level the playing field for your audience?

Want to add more hips to your next bellydance performance? Download a free deluxe sample of my best selling hip video! http://unbouncepages.com/bellydance-every-day/

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First Performance in a YEAR!

BIG NEWS! After not dancing AT ALL between October 2012 and October 2013, I returned to performing with two shows this weekend. I took a year off to try to recover from a torn hip labrum. I did PT and prolotherapy. The results seem to be in, I AM VIRTUALLY PAIN FREE. Thank Heavens.

I had time for a quick interview after the show with Jamie Powell and wanted to share it with you all here!

Q. So, first show in a year… how did it feel???

Nov2013performance It felt great! I felt right at home. While  I was putting on my makeup, I remarked to my husband that there must have been some psychological ramifications of not putting on a really glamorous face of makeup for a whole year (and being covered in sticky toddler handprints from head to toe). Of course, my zit situation has been vastly improved,  but I’m willing to have a pizza face in exchange for being able to dance again!

Q. What music did you dance to? 

My first set was to fun live Bouzouki music and my second set was mostly Guy Manoukian’s amazing CD, Assouman.
Q. Do you have any advice for other dancers from your experience dealing with a serious injury and going through physical therapy?
Don’t be afraid to rest. Harass your doctor until you get a diagnosis that makes sense. Attend to your physical therapy with the same diligence that you apply to your dance. Dance will be there when you get back, so take the time to heal.
Q. How did you keep in practice while dealing with your injury?  
Frankly, I didn’t. It felt crazy to go without dancing, but I knew I had to. I started dancing gently, for short durations, about three months ago.

Q. So what will you do now to keep your injury from coming back?

Well, I’m not going to kill myself the way I used to! I’d like to have more longevity in my career. I’m going to respect my body’s limitations more than I used to, instead of trying to push through them. Several articles have come out recently about the dangers of yoga, and I think it relates to bellydance. For example, just because you are a little stiff in your hamstrings doesn’t mean you’ll “fix” it by putting your palms on the floor. If you can’t do amazing backbends, then maybe stop trying. Maybe just try for some nice back extension and pick something besides backbends to do amazingly. Here’s the article I was talking about: http://nyti.ms/HybBlp

Q. Will you be back to performing full-out, or do you have other plans?

I’m certainly happy to perform and intend to do it somewhat regularly, but these days I really want to help up-and-coming dancers, so I’m going to focus on creating new training opportunities for dancers all over the world. Stay tuned!

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Halloween Belly Dance House of Horrors

We’ve all had those terrifying, horrible, spine-tingling moments on stage… when somethingshamadanjackolanter goes wrong… really wrong. Bra pads pop out, people fall down, injuries ensue.  When I posted this question on my Facebook page, I got a lot of inspiration… if that’s what you could call it.  Jehane Khan shared a story of catching paper wedding bells on fire with the performer’s shamadans!   And Tina Taraneh reminded me of a weekend when the dancers on an outdoor stage burned their feet on the hot surface and had to be carried the stage on stretchers by the EMS workers (although, the image of these dancers in full costume being carried like Egyptian princesses is a bit funny….)  It’s a hazardous occupation, but we brave it time and again, all for the satisfaction of a happy audience and a (hopefully) blissful performance.

So in the spirit of Halloween and scary stories, this week I ask:

What’s your belly dance horror story?

Here’s one from Amira… see if you can top this…

Amira is an amazing teacher with a mission to transform women’s lives.  Her passion for the arts, combined with her RN degree have given her a unique perspective into the benefits of yoga, dance and exercise.  Her  instructional DVD Belly dance 101 is highly acclaimed, 5-star rated, and belongs to Amazon’s TOP-10 bestselling DVDs in its genre!

“I was hired to perform at Armenian party in an Armenian restaurant. I’ve always loved Armenians, once you enter their space, they take care of you like a family.
So, I started dancing and in about 4 minutes into it I felt that the floor was getting slippery but it was very dim, so I did not bother to look down because I taught it was a little water spill perhaps. But then I also noticed from the corner of my eye that the floor getting darker and I finally looked down… at that same moment I heard a woman screaming, “Oh my god, she is bleeding”.
The floor was covered in my blood, a lot of it!!! The music was stopped, everybody started running frantically. Some little man, much shorter than me, run up to me and lifted me up like I was a tiny feather. He ran to the bathroom and put me in a sink feet first. Since I did not feel any pain, (endorphins!!!), I had no idea where the blood was coming from. When water starting clearing the blood off my feet, I saw that I had hit my big toe into a broken tile and it had lifted the nail off half way… I could not believe the amount of blood that was coming out of there. Well, the women came and bandaged me up, then the little man carried me back to the hall but this time he sat me at the table and I was served delicious food and wine all night long. They ended up entertaining me and taking care of me… It’s a party I will never forget.”

(Learn more about Amira, and check out her instructional DVDs here!)

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Nadira Jamal: A bellydance geek shares secrets of video success

I’m not sure if you remember my Nerd Magnet post? I’ve found a kindred bellydance nerd – or should I say geek – and I want to introduce you to Nadira Jamal.

As she explains “most people think that dance and geekery are opposites”, but Nadira refers to herself as the The Belly Dance Geek. Nadira nails why this mix of personality traits works so well: “Knowledge and creativity are like chocolate and peanut butter. When you put them together, the results are delicious.” This month, Nadira is finishing up her online course, “Make Your First Belly Dance Video”, which is a step-by-step roadmap to making your first instructional DVD. Her first “video grandbabies” are just starting to come out!

The home-study version will be available soon at:
http://www.bellydancegeek.com/video/

nadira jamal

Nadira has two instructional DVDs out focused on mastering the art of improvisation – The Improvisational Toolkit Volumes 1 and 2* – and shares some of her tips and advice with us this week in an interview:

Q. What’s one thing you would tell a student that’s struggling with getting their movements to feel fluid and natural?

A. Be patient! Learning technique is a brain-teaser for your body. Your brain has to figure out how to organize your muscles to create the move, and that takes time and repetition. In the meantime, your movements will feel tense and awkard, but that is totally normal. That means that you’re on the right track – so keep working on it.

Q. What advice would you give to a teacher who wants to add more improvisation to their class?

A. When you put on some music and say “now dance!”, that’s like teaching someone to swim by throwing them in the deep end of the pool. The trial & error method does work (it’s how I learned!), but it’s terrifying. Many students will give up out of fear.
Instead, try to create a safe zone, so improv drills feel like a doable challenge. This is all about reducing pressure:

– Reduce the pressure to be “good”: make it clear that you’re not asking them to “dance” or “perform”, just to “play with some movement ideas”.

– Reduce time pressure: encourage them to repeat the same move as many times as they need to before starting a new idea.

– Reduce overwhelm: give them small, specific instructions. “Ok, now dance!” is terrifying. “Travel forward, using any step you’d like” is specific and manageable.

Q. What would you say to calm a student who is nervous about a performance?

A. Big band artist Jimmy Lunceford got it right: ” ’tain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it.”
The audience won’t remember what you do on stage; they only remember how you made them feel. And the best way to make them feel good is to have fun yourself.
So relax, enjoy yourself, and smile at people. And whatever happens, remember: you meant to do that, and it was AWESOME.

*you can use coupon code: nadira to take 20% off Nadira’s DVD downloads this week only! expires 10/31/13!

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Sick of Sucking? – Part 2

before and after

If you didn’t already see last week’s post, take a look now, as this is a continuation of my three step method that will put you in control of your body, to make your movements feel authentically true to the dance. We started last week with Practice. Practice, practice, practice, there is no substitute. Remember that daily practice, even if only for 10 minutes, is more effective than 2 hours of practice once a week.

Build Scaffodling
If you started out in bellydance as an adult with no dance training the way I did, let me spare you years of aggravation. I’ll tell it to you straight: You must have some movement training other than bellydance. There’s no way around it. I recommend ballet; there is good reason it is the foundation of all western dance. It works. Ballet makes you aware of your body line and body mechanics. It makes you graceful. You don’t have to become a ballet devotee. Heck, I’ve done hundreds of hours of ballet classes and I don’t even like it, but I love what it does for me. Pilates goes great with ballet. If you do them together you will develop a great sensation of your limbs being connected to your center which is essential for grace and body awareness.

Obtain the best map
Have you tried driving at midnight in the pouring snow while looking at a map trying to find your gig? That was me, miserable, working in Toronto. Once I finally got a GPS – years later – I realized I should have had one all along.

So what do you do if your dance classes or videos leave you feeling like you’re trying to see in the dark? Dancers who want to quickly become highly skilled use a bellydance GPS; they seek out instruction that is clear, complete, and to the point. Your teacher might be the best dancer in the world, but if she’s mostly mute you can’t gain anything from her at your current skill level. Don’t abandon her though, come back to her classes when you have a good degree of body awareness and control.

I look forward to hearing how you have implemented these principles into your training.

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Sick of Sucking?

Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Abused patience turns to fury.
Thomas Fuller
veils
(photo from Pinterest page inspiratione)

Once you realize that you’ve fallen in love, the urge to be with the object of your affection is limitless. A dancer in love with bellydance longs for the day when her body is united with movements that feel authentically true to the dance. Style or genre doesn’t have much to do with it, once you make the leap and feel like your body is really bellydancing, you’ll know exactly what I mean. The alternative is feeling frustrated, conscious of your brain telling your body what to do. If you saw Pacific Rim, you might be feeling like you’re piloting the giant robot, but you’re NOT the robot.

I remember vividly the time I made the leap from piloting the hulking robot to being that hulking robot – well, I certainly didn’t feel hulking at that point, but you know what I mean. I was renting studio time during lunch day job. I was practicing a simple skip step. After going with it for several minutes, I began to feel like I was flying a centimeter off the floor and swimming in thick air. What a marvelous feeling!

I’ve been dancing for fifteen years, and it has been around eleven years since that happened. That means I spent four years feeling and looking awkward, but fighting through it in the hopes of a transformation coming. After coaching students for years, I’ve come up with a method to help dancers reach the point of transformation in the least number of years.

I am about to share with you a proven method that will guarantee you will be moving with grace and confidence much more quickly than you expected.

There are three principles:
1. Practice a Daily Ritual
2. Build Scaffolding
3. Obtain the Best Map

Practice a daily ritual
+Pick the length of time you can practice, and stick to it. For building muscle memory, it is better to practice for ten minutes every day than for two hours once a week. When you learn dance, you’re building new pathways in your brain. If you want to etch a path in a road, you travel on it every day. If you only walk on it once a week, your progress will be undone by wind and erosion. So, regardless of if you can practice dance for ten minutes, thirty minutes, or (unrealistically for most people) an hour a day, do it every single day.

+Always start your practice with a warm-up. Not warming up is the quickest way to get discouraged.

+Plan what you will work on. I recommend breaking up a week into a pattern of doing the same exact practice Monday until Wednesday, a different skill set Thursday thru Saturday, and on Sunday working on a little of both. Keep the same content for the following week or do something new, but be sure to come back to that content within at least three weeks before you’ve decided you’ve “grown out” of it.

+Yes, videos are perfect for this. For example, you could do kicking 8, dropping 8, side 8, and side semeha Monday through Wednesday. (my Hip Technique Video will give you a great rundown of these). Thursday through Saturday do jewel, rolling twist, corkscrew, and sitting circle (check out Put the Belly Back in Bellydance for this lineup). On Sunday, do all of them.

So, get started now! Plan out your daily ritual, decide what you can commit and stick to it. Check back next week for the remaining two principles that will teach your body to get you moving in a whole new way!

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Do Boogers and Belly Dance Mix?

Lets face it, even though most of us would love to stay home when we’re sick.. under cozy blankets with a box of tissues and some warm chicken noodle soup… it’s just not an option. Especially when you have paying students expecting you to show up and enlighten them on this week’s subject. Over the years I’ve learned some ways to take it easy on myself when I’m under the weather and the show (or, in this case, the class) must go on. sick

Preventative Care:
1. Create a warm-up routine that your students memorize before you get sick – this way your class already knows how things begin, and when you’re feeling under the weather, this gives you a chance to suck down some hot tea while the students warm up
2. Plan your material in advance: don’t give your brain more trouble than it needs while you’re in a cold medicine haze. Give yourself some notes to follow.
3. Learning by doing: demonstrate short very components and have your students drill them. Muscle memory is key!
4. Sit in different locations in the classroom so you can critique everyone.

Activities that work when you’re sick:
1. Have your students practice different moods for the same movement
2. Pick a song that the class is familiar with, have them do interpretive movement using a song for which you all know the lyrics
3. Have students create their own combinations using the most recent class material (lets review what we learned…)

Cold season is soon to be upon us, what tips do you have for teaching when you’re under the weather, but still eager to give students a great experience?

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Vintage Costume Inspiration

raining umbrella
Wow! I love this raining umbrella idea. I’d love to see that incorporated in a bellydance show – maybe with more than pasties, though! Have any of you incorporated a weather theme like this into your dances?

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Nerd Magnet

Leia
I would never have expected myself to end up doing something that cool people did.

As a kid, I was a theater geek. As an awkward misanthropic teenager, I was the noctural nerd; a goth. And as an adult, I am a bellydancer. So, as a bellydancer, did my life take an unexpected turn from my nerdly past, or am I still a nerd?

Yup, I’m still a nerd.

Since you’re reading this… I’ll bet you’re a nerd, too.

These are the three types of bellydance nerds I have identified so far in my research. There’s probably more, maybe you can help me with that.

1. The Theater Nerd – When not exploring various heights of headpieces and the particular merits of a strip versus a flare false eyelashes, the theater nerd can
be found watching Phantom for the 37th time and tending her secret shrine to Liberace. For example, Razia explains her theatrical flair by saying, “I proudly consider myself an old school bellydancer, but my influences outside of dance come from crazy characters like David Lee Roth and Prince. In terms of talent, full-throttle stage presence and amazing costumes, these guys held nothing back and never apologized for their personalities. How is that not inspiring?” Darn tootin, Razia! And if you’ve seen her vivid costumes and equally glowing hair, you know that she has channeled her love of theatricality into a very entertaining dance show.

2. The Academic Nerd – They care about grades, being the teacher’s pet, and you don’t even want to talk about how many SAT Prep courses these folks go through before taking the real thing. Shira, who has compiled an amazing web resource for bellydance, explains the motivation for her intense focus; “The best feeling I get is when people come up to me at dance events and tell me how something they found on my web site changed their life as a dancer; ie, helped them overcome some sort of stumbling block.” Shira’s online encyclopedia of bellydance is a testament to how one person’s geeking can enlighten the world about the intricacies of an art form.

3. The Sci-fi/Fantasy nerd: This person pulls inspiration the world of hobbits, fairies (sorry, faeries?), and dragons to create their desired reality. As Zahira explains, “I started learning backbends from Xena years before I signed up for classes… in the moment of performance while I became Zahira on stage, my stage presence has a lot to do with my “interiorizing” Xena and others such characters (as by nature I’m more of a shy introvert person).” Zahira’s troupe recently performed an epic bellydance tribute to The Hobbit and a troupe local to me is creating a Game of Thrones themed choreography. While these types of dances might be lost on the Middle Eastern bride and groom you have booked for Saturday night at the banquet hall, the inspiration you get from delving into sci-fi and fantasy (or whatever genre floats your boat) will help fuel your drills and spill over into your bread-and-butter performances.

So, if you couldn’t already tell, I have a major affection for nerds. Formerly maligned in popular culture, the nerd status has become a point of pride and I think that’s great!

Well, what have I missed? What type of nerd are you?

Have fun geeking out,
Hannan

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