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:

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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One Response to Nadira Jamal: A bellydance geek shares secrets of video success

  1. Nadira Jamal says:

    Also: I think I stole the wording “they only remember how you made them feel” from Alia Thabit.

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