Dance classes are fun. They are a great way to get motivated and meet people. You may also get opportunities to perform with a group. Dressing up for a gig is a chance to try out a new look. Talking about hair, jewellery, make up and clothes at dress rehearsals help keep nerves at bay. It’s fantastic to see the other women all dressed up, and when I first started with a troupe, it was a good way to get ideas on what to wear. Performances take time and you will spend the whole day preparing and performing. At the end of the day, if you’re like me, you feel the reward of giving back to the community, and as one of my past teachers affectionately said, ‘and to show off a bit.’
If you really want to improve your technique you need to set aside some time at home to practise. Deb Rubin once told us at one of her workshops in Sydney that a little practise each day works well. This makes sense because it sets the tone for practise as part of your routine. I tend not to think and plan about what to do. I put the instructional DVD on and just watch. It takes a lot for me to get motivated, but once the DVD’s on, I can’t help but start!I have a few favourites that I’m working on and stick to those until I get all the combos right.
Learning the combinations help you fit right in when you take a workshop because you have a structure to work from. You might find workshops hard if you go with no dance experience to a workshop, but of course it depends on the workshop. People are friendly and open and teachers work at your level. If you have no dance experience and want to get the most of a workshop? You don’t have time to practise? You’re not very good at memorizing steps? Go for an improvisation class. I went away with a lot more attending these workshops because it opened my mind to possibilities for self-expression and choreography. A workshop with Orchidaceae Urban Tribal Group is an example.
I particularly related to Francesca Pedretti’s Tribal Bellydance Emotionale. At her workshop we did some improvisation moves based on a poem from ‘Dante’. He was a major Italian poet of the late Middle Ages. This was a pleasant surprise because I sometimes get my inspiration for writing my own poems through dance.
After attending workshops, if you’re like me, you do some reflecting on your strengths and weaknesses. I enjoy myself more if I do the moves properly. If you want to see a real improvement in your dance, it’s a good idea to work on your fitness. So I decided to give dance classes a break for a while and join a gym. The gym membership included a fitness check, and I worked towards my goals. After a month I started to see results. I didn’t plan to, but I lost weight, and I developed more energy.
A good gym will also provide a spa, pool and fitness classes, including yoga and other higher intensity workouts. The body gets bored with routine, so plan a varied workout. The gym also helped me develop more confidence, flexibility, and posture. The problem with dance classes (even with the advanced classes) is that go at the pace of the participants and fitness isn’t the main goal. That’s fair enough, because it is impossible to please everyone and you are there to work as a team. If you do want to improve further and you can afford it, I suggest you do one to one classes, much like you’d hire a personal trainer. But be realistic with your goals.
Some teachers include some yoga moves as part of the class. I really like this because it improves posture and flexibility, as you get warmed up for the class. When practising alone, try to memorise a few of your favourite stretches and do them often throughout the day. Even when you’re at work! Troupe costumes can be tricky. They don’t always suit every body. A good teacher is open to talk to you about it.
In Sydney I did a workshop with Kami Liddle and a few weeks before I went, I did some lessons at home using her instructional DVD. I didn’t have much knowledge about Tribal Fusion but it worked! I was more confident and could keep up. Hooray! I also made new friends.
Once you start learning on your own, you may feel alone. But don’t stop. Keep yourself open for any other dance workshops that come up. I learned more doing the workshops than my normal classes because they are longer and more intense. The teachers give a lot of valuable advice so take a pen and pad with you, and don’t be afraid to write things down. A video camera also comes in handy. Workshop events include performances which are a big inspiration.
These are some more performance favourites:
My advice is to think about what can help you learn and grow because this is what will bring out the best in you, feel confident, relax and have fun! Before a class I like to do myself up a bit to get into the mood for dance. There are no set rules on that. Be you. If you like wearing lipstick- do it. If you’d like to try out a new outfit, do it. But my advice is to dress simply at your first class, just to judge what’s acceptable.For workshops I suggest you take a few change of clothes, water, a towel and snacks.
These days I have a lot more time to dedicate to writing and dance. I started Flamenco, bike everywhere, and joined a gym. Eventually I’ll be replacing flamenco with tribal fusion, as I find what style of dance suites me. I recommend trying a bit of everything, before settling with one or two styles you love. This will give you a sense of achievement and belonging. Workshops are also great ways to try new styles!
It’s been a while since I’ve performed and I think the break has been a good time to reflect. I’m focusing on my poetry books and other projects. In time, I will perform again when the time is right.
It’s wise to try different teachers when you first start learning and not get attached to one.
Thank you for reading. If you have any experiences and tips on dance please share in the comments section.
© Maria Grujicic and poemsthadance.com, from February 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Maria Grujicic and poemsthadance.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.