Everyone wants to dance better and better. Of course, doing ANYTHING over a period of time tends to improve performance. However, most of us care enough about the dance to actively work on our progress. For years I took classes as my primary training tool, but gradually I realized that class wasn’t the only way to improve. Here’s a list of improvement methods; I’ve successfully used all of them.
1) Perform in public. Yup, get up and dance in front of people you don’t know. This commits you to completing a song, continuing in spite of mistakes or thinking too late of moves you should have done instead. Whether it provides the carrot of applause or the stick of embarassment, a public performance proves you’re serious about the dance form and makes you throw your heart into your efforts.
2) Watch videos of your public performances. This allows you to check your dancing from the viewer’s perspective. You can identify what dissatisfies you the most in your dance, then figure out a way to fix it. Keep doing this over time, because as you knock off one problem, you’ll find another one to work on.
3) Get a coach. Find someone whose asthetic you trust and admire and have that person coach you on your dancing. This gives you immediate on-the-spot feedback and corrections. Dance, discuss what could be improved, then dance again trying make changes as the person tells you if you’re doing better or worse. This process is faster than the video method but requires a commitment from the second person. Your teacher may be doing this for you as part of class, but it’s best to have private and dedicated help.
4) Meditation before performing. This can calm your mind and allow you to focus on what you are about to do. It’s especially good for people who get nervous and start hyperventilating before performing- getting your breathing under control is very important! If you’re uncertain about what you should be doing when you’re meditating, do a survey of how-to web sites and see what they recommend.
5) Cross-training. Do something, could be either a dance form or other type of exercise, other than belly dance. An aerobic exercise builds stamina to dance longer, yoga or other types of stretching make you more limber to achieve better extensions, and other dance styles can give you ideas for movements and help you understand dance better.
6) Hypnosis or visualization techniques. Decide what you want to SPECIFICALLY change, how you should appear, how you should be moving. Either find a hypnotist or use self-hypnosis or visualization techniques to move yourself to doing it like you imagine. Basically, you’re making the change in your mind instead of changing your motor memory through repetitive practice.
7) Workshops. Attend workshops taught by promenant dancers. These are usually held on weekends and sponsored by local teachers. Workshops give you the opportunity to try out other styles and approaches than used by your teacher. Also, sometimes someone new’s different words or movement breakdowns can make more sense to you than you’ve encountered before.
8) Studying the masters. Identify famous belly dancers whom you admire and want to emulate and watch as many as videos as you can find, from youtube or on commercial DVD. Notice their repetoires and consider how their style differs from yours. Try out their moves and see if you want to incorporate them into your style. If you’re doing something that no one else does, understand where that move came from, what it looks like to the audience, and decide if you want to keep doing it or drop it from your movements repetoire.
I’ve used every one of these techniques to fix some problem area in my dance. They each address different types of issues, so choose the technique that best accomplishes the goal you’re trying to achieve.