My Year in Belly Dance: Reflecting and Looking Forward
January 29, 2011 § Leave a comment
I feel like the past year has been a productive one for me on the dance front. I attended some great workshops and events. I moved forward in technique and experience. I had a few breakthroughs that were quite amazing to me.
I had some major breakthroughs in the area of flexibility and usability of my muscles. Throughout the year, I identified several problem areas in my body where the muscles were locked up and permanently engaged. I was able to concentrate on and learn how to stretch and release my trapezius muscle (at the top of the shoulder), my hip flexors (at the top, front of the thighs), and my psoas muscles (in the hips). These muscle groups were causing me some pain and minimizing movement. After releasing them, I have less back pain, less neck pain and less hip pain. My undulations have become bigger, my shoulder shimmies have become less tense, and my hip movements have gained depth and range of motion.
I also decided that this would be the year I would really solidify my continuous shimmies. Due in part to an old knee injury, continuous hip shimmies (that move alternately and repetitively between right and left hips) have been very challenging for me. My left leg has been weaker and less consistent. This year, I was putting that behind me. For several months at the beginning of the year, I woke up early every morning to do shimmy drills. It felt great. And practicing every day made a world of difference. I focused on my weaker side and built up the stamina. After just a few weeks, I had a consistent, even shimmy. After a few more weeks, I could vary size and intensity. I eventually got to a point where the muscle memory was so ingrained in me, I would start my shimmying and I felt like my legs had a mind of their own. The shimmy was automatic, almost like there was no stopping it. I sometimes felt like the shimmy was in control and I was along for the ride. It was amazing and I’m pretty sure it’s what everyone is talking about when they say “if you have to think about your shimmy, you haven’t done it enough.”
The most recent thing I discovered that made a huge difference for my body is a yoga technique called inner thigh spiraling. One of my belly dance teachers brought it to her dance class after it was really helping her with her posture. Essentially it’s where you stand in good posture and good alignment (keep those knees facing forward!), and engage your inner thighs and gently rotate them backward. We did an exercise where you hold the yoga block with your thigh spiral and layered some belly dance drills on top of it (shoulder shimmies, chest circles, hip lifts, etc.) I could feel my lower back and hips opening up. I have been including this technique in my regular dance practice and it has greatly improved my alignment, posture, strength and is even keeping pressure off my injured knee.
I broke into performing solos. I have always been more of a troupe dancer than a soloist. I’m to a point where I actually want to do solos and feel like I need to in order to take my dancing to the next level. This year, I did solos without props and with veil and sword, some to live music, some to recorded music. It was great, actually. I get more nervous before solos and the adrenaline rush is a bit more intense, but it is very rewarding and freeing. Me and improv have started to get buddy, buddy as well and it has set my dancing free in so many ways. I have learned to really trust my instincts and go with what the music tells me to do. I mean, what’s so complicated about it really? It’s just dancing.
I began playing clarinet again. I was classically trained for 8 years, but had given it up for several years to focus more on dancing. I am a little rusty, but the music reading, the embouchure, the technique all came back to me pretty quickly. I have actually joined the Lumani band, so I will be playing a lot more.
I attended TribalCon and Spirit of the Tribes which were both a ton of fun. I took workshops with Mira Betz, Artemis Mourat, Myra Krien, Devyani, Asharah, Ariellah, Jahara Phoenix, Dalia Carella, Unmata, Kaya, Shadhavar, GypsyVille and even took a few hooping workshops.
As a teacher, I feel like my ATS students progressed so much this year. I have a group of consistent students who have gotten the basics down quite well and are starting to move on to more challenging and more fun ATS moves and concepts. I love that the class is picking up momentum!
Last year was a very good year, indeed!
Looking forward, joining the Lumani band is very exciting! I’m enjoying exploring clarinet with Middle Eastern music and love being part of a musical ensemble again! I have begun taking a Middle Eastern drumming classes, mostly to learn more about Middle Eastern rhythms to enhance my dancing, but wouldn’t mind becoming a proficient drummer. I am also taking a zill class and hope to become decent at more complex zilling. I want to continue exploring solos and perhaps create some choreographies. I’m going to TribalCon again and am trying to decided on another major event I’d like to attend. I’ve never been to a convention for Oriental Style Belly Dance. That might be fun.