STRENGTH-en your dance!

I recently had a birthday and in the weeks leading up to the event, I began my routine moping, grumbling, and introspection of turning a year older and wondering what I have done with myself. In truth, it has been a miraculous year: my husband survived a major car accident, I illustrated my brother’s book, I have begun our Pittsburgh Bellydance Academy with a great group of instructors at a gorgeous studio, and begun my own L. Architecture website. (I also adopted another cat 🙂

My cats...watching me workout
My cats…watching me workout

Life is great, and I want to make it better! I have started a strengthening routine for myself to increase my dance performance and aptitude. Everything is easier when you are stronger.  I have started taking samba classes again and the warm up alone kicks my behind! And now the ballet classes have been added back to our studio…I highly recommend them!

I also have been trying out Ballet Beautiful streaming workouts online. They are geared to people like me who literally have 15 minutes here or there to spare. They are inexpensive and you can use them everywhere. I even took them to the beach with me! I have noticed a difference in my problem areas especially. I warn you, the first 30 seconds will HURT…BAD BAD BAD! But just stop, take a sip of water, and pick back up when you are ready.

Ballet Beautiful mat workout
Ballet Beautiful mat workout

I have even begun to bring some of the simple BB ab workout exercises to my Saturday Class! We laugh through it because it is hard but the benefits are immense!

My last STRENGTH-ening task was related to diet. What a nasty word…I know, but I needed to just evaluate what I was putting into my system. I started using the MyFitnessPal app to track what I was eating and how much. (I also track my exercise.) As it turns out, I eat pretty healthy. HOWEVER, my portion size had doubled in the last few years!  I think this will always be a problem with American portion sizes until we have a food revolution, so it is important to know what is a realistically sized meal.

Janim dances with veils!So now armed with an awareness of my intake, a new level of strength, and a  positive reflection on the last year, I feel ready to boldly go forward into this year!

 

ARM-ed and Dangerous!

Arm-ed and Dangerous!

Arms. Yes, this post is about ARMS! And not just anyone’s arms, but dancer’s arms; and not just any dancer’s arms, but a dancer with elegant arms and carriage.

Bellydance, at its core (there is a pun there, do you see it?) tends to focus on the abdominal and hips. The upper body plays an important part as well, but mainly in the torso region with its accents. Arms are usually the leftovers…the forgotten, last-minute addition to the dinner table…let’s just squeeze them in at the corner of the table between Batty Aunt Mathilda and Crazy Cousin James.

When I find myself captivated by a dancer, I often try to analyze what it is exactly that has me mesmerised by him or her. Sometimes it is the wowee zowee killer moves, but more often than not, it is the arm patterns, extensions, and positions. The arms move naturally and gracefully accent the body line and position. The arms seem to enhance and draw your eye right at the exact moment to right where you should be looking!imagesCA2E6G4W

ARMS! ARMS! ARMS!

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And yes, I am often amazed to meet some of my idols in person to find that they are shorter than me but seem to be 10′ tall on stage! Why? Because these dancers extend through their arms all the way out their fingertips thus giving them the illusion of height!

Needless to say, arms are something I have been practicing of late. I videotape my practices these days. I also rewatch videos of past performances. I can always tell when I was most nervous or tired or unenthusiastic by the position of my arms. They slowly creep in towards my body into the dreaded chicken wing formation. I am now more aware of my tendency and with training and patience and attention to detail, arm mastery is my next task! I work on this in my classes right now. Want to join me this Saturday from 10-11am? We can all be ARM-ed and dangerous!

Here are a few of my favorite dancers who possess that al-ARM-ingly elegant dancing:

I always love watching Sandra’s elegant dancing. Her carriage is lovely and her arms are fantastic!

The stunning Bozenka and her graceful, yet powerful flamenco inspired arms!

So whose ARMS are you hanging on? 😉

Continuing your dance education

While I already follow a bellydance practice schedule for myself in addition to teaching my own classes, I have always thought that adding other dance or fitness classes helps to polish and refine my dance. I also find them to be stimulating, creativity-generating, and just plain fun.

But how do you decide what classes to take? Classes can begin to add up especially once you add in your expenses to train with master teachers in workshops and private lessons. I came across this article today taken from The Ballerina Project blog.

If you havent visited the site yes, be ready for breathtakingly gorgeous photos of dancers in the urban realm. You can also find some rather good advice for dancers in general. I particularly enjoyed this article and her tips on navigating the wealth of classes available!

In a quick summation, she states,

1.Know your background. You should know what style of training you’ve had thus far. If you are not sure, talk to your previous coaches, read their biographies; that should at least give you a sense. This has to do with my first suggestion of going to instructors who teach something different from what you’re used to. The nature of experiencing a different approach, phrasing, or philosophy every teacher has is akin to working with a new ballet master or choreographer, and one of the best things you can do when preparing yourself for dancing various types of ballets.

2.In ballet, we always improve. So when you go to a new class, do so with an open mind and embrace everything you can learn and add to the arsenal of your dance vocabulary. Don’t just follow the order of movements, pay attention to details: the musicality of a combination, the amount of attack a teacher might expect in a step, the corrections they give mid-way…

3.Don’t forget what you already know. Just because this teacher does not stress the use of port de bras as much as your old one used to doesn’t mean you should forget it. Keep all that, anything it might be, and add the new layers. Try to identify points of similarities and points of differences. If a movement is taught differently you cannot disregard. Only directors can afford such attitude. You can’t. Master it both ways.

4.Another thing I find very beneficial is going a level up, if there is one, or a level down, of your own (those going down – less often). For younger people the increased challenge, excitement of performing the fancier elements, and often, being in the presence of an admired dancer are but priceless in the development into a professional. For pros and older students going a level down provides an excellent space for re-checking those basics, taking more time with execution, or taking it easy after an injury or a break.

5.Don’t forget to attend your rarer, but all-important class of jazz, hip-hop or whatever. Not only is cross training good for your muscles, it’s good for your coordination, can do no harm to your ballet form (if there is one) and can open up room for movement previously unexplored with the ingrained repetition of ballet.

Enjoy!!!!

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