Learning is the prime subject when taking up any art form.
Many people have incredible natural talents and aptitude for a certain art form before any training. However, a true artist always wishes to surpass their limits. Training and drilling are vital elements in the development and “polishing” of your existing talent.
In Belly Dance, due to the nature of the dance and the culture, many dancers are self-taught and self-trained, especially if they are “naturals”. This is something that does not happen often in “traditional western dances” such as Ballet, Contemporary, Ballroom and others, even if a dancer is a “natural”.
I feel, as a dancer and a teacher, that a good, basic foundation and understanding of the standard subject of dance can be of great benefit to all dancers, naturals or taught. A basic knowledge of how to carry YOUR body frame elegantly, distribute your weight and the most basic ability of how to stand are elementary to approaching ‘the art form of dance. I do not mean that belly dancers should or must have a balletic posture, but they should have the same level of understanding of how they should be holding themselves while dancing, as a ballerina knows how to hold herself while she dances.
Not standing elegantly and not keeping an excellent and appropriate posture while dancing is depriving the dancer from presenting a high level of aesthetics and it reduces the quality of the communication with her public.
A vital part of a dancer’s training is to learn how to place their body appropriately and correctly while doing any movement in the music. Time given to drilling a posture is time well spent; more so that just drilling a movement by itself.
In my own training, I like to keep it diverse. I study Ballet, Hip Hop, Latin Ballroom, Flamenco, Kathak, Bangra. In addition, I regularly reinforce my Brazilian dance and Cultural roots to keep it up to scratch!
Now, I am not a professional in any of these styles, but the understanding of their basics gives me a vast amount of inspiration and control over what I can do, maximizing flexibility in terms of what my body is able to produce as movement as well as the FEEL of a movement. I also discovered that different muscle groups are worked in each style, developing according to the geographical and anthropological origin. For example, people from the mountains dance differently from the people of the planes.
My full training routine is composed of musicality and music interpretation exercises, technique up to the level I need in order to portray my communication and practice and consideration of postures, body language and strength.
For technique, once I know what I need to interpret in the music, I find what can be done and what would make the music come alive, choosing from the basics and increasing the level of complexity and variety of each movement as needed for that piece.
For posture and strength, I find that ballet bar work is fabulous but I know it is not everyone’s cup of tea (favourite choice)! Alternatively, a dancer could use Pilates, yoga and other methods; there is something to suit everyone’s taste.
Ballet is a double agent in my opinion! It hits 2 birds with one stone – posture & strength as well as musicality. Furthermore, I run every other day for 20-30 minutes to keep the cardio workout present. However, for those that find running difficult or not possible, there are various alternative cardio workouts available to choose from.
You see, when a dancer has musicality, technique, posture and endurance she is in pretty good position to begin with. Then you add cultural understanding, emotional empathy, individuality and full GINGA (Brazilian word for groove, feel of rhythm) …… you have a truly appealing dancer.
The above is only my daily warm up technique to get ready; after that I start dancing the music!
Let’s get ready to dance!