Friday, January 13, 2012

Practice, practice, practice..........

Here in North Central Kentucky, in the Bluegrass area we are having our first real snow storm of the season. Winter is finally and truly upon us. One of the things that happens every winter that just drives me nuts, is that classes get cancelled.

Of course, they need to be cancelled! I would hate for someone to drive in dangerous conditions to go to class and possibly risk being in a horrific car accident. Anyone living up North is used to the drill, anyone with kids dread those county wide 'Snow Days' when all the schools close and all of a sudden you are scrambling to find safe childcare so you can go to work. Snow and ice on the roadways are no fun and sliding into a ditch after hitting a patch of black ice can easily become life threatening.

This all brings up the subject of what to do if you miss your dance class or classes because of inclement weather.  One thing I have observed myself and I am sure many of you would agree; extra/fun activities like dance classes, art classes and other hobbies, no matter how much you LOVE them and feel awesome after participating in them, they can sometimes be really hard to just plain GET TO. We all have busy lives and if you are like me in the past, you go to work 9 hours then you have a family to care for, cooking, cleaning, homework, PTA meetings, band concerts, doctors is full of busy things that MUST be done. Well what I have noticed about myself and many other people, if you get into a habit of attending your classes or activities (no matter what) you will keep going even when you feel like just kicking up your feet and taking a breather or you have no energy and just do not feel like going, once you get there you realize how much fun it is and you are VERY glad you forced yourself to go. 

Those little bits of 'ME TIME' are incredibly important for our own self preservation. Believe me, those house chores and bills and stuff will still be there when you get home a couple hours later, BUT you will feel much better about tackling them because you have had time to renew yourself! I digress...LOL....anyway, what I have noticed is that if you get 'OUT OF HABIT' and start missing your classes due to illness, work, family obligations or bad weather, it is VERY VERY hard to get back into the habit of going. We forget how much we LOVE our hobbies and how we feel rejuvenated and ready to take on the world after our little bit of fun time and then we just stop going permanently.

So, back to the bad weather and missed classes.....
I always tell my students how very important it is to practice their dance at home between classes. If you really want to improve your abilities and grow as a dancer, you must put some time aside to practice regularly. Again we are met with all the obstacles that life throws at us, time is at a premium but as I tell my students, even 10 to 15 minutes a day makes a huge difference. This is even more important when you have cancelled classes or if you have to miss a class due to life getting in the way. My philosophy is if your class gets cancelled and you were planning to go, then you have that time set aside already so use it! If you yourself had to cancel going and time is an issue, at least do 10 minutes. 

Do not let yourself get out of the habit of dancing, do not let your body forget how great it feels to dance!

Here are a few tips for practicing at home and a few things I do for my practice time (I think you'll get a giggle out of a couple of these)

1) It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway. You need music, in this modern age it is so easy to obtain music for very little money. I post links for songs that I use in my classes and advise my students on what to buy and where, but I also suggest being adventurous and finding their own music. Even if you only buy a few songs at 99 cents a piece you will have 10 minutes of dance music to use. A few great place to buy MP3 songs are,, but there are tons of others!

2) You only need a little bit of space, the size of your movements are not nearly as important as the quality and control. A great belly dancer can dance a whole performance on a tile. If you are practicing traveling steps, just make them smaller, space is relative.

Some 'spaces' I use to practice my moves? While in the Shower. In front of my bathroom mirror. My kitchen (while cooking or doing dishes). Sitting at my desk while online (I am practicing flutters right The checkout line at the grocery store (especially when I have an Extreme Couponer in front of me). Plus so many other places.  I do use my living room quite often, but I end up dancing with my three year old son in my arms, which DOES hinder

                     Here is a cute example of dancing in the kitchen :)

3) Any time, any where is a great rule to follow. A few minutes of Omis or Shimmying several times a day can really improve your skills fast! It takes lots and lots of repetition to build muscle memory (make sure your doing it right though so you do not build muscle memory the wrong way). What is muscle memory?

4) Some people are planners and need to have a set rule of what they are going to do before they do it. Some are spontaneous and do what feels good at that particular time. I like to use both methods. One thing that is really important though; you will never get better if you do not practice those particular moves that are too hard for you, you know those ones you don't like to do because you feel awkward and weird! Those awkward, weird movements are the MOST important to practice. That being said, it helps tremendously to write out a plan of what you are going to practice so you don't only practice that which is fun. take a few minutes to make an outline of what you have been doing in class recently and make a list of things you really need to work on.

5) Practice both directions, or both sides of your body...if you have one side that is easier than the other (most of us do) practice more on the harder side.

6) When you DO take class, take notes to use as study/practice guides when you are at home. I ask all my students to keep a notebook and take notes and I pass out handouts occasionally with extra info. I can tell who takes notes and practices and who doesn't. The note takers excel and learn faster and are always prepared for the nest challenge.  How to take and organize great notes.

All I can say is hopefully if you have the sad experience of missing your awesome, rejuvenating, and incredibly fun dance classes due to weather or life in general, that you can practice at home, keep the love of dance flowing through your veins and not become a dance class drop out :)

(of course this goes for any extra activity that brings you joy)

Blessings and Happy Shimmies, Safiya