Does this sound familiar?
You leave a bellydance class/workshop/performance and you are SUPER inspired. You are ready to WORK, to practice, to improve, to become the great dancer you are destined to be. The next day you are ready to practice. You walk into your space. You turn on your music and you start to dance. Then your phone beeps. After returning a text message, you check facebook. Oh right, you are here to dance. So, you start dancing again. Buuuuuut, the music doesn’t feel quite right, so you change it. Then you change it again. Well, you kind of want some coffee, maybe you’ll just run down the street….
As part of my coaching practice, I am constantly working with dancers to create effective and manageable practice schedules. Here are some of the key points that I have garnered in creating a practice routine:
It is important that your practice is thoughtful, not mindless – 15 minutes of thought out practice is better than an hour of mindless shimmies and hip downs. To honor your dance, take time (monthly or bi-monthly) to set goals. It’s like a map, it’s easier to create a path if you know where you are going.
Start with a blank piece of paper and 20 minutes. At the top write “I want…”, then let yourself write. Don’t hold back – the sky is the limit. Then go back and review it – circle anything that feels important or comes up more than once. Use that to write trackable goals.
Understand YOUR Motivation
Consider what motivates you. Are you motived by reward? (If you practice 10 days in a row you get a pedicure, etc) or perhaps by public announcement (put your goal on facebook and let your friends motivate you.) Maybe you need to consistently check in with a teacher.
Many people are inspired by upcoming performances. If this is you, schedule them! The more we dance, the more we will want to practice.
Whatever it is, USE IT.
Environment and Ritual
To the best of your ability, create a distraction free practice space. We can’t all have regular access to a floating floor, 2000 sq foot, floor to ceiling mirrored dance studio BUT we can close the door, ask our husband/partner/friend to watch the kids and TURN OFF THE INTERNET (that’s for me!) Consider inspiration, a window, beautiful dance photo or nice mirror can be a great investment and make us want to practice.
In her book The Creative Habit, choreographer Twyla Tharp talks about the power of using ritual to create mind space before a practice. Create a ritual that makes you feel ready to dance. For me, it’s meditating for 5 minutes while listening to an inspiring song. At the end of my practice, I do sun salutations to honor what I’ve done for myself. For my friend Tiffany, she puts on her dance hair to practice because it transforms her from Tiffany the Mom/School Principal/Wife to Amira Star the Bellydancer!
Practice and Application
In the vein of being thoughtful, consider not just what you want to practice but how you will actually use it to become a better dance performer. For example, if you want to work on omis, effective practice is to not just stand in one spot and omi. Practice – then apply to your dancing:
A carpenter can’t work without his tools and a good dance practice needs good tools. Here are some of my favorites: