The Planning Dancer

Dance Goals and Dreams!  This year has been a year of pondering what I wanted to do next with my dance.  It doesn’t seem like really any other year, as I’m really a goal oriented person in some ways; okay I’m a planner.  I have seen posts for planning events, both dance focused and entrepreneur focused and they always get me thinking of taking a course, but I’m on a tight budget still so I’m going work things through this way and share my thought process through subcategories.

The planning teacher

I’ve been teaching dance for approximately eight years (8).  Most of the focus has been belly dance teaching but I also have been teaching bollywood for maybe half that time.  Before I began as a teacher, I took a teacher training course with Hadia more out of interest of learning more about breaking down the moves than actually teaching a class.  I’m really glad I took this class as it not only helped me prepare to be a dance teacher but it changed my perspective of how my body makes those moves I love and to do it safely.  As a teacher, it is very important to me that my students have fun and learn to move their bodies with confidence that they should never feel pain. Using this knowledge, on top of the combinations, I’ve learnt and/or created in my own studies as a dancer, I map out the things I’d like to teach my students.  

Before the first class, I make a playlist of songs I want to play with and that make me want to move.  I create a spreadsheet with the songs and add my email and website so I can print them out and hand them to my students.  Ok, I’ll be honest I often forget to give this list in the first class but I’m getting better at providing them the list so they know what songs we are playing with and they can choose to find them.

The first class of every session is always the least structured class as I never know exactly who I will have in my class.  Often there are one or two students that have studied some form of dance and as the years have go by returning students that are familiar with the basics.  The first class is about getting to know my students’ dance capabilities so I can then plan the rest of the session.

Mapping the rest of the session is pretty straight forward for me.  I take a slightly old fashioned approach and grab a three-ring binder with ruled paper and make an outline for the session.  I make a note what I taught the first day and build on the moves I’ve taught and where I want to go. I will often have at least one song that will be a full choreography for them to learn and separate the choreography into parts that are spread out over the session.  Throughout the session I will drill the basics and work various combinations including the parts that combine into the choreography. I also like to leave room for a bit prop play, usually veil of course, so the students can explore a little bit of everything of the dance.

Although it seems like a lot of planning, it’s necessary as often this planning helps me be flexible with what I teach.  I might plan a night of figure eight combinations but then I’m asked a question and the class turns into side lunges and arm positions.  Questions are always welcomed because we learn more when we ask questions and it will often trigger me into some wonderful tangent and a rounded dance experience for myself and my students.

After the class, I’ll make my notes and review where I am in my session plans and adjust as I go. This means I might bump up one combination over another and/or change the order of the songs and drills I want to do with my students the next class.  My goal always remains to be flexible and make my class fun and safe.

The planning dancer

Over the past ten (10) years I’ve been involved in a wonderful group called Bollywood for Fun.  It has been my performance troupe, one I co-founded, that I’ve had the opportunity to be participate in many private and public events.  Being part of a troupe has been a goal of mine and I would count it as a success. One thing a troupe does require is a lot of time outside of the regular dance classes and day job for practice with all of the members.  Planning troupe practices has always a been a major challenge for us, as none of us owns a studio and schedules are tough. We did manage to pull it together using videos of our choreographies to practice on our own time as well as either rent a space or squeeze into someone’s house or school vestibule.  Each year brought it’s new challenges and each year I had the goal to create a new choreography or two for our summer festivals and private shows. This year, I saw as my last year with Bollywood for Fun as I want to focus back on my belly dancing goals. It doesn’t mean I’m going to stop bollywood dancing; hell no, I’m just going to teach bollywood but not perform as part of a troupe.  So what are my goals as a dancer?

The Plan

Step 1:  The first question I ask myself before making any goals and/or plans is “what kind of a dancer do I want to be?”  My short answer is: I want to be strong dancer. The answers may seem broad but this word is just the stepping stone to fleshing out what I want.

How I perceive myself in my goal as a Strong Dancer?

More questions pop up, to refine the goal of being a strong dancer.  What does it mean to be a strong dancer? Language is a funny thing the work “strong” alludes to being physically power.  In one aspect, yes, I want to be physically stronger. I want be physically stronger in my muscles to be able to control my movements better and feel more solid on the ground.  Like many of us, weight can be added very easily and it changes how our body moves. One of my main goals is to work with my body to become physically stronger to manage how my body moves.

How do I become stronger?

  • You are what you eat.  I’m not a role model for eating right and I never will be.  I have gained and lost and have gained again over the years weight.  Currently, I have extra weight that affects how I dance and well I know I need to change that.  So I’m starting to write down what I’m eating and making myself aware again how what I eat makes me feel.  I have cravings for various foods, but instead of beating myself about some of the crappy food I’m eating, I’m going to work on saving it for special occasions or actually start listening when I know some of that junk makes me feel junky.  I may still have it once in a while but letting go of the denying of stuff will make it easier for me to let the crap go.
  • Exercise in disguise!  This phrase is taken from one of the Egyptian Dance Academy’s advertisements for classes this past summer.  Dance is exercise in disguise. It’s a lot more fun than being in the gym lifting weights or running of the treadmill.  This past summer, I took part of a 28 day dance challenge which was all about improving to songs chosen by the organizer.  Although some of the songs I didn’t really connect to, I still danced on each of those 28 days, recorded and posted videos of my exercise.  Since then, I make time to dance, even if it’s not graceful or structured. I combine it with some Yoga, some weights and any little bit of exercises I feel like in the moment to do.
  • Practice makes perfect.  I love/hate this saying so I’m going to change it now and say, practice makes stronger, because not every practice is going to be perfect.  There are going to be a lot of days where I know I’ll be frustrated that I don’t feel I’ve made progress but the reality is with each practice I’m one step closer to being the strong dancer I want to be.  Currently, I’m making time to practice dance drills and just playing with reckless abandon to feel how my body moves. Sometimes I’ll had a bit of light weights and even yoga moves to warm myself up or change the challenge.
  • Learn from Stronger dancers.  Yes, I teach, but I don’t know everything about all aspects of bollywood and/or belly dance.  Workshops are great to attend because they are focused on a topic so I can pick and choose which ones I believe will help make me a stronger dancer.  Finding teachers and/or learning from friends who know things you don’t know about the dance is a great way to become a stronger dancer. There is more to dance than just the movements, it’s knowing the meaning, the culture that is connected to the dance.  Luckily, there are wonderful teachers like Denise Enan, Nada El-Masriya, Aziza of Montreal, Amalia Maksoud, and Florence Leclerc, to name a few that are very giving with their knowledge.

Step 2:  Now that I’ve defined what kind of a dancer I want to be what’s the next step?  The timeline. All goals need a deadline. Life is a work in progress but goals have end dates and although I will continue to work on constantly improving my dance, a planner and goal oriented person like myself, needs an end date.  My self imposed deadline is October 2019; the competition at the Masriyatt Intensive weekend hosted by Nada El-Masriya. Why a competition as a deadline? Well it fits in two ways; 1) competitions take a lot of work to prepare for and the competitions I’m seen I feel like those dancer portray a strength I admire, and 2) doing a competition is another goal I have as a dancer.  Although, I attempted a competition back in 2012, I was totally not prepared. I didn’t know what was expected and thought I’d have time to prepared. Unfortunately, I wasn’t prepared and pretty much improved the competition. I look back at the video and say to myself, that the beginning was ok but OMG what the hell was I thinking for the rest of the dance. Since then, I’ve learnt that I needed to work on myself as a dancer and become better in technique as well as knowing the music and the emotion of the song.  I figured that doing a competition again would help me focus on becoming the stronger dancer I felt I’ve lost a bit with my extra weight and other life distractions.

No matter where I place, when I get to the competition, the journey I’ve started is already showing results that I’m on the way to being the strong dancer I want to be.

One thought on “The Planning Dancer

  1. Really loved this blog. Improvement does not happen by accident- it takes planning, consistency and self-discipline. Thanks for the reminder!


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