The Blog

The Guest List: Belly Dance Drill Music Recommendations from Aubre Hill

Have you ever wished you could peek into the iPods of well-known bellydance instructors? Well, I have – and thought I’d ask a few!

Aubre Hill

Our first guest drill list comes from Aubre Hill, a performer and instructor based in Los Angeles, CA. She is also the director of the LuminaDance Co.  and Qabila Folkdance Co.    Aubre is a very versatile dancer so I suspected she’d have some interesting and eclectic music to inspire her classes – and she sure does. Get ready for some adventurous listening and drilling!

Aubre says:  “I use a wide range of different types of music so this mini drill set is specifically gypsy focuses for musicality push, dynamic drills & sheer energetic fun.”
Here’s how she likes to use them in class:
1- Disko Partizani by Shantel
Slow-Medium tempo great for warmup
2- Arabu Andaluz by Fishtank Ensemble
Medium tempo great for drilling foot patterns and turns with or without hip work
3- Egyptian Ella by Fatima Spar und die Freedom Fries
Medium-Fast tempo perfect for drilling hip patterns (ups, downs, 3/4’s, twists, etc) with great layering options to pull from
4- James Bond Theme by Boban & Marko Markovic Orchestra & Fanfare Ciocarlia
Fast tempo screams shimmy shimmy shimmy and it’s happy vibe will help keep you going
5- Baccanale by Plotz!
Fast 5/8 great to train the ear in odd meter and drill gooey movements (figure eights, undulations, circles, etc)

Did you hear something you like? Whose iPod would you like to peek into?  Let us know in the comments below….

November 3, 2014 4 Comments

How To Keep Up Your Belly Dance Practice When You Are Injured

This is the newest installment of  “Raks Me A Question” – an occasional series where I answer dancers’ questions about anything and everything to do with this Sparkly Life – from practice techniques to troupe politics. Think of it as a dancers’ Q & A meets Dear Abby!

Got a question you’d like to ask? Email me and tell me all about it.

Kelly asks: “How can I keep practicing when I’m injured?”

Most dancers, at some point in their career will have to deal with an injury – whether they have sustained it dancing or just tripping on the sidewalk. For active people like bellydancers, following the doctor’s orders to rest is probably the toughest prescription to swallow.

Fortunately, this does no have to mean totally abandoning your pursuit of dance till you get the green light from your health care provider. You have options – let’s talk about a few:

 

Have you had to deal with an injury that interrupted your dancing? How did you deal with it? Tell us in the comments below…

The Science Behind Learning Shimmies

Learning how to shimmy is a huge challenge for many new belly dance students. Even if they come to Middle Eastern dance with several years of other dance training, most likely none of it prepared them for that small, repetitive movement that is so integral to belly dance styles.  When they sigh “HOW do you do that so fast?”, we usually tell them “Practice, LOTS of practice!”. It’s true, practice makes perfect – or at least a lot better – but what exactly is happening in our bodies in that early shimmy learning stage?

The Engine That Stalls

Remember back to your early days, instructors! New students, yes, we’ve all been where you are. You get your shimmy going and a few seconds later your knees mysteriously stop by no will of your conscious brain, You pause, then you start it back up again like an old car that stalled at a stop light. What is happening and how do you “fix” it?

Getting Under The Hood

There are a few components to learning a new movement pattern. First, you brain needs to understand what you mean to do. Second, your brain needs to get your body to cooperate – at first in a  slow and rudimentary way. In class, I ask my students if “their heads have it” meaning, they understand the movement. After all, your body doesn’t stand much of a chance if your brain doesn’t get it first. From that understanding, the body will learn it with enough perseverance. Princess Farhana cracked me up in a workshop once expressing the same idea. She said “your brain is writing checks your hips can’t cash” –  so true!

Now that your brain understands and your body can carry out the motion at a moderate speed for a short amount of time, how do we get that to grow into a sustained, smooth shimmy? This is where the body works the behind the scenes magic of neural adaptation.

Bring In The Wiring Crew

Whether it’s a shimmy or strength training, much of the early progress we see with practice is due to neural adaptation rather than actual changes in the strength or size of our muscles.  For an Egyptian knee shimmy, the quadriceps and hamstrings are the primary muscle groups we are talking about. Each of these large groups in made up of several smaller muscles and each of these has bundles of muscle fibers that work together. Each of these bundles is controlled by one nerve and that work group of muscle fibers and it’s nerve is called a motor unit. Check out the picture at the top of this post for an illustration of a motor unit.

When the neural adaptation process starts, the brain and motor units improve the speed and efficiency of their communication. We experience this as our body “cooperating” with us. On a larger scale, the motor units learn to work together in a more synchronized way. Just like a rowing crew that has all its members in perfect timing to achieve maximum speed, your muscles work best when all the motor units needed contract in unison. As the movement pattern become more familiar to our brain, our bodies also begin to recruit more motor units to do the same movement which really adds more shimmy-power.  We experience this golden moment as the “smooth, sustained shimmy”.

So is your instructor conning you when she says “Practice, LOTS of practice!”? No, absolutely not. Neural adaptation is the outcome of all that practice. It doesn’t happen from thinking about your shimmy, or wishing your shimmy would get better. The more often you practice the more positively your neural network will adapt to comply with your dreams of amazing shimmies for hours on end.

“Often” is the important key word here. Shorter daily shimmy practice will get the beginner better neural adaptation results that wrestling with it for an hour once a week. All of these things are also true for experienced dancers who are working to master a new and different shimmy than the one they’ve been doing for years.

So whether it’s your first shimmy or learning shimmy style #10, give yourself 5 minutes every day to let your body work that neural adaptation magic! Remember… “Practice, LOTS of practice!”

April 24, 2012 18 Comments
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