Want to be taken seriously as a professional belly dancer? Never stop training.
I’m sitting here the day before I leave for Culmination, writing this post so I can schedule it for you all to read. When this post comes up I’ll actually be on my “day off”, but if it’s anything like my “day off” during Cultivation, I’ll actually spend most of it studying and practicing! Hopefully I’ll spend at least a little time enjoying Portland though, especially if the weather is as nice as my friends’ Instagram posts are currently making it seem.
Anyway, since this post is going up in the middle of a training intensive, I thought it might be a good time to visit one of my favorite topics…
Never Stop Training
In my mind, one of the hallmarks of a true professional belly dancer is that they never stop training. Not just home practice, which is vitally important, but going into the studio and getting instruction from someone else. Honestly there’s no more humbling experience than getting some corrections in a beginner-level class when you’ve started to get a little full of yourself. We all need that reality check. We also all need to be regularly challenged by new material, combos we wouldn’t come up with ourselves, unfamiliar arm patterns, even a whole new-to-us dance style or fitness modality.
To keep your skills in tip-top shape, you have a few training options. Try to make use of all of them as your time and budget allows!
- Regular weekly belly dance classes. Class is great because it tends to keep your basics sharp, gives you some new material to chew on, and provides a really valuable social outlet. I got through the long, dark Seattle winter by being in dance class three nights a week. Being around other dancers kept me from getting bummed out over the weather!
- Cross-training classes. Whether it’s another dance form or a fitness class Yoga, Pilates, or Kickboxing, it’s good to work out different muscles and different neural pathways. This also gives you a chance to meet non-belly-dancers and perhaps even network and build bridges between different dance forms or find a Yoga instructor who would like to teach at your dance studio.
- Private lessons and/or one-on-one mentoring. If you’re not getting challenged enough in your weekly dance classes, it can really help to work directly with a teacher who can come up with some drills, combos, and exercises specifically designed to target your weaknesses or hone your strengths. A mentor can also help you refine your performances for upcoming major events, focus your artistic voice, and more.
- Workshops. Belly dance workshops not only give you another change to learn new material, they also serve as a chance to take the pulse of the dance community. What content is being offered at the workshop? What is the general skill level of the dancers attending? How is everyone dressed? What sort of music is the teacher using and how is the class reacting to it? If there’s an evening gala show or a hafla, what themes are you seeing in the performances? And of course, this is a great opportunity to connect with the other dedicated dancers in your community.
- Training intensives. I just really can’t speak highly enough of the value of spending a week-ish immersed in dance with the same group of people. Intensives can take several forms. There’s multi-tiered certification programs like 8 Elements. Remote retreats like the ones Mira Betz offers in New Mexico. Multi-instructor experiences like Tribal Massive. Intensives and retreats seem to be growing more popular, so more and more teachers are offering them in different locations. You get really in-depth training and the opportunity to build a really deep connection with your fellow dancers.
Of course there are different permutations of these — you might take online classes, which don’t give you the opportunity for corrections, but do let you study with teachers from around the world. Your private lessons might be conducted over Skype. You might even prefer to work with old favorite DVDs! All of these are valid options. Never stop training. Never stop looking for a challenge.
What are YOUR favorite training methods?