Lord knows I love a good shimmy drill, in fact, it’s my favorite part of any class! There’s not a better way to get your heart rate up, practicing layering, and just release into your practice than shimmying through a song. These are my favorite songs to shimmy to, what are yours?
Members of SFOF/F&G with Mira and her adorable baby
This past weekend, members of Skirt Full of Fire and Fire & Gold traveled up to Tempe for the opportunity to spend a weekend immersed in workshops with Mira Betz. What an experience! Mira’s teaching style transcends the barriers of “tribal” and “cabaret” and simply teaches you to be a better dancer no matter how you dance. This weekend’s workshops had a strong emphasis on improvisation, connection with the music, and honing the general skills of an expert dancer. A lot of the concepts that we worked with were drawn from theater, which was perfect for me because I’ve been getting into the idea of character pieces this year.
I’m really excited that Rachel, Melanie and Sandy came up for this as well. I think it’s great when troupemates take workshops together, because then you can all internalize the lessons and start applying them to group choreographies and troupe dynamics! Plus it gives you a group of people to discuss things with, and get a different perspective on what the teacher said. All week, I’ve been watching lightbulbs go on over our heads as Jolie says something in class and one or more of us is obviously thinking “I can apply this thing I learned to this exercise. YES!” I’m still filling my dance journal with excited notes as I remember different tidbits from the workshops, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
One of the things I love most about attending workshops at Plaza de Anaya is that there’s almost always a gala show, which is also held in the studio. These shows have a real intimate atmosphere, and like the bellydance fangirls we are, SFOF/F&G grabbed seats in the front two rows so we could absorb every detail of dance and costume. And let me tell you… that moment when Mira is just two feet away from you and you lock eyes at an intense moment in her performance? Electrifying.
This image was recently posted on our Facebook fan page and I was really moved by it. It’s all great advice for performers, but #7 really stood out to me. “The only rule is work.” So simple and true. It’s become my new dance motto.
It’s very easy to become complacent in dance (or it is for me at least). I often find myself thinking “Oh, I know the choreography for tomorrow well enough and it’s not like I’ll get that much better if I practice it today” or “Sure, I could practice hips on the down at home, but why not ask to do them at class? I bet everyone else wants to get better at them, too” or “Well everyone loved my solo at the last performance so obviously I am awesome and I just don’t need to work anymore.”
And then what do I do while I’m not practicing? I sit here at my computer on Facebook and Pinterest. I look at pictures of amazing dancers with beautiful lines and gorgeous costumes. I read status updates of teachers returning from tours in Europe. I watch videos of festival performances. And I sigh and think “Oh, I wish I was that good. I wish that was me. I wish I looked like that.” I daydream about what my life will be like when I’m a big-shot professional dancer.
But the truth is, none of the women who I admire became who they are by daydreaming alone. They trained hard to dance beautifully. They either stitched those costumes themselves, or worked hard to make the money to buy them. They paid professional photographers to take beautiful pictures. They traveled to festivals, to perform, teach, network, and build their reputation. Most if not all of them work out and do yoga and cross-train in other dance forms to maintain a strong, beautiful body. And I bet that not a single one of them has said to herself “Ok, I’m good enough, I don’t need to work at it anymore.” If she did, we’d probably get bored of her when she never grew as an artist, and she’d fall off our collective radar, replaced by new, hard-working dancers who haven’t grown complacent.
There are many paths to being a great dancer. You can train with one teacher or many, or even be self-taught. You can focus on one style or fuse a couple. You can be a soloist or join a troupe or do a little of both. But they all have one thing in common: work is the only rule. Go to class. Practice at home. Sit down with needle and thread, or work extra hours to afford the costume of your dreams. Book a photographer. Update your website. Jog three times a week. Read biographies of great performers. And yes, daydream from time to time to remind yourself of where you want to be. But above all, work.