Week 2 – Random Acts of Bellydance

How was your first week of Randomness? I didn’t realise how much tea i was drinking until I had to shimmy through that kettle boiling – every single time! 😮

Another week of randomness ahead. Good luck & let us know how you get on.


1 : Practice that tricky move you’ve been avoiding.

You know the one, you fake it through when you can or just avoid it altogether. Break it down and build it back up again. If you need help, ask your teacher for some advice in your next class.

Maybe it’s a combination in a new choreography that you stumble over, or feel like you miss the timing on every single time. Drill it separately, then drill it with the combo that comes before it and the one that comes after it. You can get some great phone apps that will slow music down so you can practice it with the music at a slower pace, and work your way back up to full speed.


2 : Sort out your Dance Bag.

Our Dance Bags can get filled up with all sorts of stuff we don’t need, or we keep forgetting to put stuff we do need into it. If you’ve got a lot of bits of paper in there, put it in a folder (& some sort of order) so you don’t lose them! You likely want to have a notebook, pen, finger cymbals, a veil, a bottle of water, and maybe a practice skirt in there.


3 : Watch a Dance Video and be Inspired!

Head over to YouTube and watch some old dances, or check out new and innovative works from contemporary dancers. Maybe you’ve got a DVD at home you love watching. Be inspired by others to improve your own dance practice, or see if you can work some of their moves into your own repertoire.


4 : Practice Smiling and Sharing Joy

As entertainers, smiling & helping others feel good is a big part of the job. Some dancers find it really easy to let the joy they’re feeling just explode out of their faces. Other dancers find it a bit more challenging. If you want to master that natural smile, practice smiling at people today – or all week. Note how you’re feeling while you do it, what is the intention behind that smile? Work on it until you’re feeling “Hey! I feel happy and I’d like you/the whole world to know that” or something similar. This is a pretty stressful time of year for a lot of people – maybe your smile will make their day a little easier. 🙂


5 : Revisit and old, but loved, choreography.

Maybe it’s a choreography you learned as a beginner, or maybe it’s one from just last year. Find the music, and run through it – you might be surprised at what you remember! See if you can fill in the gaps with your memory, or by creating new sequences, or just improvising through those sections. Take a trip down memory lane and enjoy the journey.


6 : Check out Workshops and Festivals for 2017.

There are so many great Festivals and Workshops in your local and close-by bellydance communities. Use google if you’re not attached to groups that advertise upcoming events. Maybe check out the websites of Festivals you have heard of and find out when they’re holding the event again. Workshops and Festivals are great for expanding your repertoire, meeting up with fellow dancers and being inspired by new works!


7 : Practice zilling patterns to your favourite rhythms.

Grab your zills/sagat and find a piece of music with a rhythm you like, or use a loop from a rhythm-only album. If you don’t know any finger cymbal patterns, try looking some up, ask your teacher or just practice dancing along with a basic 1-2-3 (gallop, longa), and then see if you can follow along to parts or all of what the drum is playing. Have fun with it and experiment with sounds you can make.


Wishing you all a joyful week in bellydance. Let me know how you get along with the random acts! Also, if you have some suggestions for future random acts, comment below – i’d love to include them!!

– Sam.

In Search of Rhythm Guides

Sometimes it’s difficult to learn the names of the rhythm patterns we use in class. The more often you hear the rhythms, the easier it is to dance to them, and to play them on your finger cymbals, zills, or sagat (which ever style you’re using, or term you prefer). So, I’ve put together a few links for students, to help you source CDs and other resources.

Matt Stonehouse has a CD that I use a lot. Different rhythms and played a different speeds. It’s really useful to practice along to, both fast and slow.

Andy Busuttil has his Pulse of the Pyramids CDs available from his website. These are great for hearing rhythms played with and without zills/segat, and also have a sample of music using the rhythms.

Mas’ud al-Sha’ir has a great resource called the Quick & Dirty Guide to Doumbek Rhythms. Rythms are written down with open (skeleton),  simple, standard, busy and closed (filled) versions – great for visual/logical learners. There are also sound bites (these are not only useful, but make you smile when you can hear his dog barking along … musical puppy!). 🙂

The Middle Eastern Dance site has some good break downs of zill patterns, including hands (R-L) sounds (R-D-T-C) and spoken word. Again, great for visual/logical learners.

Shira has a listing of rhythms and zill patterns (including hands for right and left handed players). It also includes musical notation and spoken counts for each of the patterns listed. She also has a website jam packed full of information, so make sure you have a couple of hours free if you decide to go browsing there!

Zills on Fire has downloadable files, sound bites and more (inlcuding a CD). Very useful.

Solace’s Rhythm of the Dance has beledi, chifte-telli, masmoudi, saidi, kashlima, zar, moroccan, shoush and laz. to practice along with.

Let me know in the comments of any other great rhythm resources out there!

Improvisation Hints & Tips

Ghawazee Moon Bellydance Summer WorkshopsWhat a great start to our summer workshops! I was so impressed with the improvisation students. Improvisation can be a real panic-starter for some dancers, especially when we are feeling self-concious about ‘getting it wrong’ or ‘forgetting all the moves’. All of you who participated should feel really proud – you faced your fears and did it anyway!

Just in case you’ve lost your ‘Practice Hints and Tips’, here they are:

Listen with your body, not just your ears:

When you listen with your ears, your brain must interpret what it hears, consider movements that might match, make a decision about which movement to use, and send signals to the body to execute the movement. Whilst the brain can do this fairly quickly, we want to aim for a body that can feel the music and respond immediately, bypassing the brain, which can either give to too many choices, not enough choices, or has already made your usual choices without telling you about it.

Hear both the lyrical and the rhythmical in the music:

It’s ok to change from one to the other. Let your body decide what it wants to follow. Let go and be IN the music.

Less is More:

Don’t feel the need to add tricks or “extra” movements just because you can, or because you feel it is expected. Get in tune with the music, let it lead your movements. If simplicity is what the music is saying to you, complexity will look contrived. An audience will enjoy watching a dancer who is moving within the music more than a dancer moving over the top of the music.

Expand your repertoire of known movements:

  • Go to classes.
  • Watch performances with an eye to picking up new movements.
  • Practice variations of known movements – not just the ones you ‘like’.
  • Experiment connecting different movements, transition in and out of them.

Get out of your comfort zone:

  • Dance slowly – it will give your brain more time to suggest new moves.
  • Change your usual hand positions and posture – sometimes the background of movements can influence your choice of what comes next.
  • Dance new movements to music you know, or non-bellydance music, for a different interpretation of the music and the movement.

Give yourself some Structure:

  • Improvise around a floor pattern. You can experiment outside of the usual circles, triangles, zigzags … perhaps trace the path you take when you get out of bed until you eat breakfast?
  • Decide on a movement type, eg: vertical, sagittal, circles, etc. and only improvise with those movements.

Get connected:

  • Allow yourself to feel a full range of emotions when listening to music.
  • Get a CD of Arabic Rhythms. Listen and get to know them.
  • Be aware of how different movements make you feel.
  • Watch performances where dancers are emoting – what sorts of things do they do?
  • Be real – feel it. You have to believe it if you want the audience to come with you.

Just Do It!

  • Go to Halfas that have open floor sections and just dance.
  • Dance in your kitchen, in your lounge room, in the supermarket.
  • Move like a dancer in your everyday life – make dance a part of your whole being so that when you come to improvise, dancing is as natural as breathing.