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  1. #1
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. anala's Avatar
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    next level time...need help

    So here I am..in my cave...with no teacher except for the very occasional private and every workshop and DVD that I can afford. I just watched myself on a video clip taken at a local contest. I won, I had fun and that is all very nice, but I am less than thrilled with my performance and I'll tell you why. I can scat like a mofo, but I am not stringing together a coherent song. I must develop more balance and symetrical consistancy. That means - I think - more choreography (at least for the important bits) with smoother transitions. I have short term memory loss due to my age..and my era, if you can grock that.. .so how do you approach stringing together combinations that you can remember?


  2. #2
    Ultimate BHUZzer mish_mish's Avatar
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    Re: next level time...need help

    Well, my best performances were always when I practiced the MOST until I just did certain moves from muscle memory. I don't know how your er, memory loss, comes into play, but I think hours and hours of improv practice the the same song helps, along with thinking about the song in phrases with distinct moods you want to convey.


  3. #3
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. anala's Avatar
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    Re: next level time...need help

    certain moves from muscle memory

    By deliberate design..or by happy accident?


  4. #4
    Ultimate BHUZzer mish_mish's Avatar
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    Re: next level time...need help

    Well, by muscle memory, I just mean that it almost becomes unconscious, if that makes any sense. I danced, I didn't think.

    Thinking and dancing is bad!


  5. #5
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. anala's Avatar
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    Re: next level time...need help

    Thats my problem, I think..I am not thinking...I think, well at least I think thats my problem.

    I diagram the music, know where the accents are, blah blah...but there is something missing. A certain coherence that makes the dance look planed, well thought out, pleasing to the mind as well as the eye, symetrical and not all, well..spastic is a bad word on several levels, but its not even that - it is lack of a certain physical poetry, if you will.


  6. #6
    Advanced BHUZzer Bellydancefanatic's Avatar
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    Re: next level time...need help

    Fluidity--all about fluidity. Seems you have trouble with fluidity, if I'm reading correct? Happens to me too. With enough practice, it almost becomes natural, like mish_mish was saying. Not sure how to explain it though...

    Someone on Bhuz will come to the rescue. I need help too, anala. Thanks for posting this thread!


  7. #7
    Ultimate BHUZzer mish_mish's Avatar
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    Re: next level time...need help

    I think I need help with this, too.


  8. #8
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. anala's Avatar
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    Re: next level time...need help

    Well...lets wait and see if any of the big dogs will come and sniff around our collective porch...help...hey, you over there gettin' all the glory and the money..you know you you are.......help!!! ;-)

    First of all..does the question I posed make any sense? Perhaps if my teacher would have been more combination / choreography oriented I would not be facing this issue 6 years deep into the dance. I also drill endlessly in a more fitness oriented class I teach here. (need to to keep the coffers full). People..good, pro dancers have said my joy animates the dance and they enjoy it. I feel the compliment is sincere. Dancing by the tables is a great communication and entertainment vehicle and I know my technique is not bad, my vocabulary is good and I am not too repetitious..it is the opposite problem, I may not be repetitive (coherent) enough to look as good as I would like on a large, well lit stage.


  9. #9
    Ultimate BHUZzer jewelsdances's Avatar
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    Re: next level time...need help

    Congratulations on winning a contest! Which one was it??? The Desert Fire one?


  10. #10
    Advanced BHUZzer Khalida's Avatar
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    Re: next level time...need help

    Hi Anala, I think your question might relate a bit to what Aziza explained in a WS about improvisational skills.

    She talked a bit about finding patterns in the music and consciously using certain parts of the song for traveling and others to do combinations/improv on the spot.

    If the music repeats here and there it can bring a bit of structure if you repeat a combination or the traveling step on those repeating parts of the music (to keep variation: do the combination on another part of the stage or in another direction.)

    She also talked about consciously creating patterns on the floor, kind of like painting on a canvas (think about traveling in circles, squares, straight line, diagonal, zigzag, figure eight etc..) it makes a dance look more "structured" without having to choreograph the song.

    It also helps to drill a few cool combinations in your muscle memory that can be done on a certain rythm (sp?), so you have something structured to throw in on a whim without making it look "unimprovised" ;-)
    If you do that its verrry important to train transitioning in and out of that combination, so it looks more fluid.

    Hope this helps!
    Best wishes,
    Khalida
    Last edited by Khalida; 01-28-2008 at 05:19 AM.


  11. #11
    Advanced BHUZzer Khalida's Avatar
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    Re: next level time...need help

    LOL typing this just made me realize how much I still have to work on this myself ..c::


  12. #12
    Advanced BHUZzer jewelbellydance's Avatar
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    Re: next level time...need help

    Khalida's response is just excellent. It'll probably help you remember what you'd planned if you match certain moves to passages in the music - for eg, this part of the music tells me to hip circle for a while, this part suggests travelling. Then you don't actually have to remember your choreo, you can just react to what you're hearing in the music. (But write down your ideas as you create your plan, to help with your memory loss, then practice over and over!)

    I like to 'plan' rather than choreograph my performances. That is, rather than thinking 'one hip circle plus one step plus one flick' I'll think 'do some hip circles and a few accents' to a certain section. Then, I'll practice doing different types or combos of hip circles to that music. That way, I have a broad plan that kicks in when I hear the music, but I also have the freedom to improvise (less stilted, more able to adapt to the environment or my mood), and it's easier to remember than a full choreography.

    I do also like to practice transitions in between these 'planned' sections, as they can be awkward to do on the fly. It sounds like drilling transitions would help you 'flow'.


  13. #13
    Advanced BHUZzer Safiyah's Avatar
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    Re: next level time...need help

    I'm new to improving but have been doing planned improv as jewel explained. I map out the song based on rhythm/key/mood changes and write in some ideas for moves that work in those areas - sorta like a move "bank" that I can pull from if I get stuck. I come up with general direction - move here, arabesque here, stop and emote here. I choreograph the beginning because I always get stuck on beginnings. I do choreograph combos here and there so I can give my brain a break


  14. #14
    Master BHUZzer kharis_UK's Avatar
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    Re: next level time...need help

    Quote Originally Posted by anala View Post
    so how do you approach stringing together combinations that you can remember?
    Repetition


  15. #15
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Lauren_'s Avatar
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    Re: next level time...need help

    Quote Originally Posted by jewelbellydance View Post

    I like to 'plan' rather than choreograph my performances. That is, rather than thinking 'one hip circle plus one step plus one flick' I'll think 'do some hip circles and a few accents' to a certain section. Then, I'll practice doing different types or combos of hip circles to that music. That way, I have a broad plan that kicks in when I hear the music, but I also have the freedom to improvise (less stilted, more able to adapt to the environment or my mood), and it's easier to remember than a full choreography.
    This is exactly what I do -- after first doing what Khalida suggested above and planning where I'll travel, where I'll stand.

    What Mish Mish said is also true -- if you simply practice enough, this sort of 'structured improv' will happen automatically as you find yourself using the same types of moves during the same segments of the song.

    The single most useful tool for practice is a video camera. If you can record yourself (even on a phone??) and watch you'll learn SO much about your dancing. When I'm working hard on a piece (hmmm, haven't worked hard in a while....) I'll improv to it three or four times in a row, then watch the tape. I make note of what moves I really liked for each segment of music, what didn't work, and where my posture/arms are failing me (cuz they usually are).

    You're talking about the Hakim/James Brown piece, right? In a duet like that, I think it's fun and adds structure to use the duet nature of the music. When I dance that one, James Brown gets more funky, rock'n'roll type movements, Hakim's voice gets a constant shimmy layered over it (because I hear it in his sections).


  16. #16
    Advanced BHUZzer aamel_MirahAmmal's Avatar
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    Re: next level time...need help

    I really liked Khalida's response too--very well put. The video idea is also a good one--I've used that from time to time as well because it's a good way to figure out what you're doing naturally that you like so that you can repeat it (if you're like me, you may be prone to forget the really cool thing you did 5 minutes ago...or not be sure how something you just did looked.

    I am also one of those people who doesn't really choreograph--at least not my solo work. I do sometimes plan aspects, though. Maybe thinking about certain combinations or the pattern on the floor or what type of movement or transition on want in certain places.

    The other thing I'd suggest if it is relevant for you: try to slow yourself down mentally. That may sound a little silly , but one thing that often happens when people improvise is that the brain/body are always racing ahead to the next thing in the music--always worrying about coming up with the next cool thing and keeping it interesting for the audience. But...the thing is, you can (and should) repeat a nice combination more than one time. And, if you turn it in different directions or aim it at different people or alternate it with other combos, it looks different. But when improvising and "thinking too fast" or not at all, there is a tendency to do a nice movement or combination, then change it right away. So...practice calming your thought processes while you're dancing and work at being very present and in tune with your body. At first, do a combination, notice what your body is feeling and doing, and then replicate it right away. This takes a little practice, and at first it can make the dancer wonder if she's being boring (because it feels like you're thinking a lot/your brain is moving slow) but after a while you don't feel like you're thinking as much, you just feel calm...and you can replicate the combinations more easily at different points (for example you don't have to repeat it right away--you can do the combo, do something else and come back to the original combo.)


  17. #17
    Ultimate BHUZzer dunyah's Avatar
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    Re: next level time...need help

    Yes, slowing down and getting out of the "thinking" mode will help. Also, less is more. Give people time to absorb what you just did before you go on to the next cool thing.

    Practice to the music a lot and listen to it a lot.

    But it sounds like you are getting really nice feedback from people who know about the dance, so don't forget to give yourself props for what you are doing right!

    You might be able to find a mentor who will work with you by videos. You send videos to your teacher, she gives you feedback. There are probably teachers right here on Bhuz that could do that for you. I know that Eva Cernik, for one, has done that for students. Not that she's on Bhuz, heh, but she is an example of an awesome dancer/teacher who does that.


  18. #18
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. anala's Avatar
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    Re: next level time...need help

    Yes, with the music map in my head, I now know where to stand, where to travel... but it is the repeating combinations and the muscle memory of those (to use without thought) that is the difficulty.

    Truely...the slowing down needs major work, always has. It is not that I am thinking about the next move..I really am present in the moment. I think the stage adrenaline rush creates more bodily activity than I would like. Yes, Lauren it was the James Brown piece and I was all over the place..how could you not be with that song ;-) ...when watching the clip..I didnt repeat a thing..a whole lot of random coolness strung together like big beads on a necklace. I also won the "old broad" category and used a version of Inta Omri that I cut which left in the first verse of her vocals. I think the judges were just so happy to hear her voice over big speakers again that it was like cheating! I had to slow down for that one, but I was still unhappy for the same reason..no coherance, no repeating poetry. Minute by minute it wasnt bad...but it lacked the stage worthiness that is so hard to achieve when dancing by tables all the time. I think the best solution may be the one I am so reluctant to hear...and I have heard it alot!...video. Oh god...do I really want to see this? I have footage from a show I did a year ago that I have never watched. How bad do I want this?


  19. #19
    Advanced BHUZzer najla86's Avatar
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    Re: next level time...need help

    Quote Originally Posted by anala View Post
    ...when watching the clip..I didnt repeat a thing..a whole lot of random coolness strung together like big beads on a necklace.
    a really good tip that was given to me was to try to do every new movement 2-4 times in a row depending on what the music dictates. that way, you give the audience a chance to really see what you're doing, and if you repeat that section (if it's a chorus, for example), the audience will have fun as they'll know what's coming and they understand it a bit more. You can always throw in a little change to your sequence too (say a hip circle instead of a turn) if you're afraid of being too repetive.

    and that's an awesome song choice!


  20. #20
    Advanced BHUZzer Safiyah's Avatar
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    Re: next level time...need help

    I do find that I can stand to repeat things more than I do. It's a bad habit to try to do everything all the time - watch some Egyptian dancers and you'll see they repeat things a lot and still manage to keep things interesting. When I feel myself moving too fast and thinking too hard, I just do a simple sideways camel walk or something for 8-12 counts. It gives me time to breathe.

    I also change some things - like say you want to do the same combo four times. Maybe on the third change the combo slightly, then go back to the original on the fourth.

    This is a great thread! I'm inspired to videotape myself again!


  21. #21
    Advanced BHUZzer jewelbellydance's Avatar
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    Re: next level time...need help

    Wtih regards to repeating combos, here's an exercise that might help - Come up with a combo that you like (I often get these from workshops with choreography - can never remember the choreo but can remember a combo!). Put on some music and improvise, and practice throwing the combo in every now and again. Then try it with another, different mood of music, and another, until you start being able to do the combination without thinking about it. Build up a repertoire of 3-4 combos that become second nature to you.

    You can come up with combos that are versatile and can be changed to suit any music. For eg, I have a fave combo that starts with four travelling steps to the right. If it's boppy music, they'll be four hip-pushes or 3/4 shimmies. If it's slow music, they'll be camels or walking hip circles.


  22. #22
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. anala's Avatar
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    Re: next level time...need help

    can never remember the choreo but can remember a combo!).

    I cant remeber where I put my glasses just before I took my contacts out! Really! My troupe calls me the absent minded professor! I will try, really I will. It may also be a matter of the same type of self discipline it takes to dance to the same song more than three time! Yo Yo Yo - I'm a music ho!!!


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