Are your students uncomfortable with Improvisation? Wish your students could improvise? Wish you could improvise?
Dancers are often afraid to improvise, preferring the safety of choreography. Yet improv is a core skill for belly dance!
So how do we teach this?
Can improv even be taught?
Is there no hope?
Yes, there's hope!
How to Teach Improvisation!
In this fun, useful video class, we will explore cultural frameworks, practical applications, and helpful resources on learning and talent acquisition for teaching improvisation in Oriental dance.
Photo credit: Ben de Florio
Um, Cultural Frameworks?
When I wrote Midnight at the Crossroads: has belly dance sold its soul?, certain things came to the forefront as essential elements of the cultural dance.
- The feeling in the moment: literally, the pleasure of the physical movements themselves as well as the emotional timbres of the music. The dancer shares their emotional and physical enjoyment of the dance.
- Different every time: micromovement and improvisation are key! The dancer brings a fresh experience to each dance, though he may dance to the same song.
- Bring the joy: our dance is flirtatious and fun! The dancer shares her joy with others--her family and friends in social dance, or her guests if she is a performer.
These qualities are at diametric odds with the Western dance values most of us have internalized, including choreography, stylization, and visual focus. Because those are our defaults, we have to carefully take the time to understand, embrace, and internalize these very different Eastern principles.
Why do this?
We all like our own ways of doing and understanding. It's uncomfortable to change. It's difficult and frustrating. Yet when we do a dance from another culture, and don't bother to learn it as it is supposed to be, we harm the dance. If we were to learn Japanese Tea Ceremony, we would learn it with all its cultural nuance. We owe belly dance the same respect.
Besides, when we embrace these cultural ideals...
All of a sudden, the dance becomes this joyous stress-releasing, healing balm, infused with wonder and delight. Its expressive, fun, and self-affirming, giving us confidence, pleasure, and self-respect, for we learned to do something rewarding and helped bring the world a little closer to joy.
So it in our own best interests, as well as those of the dance, to understand these principles, to learn them, teach them, and promote them to the greater dance scene.
How do we start?
One of the best ways is learning to improvise. Improv is a core skill for belly dance, deeply connected to musicality, expression, and and the ability to dance with live music. As I've studied Oriental dance improvisation, I've found some valuable methods. I include these in the course Effortless Improv (for which there are still a few early bird seats left), but I will also be sharing some of them in the BDBA's upcoming webinar, How to Teach Improvisation.
- Examine the cultural values of Oriental dance and learn how to engage them in our dance
- Learn how to develop student confidence, musicality, and interoception (an awareness of the interior of the body), with specific exercises for each element
- Discover how to structure a class to maximize improv learning, plus get resources on skill development and talent acquisition.
- Practice low-stakes, in-class exercises that help dancers quickly become adept at improvisation.
- Have this Teachable site for post-webinar coaching and support.
And when all of us can improvise? (and believe me, we can!)
It will be GLORIOUS!
And maybe, as we transcend our own fears of something new, as we develop our own confidence and compassion, as we befriend our dance's culture, we can also embrace and befriend the wonderful kaleidoscope of folks from other cultures who enrich our world and make it so very marvelous.This is my wish, my hope, my prayer. Our dance is a conduit for love and understanding. Let's let it fly!
The video recording is open to all!
And there is so much more to the package than a recording!
- Webinar Recording (75:49)
- 5+ pages of Class Notes
- Classic Qualities of our Dance
- Music Examples
- Resources on Learning
- DanceMeditation Sample Session (20:34)
- Great Lesson Planner
AND answers to your questions!
All for the price of a one-hour class.
Come join us!
PS Please do share with any teachers, or anyone who would like to improvise with flair and joy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Alia Thabit is a specialist in improvisation and improv-based composition. The coming months are a celebration of improvisation! From local classes and workshops to an online webinar and forum-based course, the time has come to open ourselves up to the music and see what comes out!