Updated: May 10
"I feel awkward doing this move that my belly dance teacher has choreographed. How can I feel more relaxed and smooth?"—Question from a YouTube Fan
When You Don't Understand, Ask
I love questions! And so when charlagarrsion3074 posted this question on one of our follow along dance classes on YouTube, I was inspired to answer her in this blog. Her question totally resonated with me because I remember feeling that exact thing! Which makes me think that you are probably wondering the same thing—that's why your reading this, right?😉
This is the follow along video where charlagarrison3074 asked her question.
And here's charlagarrison3074's full question:
When You Feel Awkward, First Ask Yourself
When you feel awkward doing a belly dance move or combination or even a whole phrase, start by asking yourself this question:
What, in specific, feels awkward?
Is it your arms?
Is it your legs?
How about your neck?
Or maybe something hurts?
Do you seem to suddenly lose the "groove" when you get to that part?
Or maybe you're just so discombobulated at "that part" that you can't even hear the music?
Jensuya's Tips for Making Your Belly Dance Graceful
It has been my experience that when I feel "awkward," it's usually because of one of the following reasons (or maybe a whole lot of them 🤪). Here they are along with what I do to fix them. See if one of these (or maybe all) will help you.
Problem 1: You've lost the beat of the music.
If you don't understand the beat of the song that you are dancing to, it will always be a challenge to dance to—and that can lead to awkwardness.
The Fix: Before you practice the choreography anymore, sit down with headphones on, and as you listen to the song, clap the beat the whole way through the song. If you're not sure how to do that, watch this video:
Problem 2: You don't understand what is happening in the music.
Much so-called "belly dance music" can seems complicated if it is a genre new to you. There can be many instruments layering different rhythms, melodies in maqams or scales we're not familiar with, and timing in signatures other than a basic 4 beats. Crazy! But beautiful...and challenging to dance to.
The Fix: Again, stop dancing, and sit down with a notebook and pen and "sketch" the music—draw lines, squiggles, dashes, periods, circles...whatever—trying to visualize the sound of the music at the point where you find the move awkward. See how you can find "connection" with the music at that awkward part. Watch this video to get some insight on an iconic instrument in "belly dance music."
Problem 3: You have to strain to do that move.
If this part of your dance is not only awkward, but it's a struggle and it's just not fun, don't try to rush through it to get back to a fun part.
The Fix: Stop practicing the choreography, and focus on going through just the awkward part very slowly so your body can learn to be comfortable in these awkward positions. Drill this part very slowly several times each day—hey, isn't that what coffee breaks are for? 😂 Watch this video to learn skills to improve your belly dance posture. Here's a whole playlist of tutorials that may help you.
Fill in the Gaps in Your Belly Dance Foundation
You're probably already familiar with Jensuya Belly Dance School, and I encourage you to take a close look at the Range of Motion Classes and Drills. You'll learn my unique step-by-step method so you can master the very foundation of the motions making up belly dance moves. You'll learn how to actually match your moves to the music...and this is what makes belly dancing so magical. Begin with Level 1 even if you already have belly dance experience. (I, myself, still do the Level 1 exercises!). Then proceed to Level 2 and Level 3 which are essential for fast moves (like shimmies) and dancing to more complex rhythms and music. You'll see a preview video and more details about the classes when you click here.)
Problem 4: Some muscle hurts when you do that awkward move.
The Fix: Each day, spend a few minutes working on that muscle (or group of muscles): strengthening the muscle with drills and training and doing therapies like epsom salt soaks, massage techniques, stretching to increase mobility of that muscle(s).
Problem 5: You lost your balance doing that move.
The Fix: Again, each day spend a few minutes building strength and stamina by holding poses in awkward positions. If you find that you can do the move only feels awkward on one side, watch this video to learn techniques to balance your skills on each side of your body.
Problem 6: You don't really "get" the move that you're supposed to be doing.
The Fix: If you're in a live class, ask your teacher to break down the move beat by beat. Don't be shy! You are paying for the class and the teacher's expertise. Let her or him know that you need help. (Do a little class with us on YouTube!)
Problem 7: The move seems contrived or cliche, and you're embarrassed doing it.
So often when we're learning, we feel like silly or like we're imposters.
The Fix: On the other hand, maybe the move is a little weird! So, see how you can have fun with it. Embrace each part of the move, and see if you can bring out the emotion of the music with that move. Check out this video and this blog post, for more about what belly dancing is, and in this whole playlist, I discuss "controversial topics.
Bonus Fix: Create your own move that you feel embodies the music better.
Yallah Habibi! 💕
Share with us in the Comments what your "awkward move" is and which of my suggestions is helping you most.
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Range of Motion Series of Classes at Jensuya's Online School
© Jennifer Carpenter-Peak & Robert Peak 2023