Why Attend a Dance Festival?

We live in a wonderful time for belly dance. Thanks to the internet, we have instantaneous access to videos of performers from every era and geographical location. We have forums to support each other and to learn. We have access to in-depth articles and online courses on everything from dance technique to history and culture.

Ashraf Kodak's workshop - Camp Negum in Cairo, Egypt

Ashraf Kodak’s saidi workshop at Camp Negum in Cairo, Egypt

We also have an abundance of belly dance festivals! One of the best things about attending a festival is to see and experience *in person* a wide variety of styles and approaches to dance. Since festivals feature a wide variety of teachers–many of them highlighting multiple genres– fans of all styles come together, ideas are exchange and–gasp–real life dancing happens! 🙂

“When I see others dance, I feel like I am dancing with them. I release everything during the shows and really enjoy myself. To me, every dancer has a story and they tell us that story in their dance, the music they pick, the faces and emotions they show. I get to see and feel, first hand, another story that is not my own all of the time. Like watching a movie. Is the dancer sad? Is the dancer happy? Is the dancer conveying a lesson or perhaps adding a personal moment to her dance? It tells me alot about the different artists and I get to catch a glimpse of other stories instead of just watching mine.” – Moira

Las Vegas Bellydance Intensive afterparty!

Las Vegas Bellydance Intensive afterparty!

I love the getting to know dancers from all over the world through Facebook, to get lost in a YouTube rabbit hold for hours on end….  and getting to expand that into a real-life experience is the wonder of a festival.

There are so many to choose from! Some specialize in one genre or umbrella style, like Tribal Fest in California (tribal… obviously), or RakStar (Egyptian focus) in Miami. Some make a point of offering headliners and teachers in many different genres, like the Las Vegas Bellydance Intensive in Las Vegas, and Art of the Belly in Maryland. Some festivals specifically cater to higher-level dancers, and some offer workshops at the beginner level, too.

“I love learning from various instructors in an immersion style which has more of a lasting impact on my dance. They foster a broader community (if they are done right) and I think it’s good to take the pulse of the dance outside of our immediate area.” – Tava Naiyin, CT/NYC

I’ve been to so festivals all over the country–and each has its own character, its own unique vibe.  Soon I’ll be putting together a festival “survival guide”. But for now, I’d like to help you think about attending a festival and figure out what *you* can get out of the experience.

Dancers working hard at River City Raqs

Dancers working hard at River City Raqs

For Beginning Belly Dance Students: 

  • Exposure to different styles of dance: Specialty topics often not covered in regular classes.
  • Different movement explanations from a variety of teachers: Find new gems of knowlege that will help a movement click.
  • Performances in various genres: See what styles speak to you.
  • Performances by both top-level dancers and student performers: Learn what moves *you* in a dance performance. Technique? Emotion? Music? Costuming?
  • Vending at price points high and low: Pick up a special costume piece, veil, or jewelry item that you get to try on in person.

For Int/Adv Students: 

  • Expand your knowledge base: Great opportunity to study topics that you may have heard or or just briefly experienced before–or discover something new!
  • Challenge yourself: Try different styles, learn combos and choreography that are out of your comfort zone.
  • Performance opportunities: Many festivals have open performances sign-ups or show applications. Great chance to try something in front of a new audience!
  • Sharing the experience: Getting to know other dancers and their journeys.
  • Shopping: Now that you have seen a lot of different styles and costumes, you can peruse the displays for the thing that really tickles your fancy.
Rosa performing at Art of the Belly

Rosa performing at Art of the Belly

For Professional Dancers: 

  • Inspiration: Working dancers often deeply benefit from a learning immersion to reinvigorate your own art.
  • Networking: Getting to know other dancers from around the world
  • Performance opportunities: Many festivals accept applications for pro-shows–which often are captured by top-notch videographers!
  • Competitions: Whether for experience, exposure, or glory, competitions can help us up our game.

For Teachers:

  • Add to your teaching arsenal: Bring back gems to share with your students.
  • Remind yourself what it’s like to be a beginner: Try a style that is out of your comfort zone.
  • Continuing education: As teachers, we must continue to learn and grow–or we become stagnant!

Some more quotes dancers I know and love about *their* reasons for attending festivals…

“I attend them because I get a chance to learn from teachers that I wouldn’t normally get to learn from and new techniques that I’ve wanted to try. And I get to reconnect with bellydance sisters!” – Racquel Hagen, CA

“I attend workshop weekends to further my knowledge of the dance. In my opinion, a dancer should never stop learning. There are so many amazing teachers out there, offering expert instruction on so many different aspects of the dance: folklore, musicality, classical, fusion, music theory. When I take a workshop, or a weekend full of them, I’m looking for inspiration and knowledge. To expand on what I may already know, and to learn something new, whether its a full style, or just one small piece of information that I didn’t know before. There is ALWAYS something to learn and take away.” – Yasmin Diab, NV

“To push my own limits, evolve, grow, always improve my art….” – Red Rob, NY

“Meet, take class with and closely observe dancers who I feel I can gain knowledge or inspiration from. Videos are great but in the flesh is better. To learn from fellow participants and energized by their work. To work hard and for long hours so I can feel change take hold of my body. To have an opportunity to dress up and dance for the toughest audience–other dancers!” – Souzan, FL

“I’ve attended enough multi-day workshops (mostly salsa festivals) to realize that I’m not going to absorb everything presented, even if the instructor allows us to record the choreo at the end. What I really take away are the smaller refinements in technique that come from a different instructor explaining a move or giving me feedback, and inspiration from how they approach the dance – the attitude they bring to it, how they present themselves, how they think about it. That’s what stays with me.” – Barb Strom, MA

“I love that dancers from all walks of life, from different geographic regions, can get together and for that time they share the joy, expression and growth that only happens through this very unique dance. That’s what I love.” – Katayoun Hutson, VA

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Rosa Noreen at the Giza pyramids. Photo by Yasmina of Cairo

By the bye…. here are some festivals where you can find me teaching over the next few months!

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Rosa Noreen’s Grace Academy: Helping dancers add depth and dimension to their work so they grow in confidence to take their places on stage and in the world.

Workshops, Performances, Instructional DVDs, Online Programs & Coaching in Belly Dance and Ballet.

http://www.RosaNoreen.com

The Introverted Performer – Common or Conundrum?

The idea of being an introvert AND a performer can be mystifying to many people. However, the fact is that many of us *are* introverts. I don’t claim any moral ups or downs, it’s simply a fact–and not necessarily a contradiction!

How is this possible?

Aslahan of Boston, a gorgeous, engaging performer, and a most thoughtful and knowledgable instructor, has decided to address this topic. She has developed a new blog series featuring interviews with introvert performers–and, as it happens, mine is the debut piece!

Workshop students with Aslahan. Introverted doesn't mean boring!

Workshop students with Aslahan. Introverted doesn’t mean boring!

Says Aslahan: “When I began performing, I struggled with this idea. ‘Everyone knows’ that performers are extroverts – would being an introvert hold me back? Was it an insurmountable obstacle? I love to perform – how was that possible if performing was extroverted in nature? I became determined to see the advantages of being an introvert, to figure out ways to leverage my introverted nature to be an asset to me as a performer.”

You can read my interview here:

http://aslahan.com/blog/rosa-noreen-introvert-and-performer/

And stay tuned to Aslahan’s blog for more posts on this fascinating topic!

Homemade Ballet Barre

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Homemade PVC pipe ballet barre

This summer, I made my very own kitchen-sized ballet barre out of PVC pipe from my local hardware store. It came up in conversation on Facebook recently, so I thought I would share this mini tutorial with all of you!

Here is how I made my barre. See the notes below for how you might modify it based on your height and other preferences.

Supplies:

  • PVC pipe primer and cement (two-can set)
  • 1.5″ PVC pipe
  • 4 ten-inch lengths for the legs
  • 2 thirty-seven-inch lengths for the uprights
  • 1 thirty-five-inch length for the horizontal piece
  • 6 elbows (4 for leg endcaps, 2 to connect the uprights to the horizontal piece)
  • 2 tees to connect the legs to the uprights

This resulted in a 41″ high barre. I’m 5’7″ and it’s a little on the high side for me, but I’m comfortable with it. If you are shorter, consider taking a couple of few inches off the 37″ uprights. However, don’t go too short or you’ll be slouching–and that’s not what you’re supposed to do at the barre! 😉

Stretching on my homemade ballet barre

Stretching on my homemade ballet barre

At this length, the barre is plenty sturdy for stretching, though I wouldn’t hang on it like monkey bars. The longer the horizontal tube, the less sturdy it will be.

The barre is stable since it has a nice wide base, but it is very light so it moves around on the floor a lot. I am thinking about filling the legs with sand and plugging the feet. You could also fill some pillowcases with sand (or cat litter) and put them on the feet to help keep it in place. Suggestions are welcome!

A two-tier barre is also possible. To do that, you would need t-connectors on the uprights to allow for a second horizontal tube a few inches below the top horizontal tube… Check YouTube for some tutorials if you can’t envision it yourself.

Even kitties love ballet barres!

Even kitties love ballet barres!

Chances are good that your local hardware store will cut the piece to order for you. Maine Hardware here in Portland was awesome!

Note that the PVC cement dries after a couple of seconds so definitely do a trial run of the assembly without glue to work out any kinks and ensure that joints are all going to be facing the right way! I recommend using the PVC cement over anything else since you don’t want this thing falling apart mid-use.

Also note: the cement is stinky! You’ll *definitely* need good ventilation… 😛 Outdoors or garage assembly is best.

Happy dancing!

Keeping Your Body Happy in Cool Weather

Autumn has arrived in Maine! After a few days of 50s and rainy, we’re getting a little reprieve, but we’re clearly on track for the change in seasons.

For dancers, the way cold weather affects our bodies can come as a rude surprise. Here are a few ways to minimize the potential negatives.

  • Winter photo shoot with Leigh Kelly

    Winter photo shoot with Leigh Kelly of Image Catcher

    Warm outdoor clothing: In nice weather, we often come and go from class in our practice clothes. When the weather cools, it’s important to wear warmer outdoor clothing, and change into–and out of–your practice wear *at the studio.* We usually sweat in class, and if you go outside into cold weather in your practice clothes, that dampness cools you down in an unpleasant way.

  • Layers in the studio: Be sure to wear layers during class–and put them back on when you stop moving! Close-fitting is best since they’ll keep the body heat right on you while allowing your teacher to still see your movements clearly. I’ll often wear a sports bra, tank top, waffle-knit shirt and sometimes a zip-up slim sweatshirt or fleece. Hips, legs, ankles and feet need layers, too! Leg warmers are your friend.
  • Warm up your body: Arrive at class 10 minutes earlier than you normally would and go through your typical warm-up routine before class begins! That way, your body will be more ready to move–and, if your teacher leads a warm-up as I hope they do, you’ll get two! Happy body, happy dancer.
  • Keep moving: If the pace of class slows or takes a break for corrections, lecture, etc., don’t just stand there–keep moving! Practice your shimmies, stretch out your muscles, practice your snake arms. Stop-and-go pacing is not great for the body as it causes you to cool down and then jump back into it essentially without warning. So don’t let the dead stops happen. You don’t have to do jumping jacks all class long… just keep moving in one way or another. Bonus–you will probably notice improvement in your technique, too!
  • Be mindful of your injuries or weak spots: If you have a prior injury like a pulled muscle, or spots in your body that just tend to get grumpy, take special care to keep those areas warm. Wear an extra layer on that body part. Spend some extra time getting that area moving.
  • Cozy socks in the studio

    Cozy socks in the studio

    Don’t stretch cold: Be sure that your body is warm before you work on your flexibility. Your muscles will thank you!

  • Keep breathing: The cold tends to make us all tense up. And when muscles are unconsciously tense, our technique suffers and we’re more prone to injury. Use your breath to help you relax and move. Consciously breathe through your warm-ups to get in the habit for class.
  • Drink water: No matter what the season, your body needs to stay hydrated to work at its best. I like to add a piece of star anise to my water bottle each day. It keeps the water lightly and naturally flavored but not sweet. Yum!

Take good care of your body and winter won’t be such an obstacle. Everything takes a little longer in the winter… bundling up, warming up, sweeping off your car or your sidewalk. Know this going into the season and things will be easier!