Posted on 27/07/2021 by Kay Taylor
Five Top Mistakes to Avoid
Written by Kay Taylor, managing director of JWAAD. Kay is one of the UK’s top teachers and has taught at most of the UK festivals as well as teaching internationally. Kay imports and sells costumes as Farida Dance – and runs specialist bellydance holidays as Farida Adventures.
We all make mistakes through our lives ….. move on from them ….. and hopefully learn from them. These are the top five mistakes I have observed dancers make. Some are or have been my students, others I have discussed this with at events and courses over the years. Having taught bellydance for over 30 years and made my living from it as a teacher, promoter and vendor, I have a wide network of bellydance friends around the UK and internationally. A huge knowledge base to draw from.
Mistakes can lead to stagnation, disillusionment, burn out or losing your mojo.
1/ Doing too much too soon
Over enthusiasm can lead to burn out. It is all about getting the right balance which will be different for each person. Through the pandemic some dancers signed up to hundreds of things on Zoom then found it was all too much and stopped dancing entirely.
Even before the pandemic I spotted two trends. First, the very enthusiastic new student who throws themselves at it, are upset when they can’t do it straight away and give up. Second the student who sticks with it and suddenly finds the wider dance world, starts travelling to lots of things, over commits themselves, gets exhausted and gives up because what they are doing is unsustainable.
Pick and choose what is right for you. What is right for your development at that particular time. If you are not sure, ask your teacher what they would suggest or if you don’t have a regular teacher find a mentor to help point you in the right direction.
2/ Stop going to classes
There are lots of reasons people might stop going to classes. A pandemic being one of them …. or maybe your life just got really busy …. or maybe you feel your regular class is no longer challenging enough. In the UK lockdown is lifting and classes are starting back up again. Times, venues and days may have changed so check your local ones out and commit to the one that best fits your schedule. When life gets busy and we start missing classes it is easy to get out of the habit of going. Decide what is important and prioritise your time. If the class is no longer challenging enough consider asking the teacher for private lessons to give you something to work on.
The problem with not going to regular classes is that we can develop bad habits and we loose our connection with the dance community and can lose your dance mojo. Classes are a place to immerse ourselves in bellydance music and moves, work on technique, develop improvisational skills and have fun with our belly buddies and get new inspiration. Regular classes are an important foundation to help feed our passion for bellydance…. it never hurts to go back to basics even if your class doesn’t challenge you any more.
If you are in an area where there is no local teacher, look at the Zoom options. These days you can join a class from anywhere. Or find a teacher/mentor you can go to monthly to keep you on track.
You can develop further by going to workshops and festivals or having private lessons. You can also develop your knowledge of the dance by doing courses like the JWAAD courses in music or culture. This informs your dance in a completely different way.
3/ Too much focus on technique
Technique is important but we can get too focused on it. If you only focus on improving your technique or adding new moves to your repertoire this can lead to disillusionment. Maybe we do not progress as quickly as we wanted to ….. there is that one move that you can’t quite crack no matter how hard you practice. Stop. Remember why you fell in love with the dance. Was it the music or the camaraderie? Was it the joy of moving your body in a new way?
Sometimes you have to move away from technique and just remember the joy of dancing for fun. Also by moving away from it, you give your body chance to absorb it in a different way and then when you go back to it, you may find it suddenly clicks.
Our bodies are all different and can do different things. You do not have to have a wide repertoire if you do what you do well! Best to do a smaller amount effectively than too much that ends up being unrecognisable. Play to your strengths and find what moves your body has an affinity with.
No one ever watches a dancer and is inspired by their technique. The technique is a given, the musicality, emotional expression and personality are what inspires.
Having said all this, of course technique is important and the top dancers have excellent technique on top of all the other qualities needed to be a star!
4/ Staying in your comfort zone
We are all guilty of this at some point. There is nothing wrong with having a comfort zone and staying within it most of the time but you do need to push the boundaries if you want to develop otherwise you risk stagnating. It is easy to keep doing what you do. And if you are happy with that, stick with it. Many of my weekly students are happy doing what they do. I give them enough to push them slightly along with a core of familiar moves. I am constantly surprised when I suggest someone moves to the next level class how many people do not want to. Maybe because they have a core of friends within their current class – or because it feels too much out of their comfort zone. Maybe some take up the challenge eventually, other really are happy staying where they are – and others fall by the wayside. Not ready to move forwards but dissatisfied where you are? Take the challenge!!
If there isn’t a higher level class, go to workshops or festivals to top up your learning.
5/ Teaching too early
I have encouraged many dancers over the years to start their own classes. I love the idea of local classes so that everyone has access to a class wherever they are. Having taught the JWAAD safety course for a long time I have talked with both new and experienced teachers who have studied with us.
As a teacher it is easy to run out of inspiration or to keep giving until there is nothing left. You have to continue your own dance journey as well as teaching your class. You owe it to your students to be the best teacher you can be.
Some rush into teaching too soon and find the responsibility of teaching a regular class too much and give up both their classes and their dance. Others neglect their own development so their classes become very similar and eventually students get bored and leave.
If you have a full time job and possibly family commitments, it can be difficult to balance everything.
So, much as I would love classes to spring up everywhere, think about it. How much do you know and what commitment can you give to a class? Remember it is not just about teaching a fun pop choreography …. do you know the meaning of the song? What rhythms and styles are within it? What can you tell your students about it to help them understand. How developed is your technique and do you have a wide enough repertoire with which to teach?
All things to think about. Better to keep passionate about bellydance … and keep loving what you do than start teaching too early and loose your love of it.
Some of these may resonate with you. Each of us is different and we have to find our own path. Whatever you do, keep dancing!
Below are some options you can take up with JWAAD. These are suggestions – there are many other things out there in the wider dance world too.
Private lessons with one of our JWAAD mentors who assess your technique and suggests ways to develop your dance. You can build a great relationship with your mentor who can help direct your learning to work towards what you want to achieve.
Our online music courses make up a whole musical journey. Sign up to the bellydance bundle ‘Bellydance Music Explored’ to immerse yourself in and learn about all aspects of music. You can dip in and out when you have time. There is a supporting facebook group and live lectures on Zoom.
In depth and fascinating. This is an investment. It covers everything from safety and lesson planning to background knowledge including music and culture as well as teaching skills. It takes a couple of years to complete and is split into modules.