Learning How To Practice: A Four-Part Series

Part 4: Students Who Practice See Results!

Practicing is a creative activity worth mastering.  When it's done right, it's fun and it makes you feel good. This blog series is adapted from musician Tom Heany's book First Learn to Practice.

In Part 1 we introduced “6 Tips To Get You Started Practicing.”

In Part 2 we explored “Concepts And Ideas To Help You Practice.”

In Part 3 we discussed "Tools To Help You Practice."

Today in Part 4 we hear from two students who practice and see results!

Sheila W. (Belly Dance Student): My 50th birthday promise to myself was to try new things and continue growing so I signed up for Belly Dance classes at Josie's school. Josie, Nahara (our teacher) and the other students were welcoming, kind and completely non-judgmental. The classes are fun! Initially each new movement and dance step felt strange and awkward, but I found myself loving the dance and wanting to teach my body to move as gracefully and beautifully as Nahara demonstrated. I have learned that each graceful dance step consists of multiple isolated movements; isolating each movement and practicing it slowly makes all the difference in being able to do that dance step. Nahara introduces the steps and breaks them down for us in class, but to really lock the step into my muscle memory, I realized that I have to isolate the movements and practice them slowly at home. The easiest way to find time to practice at home is to incorporate practice time into something that is already a part of my daily routine. I work out almost every morning and I now spend 5 to 15 minutes of that time practicing isolated belly dance moves. Doing this has made all the difference in my ability to keep improving and has made each successive class much more enjoyable!

Danielle B. (Salsa Student): “Last January, my friends and I decided to sign up for Salsa lessons. I love to dance, but I was hesitant at first because I didn’t think I had the hips or the skill to learn Salsa. Well, after my first class with Josie, I was absolutely hooked! Week after week, Josie taught us the basics and then slowly incorporated more advanced skills as the classes progressed. Now I am in the Advanced Beginner class with Eddie Q. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming. I feel so comfortable. After my 10-class card ended I signed up for more! I’ve never listened to more Salsa music in my life! I find myself practicing the shines and routines we learn in class in my room every day. I’ll never forget the day we learned double turns. I initially found this skill very challenging, but was determined to master it. So every day I practiced a few double turns in front of my mirror and it really made a difference in class! Practicing at home makes me look forward to my Salsa classes each week, and every week I see new results. Tuesday nights have a whole new meaning for me! Not only is Salsa a fantastic workout, it’s a fun and easy way to get yourself moving. Salsa has definitely given me the confidence to step outside of my comfort zone and try new things. And it’s true what they say.... it’s a lifestyle!”

Learning How To Practice: A Four-Part Series

PART 3: Tools You Need To Practice (What Do I Need?)

Practicing is a creative activity worth mastering.  When it's done right, it's fun and it makes you feel good.

In Part 1 we introduced 6 tips to get you started practicing: Be Comfortable, Be Honest, Be Optimistic, Be Persistent, Be Consistent, Go Slow.

In Part 2 we explored concepts and ideas to help you practice.  In Part 3 we discuss "Tools To Help You Practice."   This blog series is adapted from musician Tom Heany's book First Learn to Practice.

1. Metronome.  A metronome is a device that keeps regular beats (or ticks) to help you maintain the beat or tempo of a song.  It was originally invented to help musicians keep a steady beat so that when they increased the speed of the music it still sounded even.  Many people cannot hear the underlying beat or tempo of music, especially when listening to a song with singing and multiple instruments in the background.  You can download a metronome app or purchase a digital metronome in a music store or online.  Using the metronome alone will help you develop rhythm and good timing, starting slow of course, and gradually increasing speed.  Slow and steady is most important to perfect a move.  Another good practice if you have trouble hearing the steady beat in a song is to listen to a song on one device, tap the pulse with your hand, then find the tempo with your metronome device.  This is a challenging exercise and one that will surely help you find the steady beat of the music.

2. Barre Notes.  There are many free downloadable apps available but my favorite is Barre Notes.  It plays any song in your phone’s music library and allows you to slow down or speed up any song.  It’s an invaluable tool in your practice.

3. Video Pix.  There are many free downloadable apps to also slow down videos, and VideoPix is my favorite.  It allows you to watch a video from your photo library at a slower speed, enabling you to learn a movement easier by watching it at a slower pace.

4. Music & Video Library.  Keep an accessible library of music and videos (on your phone or computer) that are useful for your practice.  Refer to your own videos from class, private lessons or youtube.  Make sure you have a clear goal in mind when using your music and videos.  For example, today I’m going to use Song A to practice one move or a short series of moves from Video A.  Less is more!  Then once you feel ready to take your practice to the next level, start videotaping yourself.  This might seem uncomfortable at first, but as you start to see an improvement in your dancing, you’ll continue to use this as an effective tool in your practice.

5. “Goal” Notebook.  To measure your success write down your goal for the week and try to attain it.  It could be practicing one move for 5 minutes each day or practicing a short series of moves (mini routine) with the goal of completing the routine by the end of the week. 

6. Designated Practice Space.  Remember in Part 1 we discussed being comfortable and finding a designated practice area in your home that is suitable for your dance practice.  If you’re not happy with the space you’ve chosen you can always change it.

7. Mirror.  Being able to watch your movement is very helpful if you’re dancing by yourself.  Not as necessary if you’re dancing with a partner.  To perfect a move, a mirror is an essential tool.  A small stand-up mirror ($10) will work if you have limited space and funds.  It doesn’t have to be permanently affixed to a wall.  You can also purchase from Lite Mirror (made of mylar) www.litemirror.com which is both portable and lightweight.  This mirror can either remain on its rolling stand, be reversed when you’re not using it, and use the other side to hang a poster.  Or you can mount the actual mirror to a wall.

8. Comfortable Clothing & Shoes (or Bare Feet).  Depending on which dance moves you’re  practicing, give yourself the freedom to move by setting aside comfortable yoga pants or knock-around clothes and shoes.  It only takes a few minutes to change and you’ll be much more comfortable!  Comfort is key!

9. Smile.  Bring forth a positive attitude with a smile and enjoy your practice.  Keeping a smile on your face improves your general mood and reduces stress.  Give yourself time, set goals, smile and enjoy the journey!

Learning How To Practice: A Four-Part Series

Learning How To Practice:  A Four-Part Series

PART 2:  Moving Right Along (Concepts & Ideas To Help You Practice)

Practicing is a creative activity worth mastering.  When it’s done right, it’s fun and it makes you feel good.  Just like any other skill, you first have to learn how to practice.  Once you’re consistent your practice will improve and remain enjoyable and you will see an incredible improvement in your dancing!  Last week we introduced 6 tips to get us started practicing:  Be Comfortable, Be Honest, Be Optimistic, Be Persistent, Be Consistent, Go Slow.  In our Part 2 series on “Learning How To Practice” we will explore some initial concepts and ideas to help you practice. This blog series is adapted from musician Tom Heany's book First Learn to Practice.

Read More

Learning How To Practice: A Four-Part Series

Learning How To Practice:  A Four-Part Series

Part 1: Getting Started (6 Tips To Start Practicing & Developing Good Practice Habits)

"I have to practice" sounds burdensome.  But then how do we improve our dancing if we don't practice?  Practice should be satisfying, invigorating and enjoyable.  In this four-part blog series we're going to teach you how to practice so that it's interesting, fun, feels good and is something you look forward to doing every day. This blog series is adapted from musician Tom Heany's book First Learn to Practice.

Read More

Hip Hop: A Culture Within Itself

Hip Hop:  A Culture Within Itself

Spotlight On Hip Hop Dancer, Instructor & Choreographer, Kiana Davalos

Hip hop is not about dance moves, the rappers you hear on the radio, or gold chains. It is a foundation, a culture within itself. No matter whether it's the MC (rapper), the DJ, the breakdancer, or the graffiti artist, it's all a universal language.

Read More

If We All Danced, The World Would Be A Much Happier Place!

If We All Danced, The World Would Be A Much Happier Place!

Spotlight On Guest Artist Argentine Tango Dancer & Teacher, Olga Pisano

Argentine Tango is like a meditation for me.  When I’m dancing Tango I feel this subtle energy that transforms me.  I am learning so much about my body from the inside and out because you need to become aware of every single part of your body:  your core, your joints, your limbs, and how they all connect in order to dance properly.  And in our busy day to day lives, we’re always so preoccupied with what to do next as we get from one place to another.  Tango is also based on the simple principle of walking so I even get to apply what I’ve learned as I’m walking down the street!

 

Read More

My Journey With Belly Dance: "The Dance Of Body & Soul"

My Journey With Belly Dance:  "The Dance Of Body & Soul"

Spotlight On Belly Dance Instructor, Performer & Choreographer, Nahara

Belly Dance music inspired me to learn this fun and beautiful dance.  My mom took classes when I was a kid and I fell in love with the music back then.  I would play her albums over and over again.  I knew I would learn it myself someday but didn't get a chance until I was an undergraduate at college.  I came across an ad for classes in the local newspaper in Ithaca, NY and was determined to take them.  The rest is history!

Read More

The BIG Drummer Boy Brings Us The Gift of Rhythm For the Holidays!

The BIG Drummer Boy Brings Us The Gift of Rhythm For the Holidays!

Spotlight On Middle Eastern Drummer & Instructor, Dan Eliason

I was in Santa Barbara when a friend interested in Middle Eastern Dance discovered an open invitation to a Middle Eastern drum practice, so we joined together. It turned out to be an arm of the UC Santa Barbara Middle Eastern Music Ensemble, a professional Middle Eastern orchestra.  For me it was the start of a new musical journey.  I eventually joined the orchestra officially and was a member for seven years.  I love drumming and the Middle Eastern rhythms used in Belly Dance, and so I have found a perfect nitch with Josie's International School of Dance!

Read More

Special Thanksgiving Recipe: Spiced Parsnip Soup!

Special Thanksgiving Recipe:  Spiced Parsnip Soup!

This is a wonderful Fall soup I wanted to share with you.  It's from The Perfect Thanksgiving Book of Historic Hudson Valley.  If you don't mind taking the time to peel and cut up parsnips (and I also add carrots for flavor and color) ... you'll be in for a real treat.  And the kids love it too.  Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!

Read More

DANCE SPOTLIGHT ON BACHATA: Dancer & Teacher, Maria Lavandier

DANCE SPOTLIGHT ON BACHATA:  Dancer & Teacher, Maria Lavandier

I was born in the Dominican Republic.  My family was very much into Spanish music, so growing up there was always Merengue music playing at home.  This was the popular music and dance at that time.  I started dancing at a very young age at home and at parties in front of my family and friends.  I danced popular Merengue but I also learned the Merengue Tipico which is the more folkloric version of the dance.  When I was a teenager, Bachata became the new craze and I picked up the steps quickly.  I loved the music and there were so many footwork patterns (shines) and turns which made the dance so interesting.

Read More

Belly Dance For Body And Soul by Nahara

Belly Dance For Body And Soul by Nahara

Beautiful, sensual, passionate and just plain fun, "belly dance" is actually an umbrella term ascribed to any pelvic-centered dance originating from North Africa, the Middle East or Turkey.  How did this dance, whose vocabulary is dominated by hip movements, become "belly" dance?  The theories abound, and it's likely that none will ever be proven.  Connoisseurs would agree on one thing though:  belly dance inspires and lifts the soul.

Read More

Ole! Flamenco! Dramatic Dance Brings Out The Gypsy In Everyone

Ole! Flamenco!  Dramatic Dance Brings Out The Gypsy In Everyone

If you think you have a little gypsy in you, then Flamenco might be the dance for you!

Characterized by various heelwork rhythms (zapateo), hand-clapping (palmas) and expressive, lyrical arms, Flamenco demonstrates the passionate Spanish temperament.  

Read More

Eddie Q's Interview For Salsa/Mambo NYC

Eddie Q's Interview For Salsa/Mambo NYC

Eddie Q (Edward Quiros) was born in Manhattan and is a first generation Puerto Rican.  He began studying piano at the age of 10 and guitar at the age of 12.  He and has evolved into an accomplished jazz guitarist.  Eddie formed and was director of his musical group, Progression, with the fusion of elements of be-bop, funk, Latin jazz and R & B.  Some of the musicians that played along side Eddie Q in Progression were the likes of such greats as, Arturo O’Farril on piano, son of the late, great composer, Chico O’Farril, and also on piano, Igor Atalita (who has played and recorded with all the major bands in the New York Metropolitan area). 

Read More