Monday, May 16, 2016

My Dance Practice Process

As a follow-up on my previous post on planning practice, here are some of my favorite tips on how to structure your actual practice sessions at home and/or in the studio, plus a few great articles I've found on dance practice, rehearsal and movement quality.

Enjoy and feel free to share!

How I structure my own dance practice sessions depends a bit on where I practise, and what I am currently working on.

No matter how much time I have though, I always take a few seconds (using very simple breath work) to center myself and focus before starting, and I take some time to warm up properly, making the practice itself much more productive - even if the session is short.

Same goes for cooling down. If I take one song to 'simmer down' I find that the work I have done sinks in more deeply, and if I stretch the muscles I have worked before moving on with my day- even for just a few minutes - I've noticed I have more energy and 'spunk' on the following day.

Also: I have found that whenever I get 'stuck', letting my dance rest a bit by moving it back to the pre-dance phase (see below), or working on a different piece, or just getting outside and breathing for a bit instead of stressing out about making progress always helps me get back on track easier on the next practice day. Sometimes inspiration takes time!

'outside' - the secret practice ingredient <3

So, in short (not) I usually structure my dance practice time like this:

Movement preparation
- take 3 breaths to center and focus - 30 seconds
- mini warmup: moving the joints through their respective ranges of motion to help up movement space (including 'cogs' from Anatomy in Motion) - 2-3 minutes

Dance-move preparation
- freestyle dance miniwarmup: dancing to one song in my itunes 'dance/listen' playlist that I am not currently working on, focusing on how my body feels, not on what I do per sé - 3-4 minutes

Note: The breathing and 'cogging' movement preparation help me connect with my body (something I have been working on more consciously lately) before any practice session, and it really makes a difference, so I even incorporate it now in classes that I teach (and take). 

I have also found that dancing freely to one song before practice helps me discover quickly which things to work on more during my technique sessions. I sometimes even find 'new' movement for my choreography work this way.

Actual dance pratice session
- Technique
  •  I usually choose a specific movement to work on at different speeds, including in slow motion, first without music, then with music added
  • Another option is to practice one or two techniques combined with music, then focusing on each movement separately without music (or with 'mind music' :) to refine and experiment a bit
  • A technique DVD (or a mix of DVDs) focusing on a topic/two topics I am currently practising
Depending on how much time I have I sometimes do a mix of all 3 options, but if I am very short on time I will usually just do one movement focus, and/or 1-2 techniques with music, or a very short section of a DVD - All sandwiched between a short movement preparation, warmup and cooldown.

- Choreo work
  • I start by reviewing a video of a previous choreo practice session and/or workshops I have taken/taught for inspiration
  • Then I either dance the full choreo (while recording) OR I focus on a specific part I am working on (while recording the version I want to check 'in action')
  • Then I check the recording of the full choreo (or of the specific part I am working on) using my dance journal as a guide to reflect (see below)
  • After that I usually try out a few things to refine without music, making notes of the things I want to KEEP
  • Then I dance again (while recording) etc..

Note: My dance practice sessions can be technique, or choreo, or both. If I have plenty of time then I will do technique first, then choreo work, as working on technique always inspires me. Sometimes I am working with a DVD and suddenly inspiration strikes, so I have to stop it and then test out my new choreo ideas right away. 

If I have the studio for practice I try to work on my technique at home beforehand (or on an earlier day), so I have maximum studio time for the choreography itself. I still do the breathing, and movement preparation + mini freestyle session at the studio though!)

So for me choreography is mostly an iterative process: I dance - record - reflect - refine - redance - record - etc.. Even if I am planning to improvise (or partially improvise) to a song, having this immediate feedback loop helps me to use the practice time I have to the max.

my dance - record - reflect - repeat setup at the studio :)
Using a dance journal

I always bring a notebook (I have a separate one for practice sessions) where I note the date, time, where I practise, what I work on, and what I did that day (dancing with or without music, with or without costume, with or without mirror) for each practice session.

For each 'dance loop' within the practice session I note the things I see that I like, the things that I didn't like (and ideas on how to change them if I know), the parts where I want to try out different options, and the parts that are still missing somehow.

The Little Book of Dance

Bonus dance challenges and self-coaching

If a dance is more or less 'set', or if the improvisation sessions start to feel more fluid, I challenge myself by adding more performance-like circumstances (dancing with the costume, dancing without mirror in different directions, imagining my audience and/or performance environment) and focusing more and more on how the dance 'feels' when it goes well.

So in a way I am coaching myself, much like I would coach a student who is working on her choreography or musical interpretation. It is certainly less comfortable than 'just' dancing the choreo many times, but it does make the practice time much more effective.

My 'Coachee', with #dancerfeet :)

Cooling down

I move more slowly for at least one (calming) song after a vigorous practice session, and no matter what I have worked on I try to take my time to stretch out the muscles that have been working hard, as well as reflect a bit on how I feel about the practice session and the things I have learned in the process.

Doing this gives my practice sessions a feeling of 'completion', helps restore my mental and physical energy a bit, and it makes it easier to 'stay in my body' during the rest of the day.

Sometimes I will use my foam roller routine for some extra deep upper body relaxation work

Dance prep work

BEFORE I start to choreograph (or prepare to improvise) to a song I tend to go through a preparation process for a few weeks or months, by listening to different versions of the music, watching videos of different interpretations, gathering information about the song itself, studying the lyrics, visualising dance movements that I would like to 'see' (this usually works best when I am doing something else, like work around the house, showering, walking, or driving), imagining how I would make use of a (sometimes still imaginary) costume etc..

This process can happen months (or even years!) before I start on the actual choreographing/improvisation preparation of a song, and I find it to be one of the most crucial steps in unlocking my creativity, even though it is mostly 'passive work'. It also allows me to work on several pieces at once, so they can germinate and mix in the back of my mind, intermingling with my daily dance (and life) experiences.

Sometimes inspiration hides up here!

Focusing on other non-dance activities (like TKD), or taking classes in other dance forms (like ballet, modern) while having a dance project broiling in the back ground also help to boost choreographic/improvisational creativity.

For improvisation performances this background preparation process still happens, albeit a bit more subconsciously.

Soo, that's it, my dance practice process in a (big-ish) nut shell :)

Please let me know if you have any questions/remarks, and if you are a dancer: I'm curious to learn about your practice process too!

xxx Khalida

PS: Check out the following articles for tips and more inspiration on the process of practice, performance and general movement. Enjoy!

Articles of the month: On movement quality and performance

How to improve your movement quality instantly by Move Better:
Top 10 muscle imbalances (and how to fix them) by Stop Chasing Pain:

3 Awesome articles on dance and movement by Monika Volkmar:
- Dance like a Human part 1:
- Dance like a Human part 2:
- Dance like a Human part 3:

How to unlock smooth and free movement using self-regulation:

Performance tips by Dance Magazine:

Articles of the month: On practice and rehearsal

7 ways to practice on a busy schedule by Dance Comp Review:

Journalling tips for dancers by 4

Tips for (mostly group) rehearsals by Dance Advantage:
How to get the most out of each class by More Than Dancers:

Until next time,

xx Khalida

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Oslo travel blog!

Hello again,

As promised, a short update on my recent dance trip to Oslo, Norway.

Oslo <3
I have been invited by Siri Ydstie (and her sister Catherine!) to teach and perform at her studio 'Oslo Magedansstudio' for five times now, and each time it has been a delight.

Norway is a special place to me dance-wise, as it was one of the first countries where I got to travel for teaching a full weekend of workshops back in 2010.

2010 - Lookit my bangs! :)
Posing with Siri backstage
We worked quite hard that weekend

Although I was fairly nervous about teaching a full weekend for the first time and traveling by land instead of by air, thanks to Mr/Ms Eyjafjallajökul creating flight schedule mayhem all over northern Europe that week, I absolutely loved it.

Thanks, bro.

Since then I've been lucky enough to have traveled there (and other places!) for teaching again 4 more times, and it always feels like 'home' to me.

Case in point - Check out my 'wigged out' mini cameo with bonus ad hoc Zaar finale at last year's 1001nattfestival, starting at about 5:35 in an Aziza inspired Shimmysista's drumsolo duet - This was all unplanned, or rather 'planned on the day' :)

This year my visit was quite impromptu, as the official 1001nattfestival is taking place in November instead of April, yet an International Dance Day weekend can of course not go undanced.

Siri's current studio is located right in the heart of Oslo centre (Rosenkrantzgt 8), and the city is quite easy to travel to from Europe, so be sure to check out her festival (or any of the bellydance and hula studio courses offered at the studio) if you can. 

There are direct KLM flights to Norway from Amsterdam Airport, and offers a affordable, yet comfy 40-minute coach ride with free wifi(!) from Oslo Airport Gardemoen to different locations in Oslo city centre every 20 minutes.

A view of Oslo from the sky
Anyhow, back to the current visit :)

I was lucky enough to be able to teach 4 different workshops at the studio this time, as well as perform at the Saturday evening hafla. The weather was a bit crazy that week (snow and sunshine in April!) but not too cold.

2016: Lovely on- and backstage memories

The topics of the workshops were: Performance Tips and Tricks, Oriental/Raqs Sharki choreo, Conditioning and Drills and Drumsolo Choreo.

Check out some of the post-class pictures here:

Some 'give and take' at the Performance Tips workshop

Oriental choreo mayhem - expressing our inner souls in dance :)

Sunday Conditioning and Drills - I absolutely adored this class!
I'll be creating a DVD/Online class series based on this topic this surmmer.
Drumsolo choreo - with feelings!
3D drumsolo finale shot - with thanks to Maikki for the awesome picure

I also got to meet up and hang out a bit (while enjoying post-dance noms at with the lovely Ingunn and Tina (aka the Ladies of the North) of Alta - Two beautiful dancers and warmhearted souls <3 They performed a fantastic Khaleegy duet at the hafla, and I loved Ingunns Bollywood dance at the studio party to bits.

I have known Ingunn since 2009 (I think :)) and she is one of my favorite persons in dance. Check out the Alta bellydance/yoga/bollywood studio website here!

Backstage in the dark

On top of that I was also lucky enough to catch up again (finally!) with my awesomest Norwegian dance sister (and co-dance-philosopher) Maikki of Norway.

Maikki is a gorgeous performer and teacher specialising in Baladi and Reda style, who currently teaches at Helene Skaugen's Studio Orient in Norway.

Maikki The Great
She will be hosting a Baladi Camp (!) with live music by Guy Shalom this year. Be sure to check it (and her!) out if you can!

Soo.. that's it! Stay tuned on this blog for some more articles soon, including travel tips for dancers,  a folow-up on the 'how I got pain-free' series, information about new upcoming DVD/Online class releases, and more.

Until next time,

xx K.

PS: For a beautiful article by Farida Fahmy herself on the origins of the Reda troupe, as well as tons of fantastic blog posts on Egyptian dance and dance history, check out this: and all of this:

PSPS: Also do be sure to check out Maikki's excellent interview with Joana Saahira on the topic of TARAB here.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

‘Practice Plan’ examples

These are a few tips for using your DVD collection most effectively, and examples of how you could plan your home/studio practice sessions using your DVDs and/or Online Classes over the course of a month (or several months), depending on how much time you have  each week :)

Get a printable (.pdf) version of this blog post here.

General Tips:
  • Think of what your ‘main focus’ will be for your practice month (or season) - then you can substitute those for the topics I use in the examples.
  • In this particular example I reckon with 3 practice sessions per week, of about 1-2 hours each. If you have more DVDs than I mention in the example, or less time, you can spread out the contents of each week over a couple of weeks instead, thus ‘stretching’ the Practice Plan a bit.
  • If you have more days where you can practice in a week than 3, but shorter time for sessions than 1-2 hours, you can tease apart the sessions from the example and split them up in shorter bouts.
  • Do make sure you do a warmup - practice - cooldown ‘sandwich’ each time your do a session - it will make your practice much more effective than trying to do as much ‘material ‘ as possible in one week/month.
  • You can mix the examples with other DVDs you own that cover similar topics (for instance other shimmy/arms DVDs, or certain props)

The Actual Practice Plan

Note: This practice structure is inspired by Monika Volkmar’s ‘Dance Stronger’ program, which I was lucky enough to be part of last year.
 It employs repeating blocks of material in a week while interleaving the contents 2 by 2, which maximises efficiency of practice.   

I highly recommend the DS program for anyone interested in learning to ‘move well’, getting to know their body a bit better, and becoming stronger in a safe way while practicing movement to boot! See for more info.

  • Week 1: Focus on 1 or 2 Topics/DVDs, with an emphasis on the first Topic/DVD
  • Week 2: Same Topics/DVDs as in week 1, with an emphasis on the second Topic/DVD
  • Week 3: Focus on 1 or 2 new Topics/DVDs, with an emphasis on the first Topic/DVD
  • Week 4: Same Topics/DVDs as in week 3, with an emphasis on the second Topic/DVD


Example 1: If you have all 4 ShimmySessionDVDs/Online Classes (4 videos, 1-1,25 hours each), and the full AllAbout Arms DVD/Online Class series (4 videos of 30-45 minutes in total) you could structure your ‘Practice Month’ like this, with each week having 3 separate 1,5-2 hour practice sessions:
  • Week 1: Arms1 +ShimmySession1; Arms2 + ShimmySession2; Arms1 + ShimmySession1
  • Week 2: Arms2 +ShimmySession2; Arms1 + ShimmySession1; Arms2 + ShimmySession2
  • Week 3: Arms3 +ShimmySession3; Arms4 + ShimmySession4; Arms3 + ShimmySession3
  • Week 4: Arms4 +ShimmySession4; Arms3 + ShimmySession3; Arms4 + ShimmySession4

(You can swap ShimmySession 4 with the 20-minute Shimmy Drill from the Shimmies with Khalida DVD optionally if you own it, and you can substitute any of the AllAboutArms classes with different Arms DVDs you own)

Example 2: If you have less time per session, would like to focus mostly on Arms yet still do some Shimmies, and/or if you’d like to sneak in a different DVD/Class/Prop here and there:
  • Week 1: Arms1 ; ShimmySession1; Arms2 (+ optional bonus DVD)
  • Week 2: Arms2; ShimmySession2; Arms1+2
  • Week 3: Arms3 ; ShimmySession3; Arms4 (+ optional bonus DVD)
  • Week 4: Arms4; ShimmySession4; Arms3+4
  • Week 1: Arms1 ; ShimmySession1; Arms1
  • Week 2: Arms2 (+ optional bonus DVD); ShimmySession2; Arms2
  • Week 3: Arms3; ShimmySession3; Arms3
  • Week 4: Arms4 (+ optional bonus DVD); ShimmySession4; Arms4

Example 3: If you have the Props DVDs/OnlineClasses, with contain 3 x 30 minutes of class (beginner - intermediate - advanced) for each prop, then focus on one prop per month (veil, fanveils, zills or isis wings) , and fill in the weeks of that month like so:
  • Week 1: Beginner prop class (30 min) - 1-3 times that week
  • Week 2: Intermediate prop class (30 min) - 1-3 times that week
  • Week 3: Advanced prop class (30 min) - 1-3 times that week
  • Week 4: All 3 prop classes (beginner - intermediate - advanced) - each class at least once that week

Example 4: If you have the BellydanceEssentials Online series (or some of the BDEssentialsOnline classes) you can use them as designed (one class per week) - either mixed in with your regular practice schedule/DVDs or on their own.
  • Week 1: BDE1 (without props part); optional other DVD/Online class; BDE1 complete
  • Week 2: BDE2 (without props part); optional other DVD/Online class; BDE2 complete
  • Week 3: BDE3 (without props part); optional other DVD/Online class; BDE3 complete
  • Week 4: BDE4 (without props part); optional other DVD/Online class; BDE4 complete
  • Etc.. (adding more weeks depending on which BDE videos of the 10-week series you own)

Variation notes:
  • If you have less time than 1,5 hour per session you can also just focus on one topic (eg Arms, Shimmies or Props) per month and then switch, using slightly shorter sessions each week than in example 1.
  • You can mix any of the topics (Arms with Props, Props with Shimmies, or Arms, Props and Shimmies together, BDEssentials, other DVDs you own), but it is most effective to pick and focus on max 1-2 topics per month.

Warmup-Cooldown tips:
  • If you have a foam roller at home you can use the warmup/cooldown bonus videos as a pre-warmup and post-cooldown respectively:
  • The ‘shimmies with Khalida’ DVD/download has 2 separate warmup and 2 cooldown sessions, a ‘moving’ and a ‘stretching’ one each, focusing mostly on the legs
  • The ‘Isis Wings with Khalida DVD’/Download focuses the warmups and cooldowns mostly on the upper body
  • Same goes for the ShimmySession series (mostly lower body focus) and All About Arms series (mostly upper body focus)
  • The ‘BDEssentialsOnline’ classes have a built-in short warmup and cooldown session per class video, and so do the Props videos.
  • Overtime you can mix and match the exercises that help you most to create your own warmup/cooldown routine(s)

Note: As you might have noticed, preparing your body for (and helping it recover from) practice and structuring practice sessions for optimal efficiency are topics that are very dear to me :) 

As I have mentioned before I will be recording a brand new DVD/Online Class mini series very soon (this summer) called ‘Dance Conditioning and Drills’, focusing on exercises that help increase effectiveness of your practice sessions, ways to structure your own movement preparations and warmups, and strategies for more mindfulness in movement, and then applying these to dance drills. 

I highly recommend this new DVD/Online class series if you are looking for ways to be more ‘present’ in your body in daily life as well. 

I will be posting more information on this in the blog at, in the KDanceOnline FB group and in my newsletter (signup form: soon.

That’s it, I think. If you have any questions, let me know :)

xx Khalida Bech

PS: I've added this blog post as a document to the KDanceOnline FB group for easier reference. Feel free to share!