Saturday, February 23, 2008

Belly dance as aerobic and stretching exercise

Because my parents were here and I needed to escape somewhere to do something for ME, I ended up going to the belly dancing class by Tito Seif. Tito is very famous belly dancer from Kairo, Egypt, and stopped here only for 2 days because he came to grab one of the local dancers and take her to Las Vegas to dance with him in the shows. What a chance! We seldom get big names, UNLESS they want to come to vacation in Hawaii. Plus, I never read the newspapers and by chance I saw the article on his class just a few days before the class.

So, wow. That was an amazing class, and I noticed a definite improvement in all my dancing, including the West African dance I regularly go to. Tito was an incredible inspiration because he is so creative and has so much fun while he dances. He just smiles and dances and makes up all kinds of funky moves. It is always different.
*****A GOOD TEACHER MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE.****** Somehow something of his schine rubbed on me.

Also, it must be that belly dance is in my blood, my genes are from there and the dance is definitely familiar. What else can I say! I can listen to that music and it all makes sense and sounds cool. It is helping me transition to listening to pure West African music, which is definitely more ... jazzy.

West African music is pure drums and to me it is harder to just listen to it if I am not dancing or drumming. Somehow it requires more participation than just listening. It is ACTIVE music. Also, it sounds more like jazz, the syncopations and the pauses are definitely less predictable. That is what makes traditional African music so cool and so healing. It turns off the logical mind and turns on the higher mind. It requires total relaxation yet alertness. Also, there is absolutely NOTHING sad in African music. It is ALL just happiness and joy. That is definitely a gift to the world. Coming from the chronically melancholic, sad, self pitiful, whiney Eastern Europe, I SUPER highly appreciate the happy, grounded, centered tone of African music. It heals! It connects to the Earth and to one's body and Self.

I concluded that listening to music and being able to SING ALONG is a prerequisite for dancing. That's why Middle Eastern is helping me with African, because African has nothing but drums, and I needed to learn to sing along just drums. It's a learning process, definitely, for a totally white westerner like me. I grew up listening to very linear melodies (that I always found boring). Luckily, we had some middle eastern influence and there was drum music in all kinds of funky beats, like 7/9, and I always adored listening and dancing to that.

So, all this curvey, circular, wiggly, zigzag music is a fabulous exercise. It requires moving the whole body. Check out the articles on dance therapy.

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Monday, February 4, 2008

being famous; belly dance as therapy

This weekend I attended a belly dance workshop with a very famous and very good Egyptian dancer, Tito Seif. He flew in from Kairo, taught for 2 days, and performed.

Wow! First, he is a very good dancer, technically and "artistically." His dance flows and has flair. Second, Tito is very professional, keeps on the high-energy smile, and that plus the high quality dance keeps the audience totally mesmerized. No matter what is happening - cranky assistant, music stops, class that doesn't get it - Tito keeps on dancing and smiling. Third, he is a fabulous performer. The video clips on youtube cannot convey this quality. As he performs, he engages the audience, and it is apparent he is having fun. His mastery of music and dance and this playful creativity with the audience (asking people to clap, etc. in a very cheerful and charming way) makes for a very memorable performance.

This guy is famous. So, it made me think: is he famous because he is one of the few humans who can actually ENJOY HIMSELF, actually dedicated to something he loves, actually sacrificing to do that - teaching students which aren't perfect, etc. But nonetheless, doing what he loves - dancing - and enjoying it. LOVING IT.

The other thing that struck me is how therapeutic belly dance is. It adjusts the pelvis, stretches the spine, and exercises the entire body in a balanced and healthy manner.
I tell all my clients to try belly dance, hula, african dance, maybe salsa, and of course yoga and maybe tai-chi. All those exercises work the body all over in a balanced way.

Stretching the pelvis is the main thing.

Personal preferences determine what we pick. Belly dance is dramatic. For people who love flair and drama, who like to act, who are sensual, who love to play seductive, who love to show off, to deck themselves out in glitz and glitter and beauty, this is it. A safe outlet for all those tendencies. Also for people who have issues with their bodies. Belly dance is not terribly demanding physical workout, you don't need major muscles, but some muscles and a lot of flexibility.
Hula is for quieter types who enjoy more spiritual exercise with more gentleness, less emphasis on showing off, and more team work. Hula is not terribly physically demanding, but is a great workout that works.
African dance is for very athletic, muscular, sturdy types who need a heavy, relatively acrobatic (jumping, swirling, running) workout in a community setting.
Yoga is for really instrospective types. Tai chi wu or yang style as well.


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