Tips and Tricks for Your personal practice + New Mini Lesson Reveal!
Hello! It’s been a while since I’ve written! I took a 9 month break from teaching, performing, and writing to adjust to life since COVID as well as get married and start a new chapter in my life with my husband and step kids! It’s been a wild yet amazing ride!
During all this time I still have been practicing, mostly working on my improvisation and focusing on small details that add texture, depth, and ooey gooey-ness to my movement.
I want to share some tips and tricks that I use to improve my improv and bring depth to my practice! This is essentially a breakdown of my own practice and also how I coach my students!
At the end of this post I will also post a video and short breakdown of my own practice footage using the concepts I outline below.
Pick a move, any move! For my practice video I chose two sets of moves to improv together: interior hip circles (omis), hip slides, and shimmies. I warmed up by drilling these movements at various speeds then put on a song I love and got moving.
Once you have a few movements in mind and you’ve warmed up, play with directions, what does your movement look like on the frontal plane? Sagittal plane? Transverse plane? Going up, going down? Side to side? What happens when you layer one of your movements over the other? So on and so forth. Once core concept here is to explore and play without judgment!
You’ll see what I mean in my practice video practice below. I played with directions such as horizontal hip slides punctuated with soft shimmies of varying cadences, slow then quick omis, sometimes with level changes. I let the music dictate the cadence of my movement. The song I chose is “Maoud Pt. 2” from Guy Schalom’s Album, Baladi Blues 3 (this is not an affiliate link).
This is real, raw, unpolished video of my own practice. I did not want to curate this video because I want to lead by example- I don’t want you to expect perfection in your practice improv. Don’t squash your potential by being unnecessarily critical or perfectionist.
Now take a breathe, pick a song, and get practicing! I highly recommend you video your practice and review it! Be kind, be playful, and be gentle.
Drop a comment below to let me know what you think about this improv structure and anything else you’d like to know or learn.
I also LOVE seeing your videos so dm or tag me on IG @dancingsoleil to share how you put this concept into practice!
As always I’m also here to help you one on one.
To make one on one time easier to access and more affordable, I’ve developed new mini lessons. Get a 30 minute one on one class with me for $20. If you’re interested in this and it’s still out of your budget, contact me anyway to discuss options! I want you to dance and create. It’s my goal as a teacher and coach to work with you to remove barriers to your expression.
During my time off the past several months I have been critically rethinking the way I do business. My business is personal which means having my business reflect my values is important to me and critical to the community I serve. I realized and still realize I can do better. As I’m starting to teach again, I am offering reparative pricing for our Black, Indigenous, People of Color, MEHNAT, LGBTQ, and disability community members. Please use this code: ACCOUNTABILITY
Why? Reparative pricing is a critical anti-racist action I can take to make change within my sphere and encourage systemic amends to communities who actively experience violence and oppression. This is not charity or scholarship; reparations are different because they’re owed unconditionally, consistently, and systematically and without them we cannot move forward in achieving equity or dismantling white supremacy.
I do need or want proof of identity. All folks are Black, Indigenous, person of color, MEHNAT, person with a disability, or LGBTQ are invited to use this code at checkout regardless of financial circumstance.
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This chaotic time of COVID quarantine has left me feeling a bit depleted, and I know I’m not alone. However, I’m bouncing back little by little by using specific coping mechanisms that have worked for me time and again when I’m in a slump. Since I know many of us are in the same boat, I decided to share my strategies for bouncing back when I feel low and creatively blocked.
I have used these same strategies again and again to climb out of a variety of slumps- health issues, breakups, financial stress, you name it. I know not everything I list here will work for you. Heck, maybe none of it will. My hope is that these tips along with some specific resources can inspire you and support you to explore, create, and sit more in your own power during this tough time. If I can help at least one person who reads this feel like they can get back on track, I will be happy. You can do it!
Before we begin, I want to remind you to honor where you’re at. If you don’t have the mental energy for this right now, then don’t do it! If you need need to rest, then rest. No questions, no judgement, no competition, no pressure. Now, let’s move on to my strategies for coping with hard times and getting back on track when I’m in a rut.
1.) I write and reframe, daily.
Morning Pages, brain dumps, whatever you want to call them. Each day, at whatever time you please, handwrite (or type if that is not accessible for you) about 3 pages of whatever is on your mind, without judgment, without trying to be literary, worrying about grammar, and so on.
The idea is that we have many thoughts and feeling swirling around our brains, clogging up our mind (such as anxiety, fear, self-doubt, hopes, dreams, random thoughts). By regularly giving ourselves an outlet to process everything on your mind, we can slowly sift through whatever it is we’re going through, eventually even working towards reframing negative thoughts and exploring positive thoughts, ideas, and dreams.
An example of reframing a negative thought looks like this:
There’s just no point (negative thought) becomes I am worthy of my dreams and have many friends and family members who support me and goals (positive reframe).
Write down your reframed thought and stick it somewhere accessible because chances are you’ll need to read it again. Do this for each negative thought you have, keep the positive reframes close at hand.
I can attest, with consistent practice, this slowly becomes the catalyst for identifying your needs, shifting your mindset, and finding the path out of your slump.
I don’t use or do anything fancy when I write, I just pull out my recycled composition notebook like this one and grab a pen. I use sticky notes or tape notecards or bits of paper to my walls with positive reframes. Do whatever works for you. The point is just doing it.
2.) I practice mindfulness
While I do have a more formal meditation practice, I don’t necessarily mean engaging in a formal sit here. There are various forms of mindfulness that range from a formal meditative practice to engaging in various other techniques to bring your focus to the present moment. For an overview of mindfulness, check out this article here.
If you’re new to mindfulness and want a little more guidance, I suggest this free app created by the Australian non-profit, Smiling Mind.
3.) I use a planner
I get it. Buying or pulling out your planner while feeling down probably sounds like the worst idea. Ever. However, I find that once I start gently scheduling and checking off “to-do” items (even if that task is “rest”) I find rhythm, structure, and routine which helps me feel more accomplished, empowered, and in control of my time. The key here is not to over-schedule and to mindfully leave time for the space and self care you need right now.
I find it helpful to schedule self care like it’s an appointment. For some that may not work. Point is, gentle structure helps most folks, but don’t be an overachiever (I see you my fellow type A’s) and rush back to full throttle if you’re not ready. If you are pressuring or bullying yourself for taking time out, go back to #1 on this list and write out and/or reframe whatever is coming up for you.
I don’t care for boring planners, but gravitate towards ones that have creative elements, such as artwork, pictures, quotes, and inspiring messages. For the longest time I used this planner by We’moon. I love the moon phase chart, the poetry, the artwork and the fact that it’s printed in soy ink.
However, over time the We’moon planner ended up being a bit too small for me, so for the past year and a half I’ve used Passion Planner. While there’s no lovely art, there are inspiring quotes, places for doodles, maps, and dreams, which helps me fulfill that creative play I enjoy in my planning process.
If you’re not a fan of pen and paper planners, try Asana. I use Asana as a project tracker in addition to my paper planner and love it.
4.) I Play
Sometimes I plan and gently structure my play, but I also sometimes just follow impulse and throw all plans (if I have any) out the window. Whatever the case may be, I am sure to allow myself time to do things other than dance work, such as knitting, gardening, painting, things I am less perfectionist about, things that open up my mind in a way that creates wonder.
During COVID quarantine I’ve been following along with Instagram expert Sarah Tasker’s photo tutorials in order to play and learn more about photography concepts, taking pleasure in small, simple details, and gently creating just to create. (Get her tutorials here). I’m gardening, knitting, mending things, crafting something a little different each day. I find joy in those small things, and I encourage you to find those little things, too.
5.) I exercise but also Rest
I move my body but also rest. Normally, I’m doing some sort of movement for at least 30 minutes a day, whether that be a workout, yoga, biking, dancing, or just going for a walk. Like most people, though during my slumps my motivation to move basically goes to zero.
For the hard days I know I’ll inevitably have, I have a sticky note next to my closet that says “Run. You know you’ll feel better afterward.” For me that’s true. I always feel better after exercising, no matter what. Of course that run doesn’t fix whatever is wrong, but I do feel measurably better and marginally more empowered.
Since running may not be an option during quarantine, I want to share some of my favorite home workouts with you. Check out my Home Workout playlist on youtube which includes Pilates, barre, HIIT, and yoga videos.
6.) I Connect
As a self-sufficient introvert, I sometimes underestimate the value healthy connections with others can help me when I’m down or feeling stuck. The type of connection that serves me shifts depending on what I need at that particular time. The way I identify the specific support I need to seek is something I end up identifying through my daily written reflection (#1 on this list).
In the past, this has looked like me joining a class, video chatting with a friend or family member, getting therapy, adopting my cat, ending unhealthy relationships to make room for healthier ones, getting out to connect with nature, volunteering, and so on. Often more than one of these at the same time.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to others, try new classes, join a book club, virtual movie night, or engage in really anything that calls to you. I find even the smallest moment of feeling connected to others to be uplifting.
Don’t forget you’re not alone. You can do this.
Kate Soleil holds a BA in Anthropology and English from the University of Virginia, is an Oriental Style Belly Dance Performer & Instructor, Social Worker, and Personal Trainer in training.
She’s dedicated her life to the study of her art, the creative process, and coaching others in personal and professional settings. She lives with her fiancée in Portland, Oregon, is a proud cat mama, an avid book worm and knitter.
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As we move into the new year, I, like many others, have been reflecting on how much has happened in 2019. My life now looks very different than from a year ago: I took bold steps to live closer to my truth, felt old identifies melt away into new ones, traveled, met wonderful new people, became closer to families and artists I love and value, deepened my understanding of the cultures whose dance I am learning and representing, as well pushed beyond my comfort zone in creating and presenting my art.
There were many factors that went into making all of this happen. However, I want to express immense gratitude to 2 instructors who had a pivotal effect on my growth this past year: Khadijah and Kamala Almanzar. I had the opportunity to take workshops from Khadijah and Kamala in 2019, but did not study beyond that with either of them (yet). Still, each in their unique way opened the door to my deeper creative exploration and cultural understanding.
I would like to emphasize that these are not reviews, but essentially my gratitude list in prose. The reason I’m doing this publicly is because I want to share what I’ve learned in the hopes that you, too, will take the opportunity to learn from these amazing artists should you ever get the chance.
Khadijah is a Denver, CO based dance artist who came to Portland in 2019 to teach a weekend on khaleeji dance technique, cultural mannerisms, and musicality. Her khaleeji workshops were beyond phenomenal as she wove detail after detail regarding Gulf geography, overview of Islam, cultural etiquette, dance movements, her top 10 khaleeji rhythms to know (yes there’s more than just one), and more into the most culturally comprehensive course on khaleeji dance as I have ever seen or heard of.
Khadijah doesn’t rely solely on her Gulf upbringing as her source of knowledge, but has put countless hours into researching khaleeji dance and music in the Gulf. She also brought in much needed discourse regarding the history of racism in Arabic music.
During the movement workshops, I really valued how much joy Khadijah feels in her movements. She’s earthy, relaxed, and created an atmosphere where we could be, too. Dancing with Khadijah makes you feel like she’s your neighbor or bff who invited you to over to jam out and dance.
Based in Southern California, Kamala has been called a “living legend”, “icon”, and “an inspiration” in the Middle Eastern dance community. What I loved most about learning Kamala in 2019 was, for a short time, immersing myself in her incredibly unique movement style which is at once fresh and inventive yet strongly anchored in classic American Cabaret style.
The opportunity to learn from Kamala was very synchronistic as for a long time I’ve been struggling to find breath and air in my movement vocabulary; upper body expression has never been a strength of mine. I routinely feel upward moving energy becoming blocked in my chest, unable to flow beyond some invisible barrier to finish my movements outward through my arms and upper body. However, moving through one of Kamala’s choreographies helped something click; her movements feel like the most blissful, meditative combination of earth and air which really opened my body and creative expression to greater possibilities.