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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I’ve been reflecting a lot lately. This past year was one of tremendous growth, challenge, and unexpected surprises. When I look back at this year, I see just how a great and terrible beauty this has been for me. I grew exponentially, joyously, painfully. I became more authentic as I hacked away at gangrenous parts of me that no longer served.
A year and a half ago I took on my own restaurant gig. I then experienced a lot of death in the form of family members and relationships. Then I changed day jobs, going back to a job that offered less pay but also less emotional strain so I could have the energy after work to focus on my art and see if “going pro”, i.e. embracing the gig life, was the life for me. I met the man of my dreams who has grown to be the love of my life.
Then I burned out, utterly exhausted from overwork, overstretching, and doggedly trying to add soul and breath into the shallow, entertainment side of the belly dance industry.
It’s been one of those years that has changed me forever and significantly altered my course. I more or less quit gigging in September yet am still processing all I learned and experienced in this momentous year. I could probably write a book on everything I discovered about myself and my relationship with belly dance, but here are 3 big ones:
–Know when to stop. I think there are things we can only discover by being on the brink of exhaustion, but it becomes very easy to lose sight of your path when you push yourself to work relentlessly.
–Become familiar with your own natural seasons of work. On her podcast, Make it Happen, Jen Carrington often mentions “season of hustle”. There are seasons where you are going to push a little harder, work a little more, but you also need to embrace seasons of rest, regularly, and without judgment. I’m a chronic overachiever, so this is incredibly hard for me.
–Practice patience, practice abundance. My dream was, and is, to build my dance business to the point where I can support myself part time and go down to a part time day job. I said yes to every gig and every collaborative opportunity, because I was afraid if I said no the opportunities would never come again, and I would lose my chance to grow, earn a steady income, and make my dream of supporting myself through my art less attainable. I operated from a scarcity mindset instead of one of abundance. I was impatient. I was hard on myself. There are things that only come with time, and for me this dream is one of them. It’s been hard to slow down, but I’m all the better for it.
As uncomfortable as it has been the past few months I’m enjoying letting go of what doesn’t serve me, I take an odd comfort in plowing through old ways of thinking and behaving, preparing to rebuild, preparing for a rebirth a reemergence of a more refined and authentic artistic vision.
What can you do to pause and check in with your Self, your inner artist, your voice to make sure you’re on your authentic path?
What ways can you start to build moments of reflection and rest into your day? Your dance practice?
Comment below because I’d love to know…
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This past year has been full of changes in my personal and professional life. One of the biggest changes was that I decided to start building a creative dance business. I’ve been dancing for over 10 years, but it was only this past year that I decided to explore turning my art into a creative business.
It has been a year of insane highs and lows as I navigate what works and what doesn’t work for me. I left a higher paying, but stressful, day job for another day job that is less stressful in order to have more energy to devote to expanding and growing my art and business during evenings and weekends. I’ve taken business building workshops and started working with an amazing business mentor. I also started listening to podcasts, and I have to tell you guys, I’m seriously addicted; I honestly wonder what took me so long to get on the whole podcast bandwagon!
There are a lot of business podcasts out there that don’t resonate with me, but today I’m going to share 3 that do. All three of these podcasts discuss different aspects of building and operating creative businesses, particularly as women. I love all three of these because they not only offer great insight and advice, but delve into the heart and soul of being a creative running a business that is authentic fulfilling. As someone who relies heavily on my authentic voice, my soul, to direct my creative and business path, this definitely speaks to me. All three of these podcasts are available via iTunes subscription.
Why I love it: I absolutely love that Tara is so honest, open, and authentic. She is a business advisor, but instead of giving you a checklist of things to do to grow your business, she offers tools for you to reflect on, to challenge your preconceived notions of what a business is, or should, be, understanding your blocks and your style. I also deeply appreciate her anecdotes and the insight she shares from her own challenges, successes, and failures as a creative business owner. To me, listening to her podcasts often feels like I’m getting a mini coaching session and pep talk with a healthy dose of inspiration.
Why I love it: Jen is a creative business coach whose insight into building a sustainable, fulfilling creative business is wonderful- she offers honest, heartfelt, holistic, nurturing insight and inspiration to creatives. I haven’t listened to her newest season yet, but I listened to the season before that and loved it. The newest season (season 7) is an audiobook version of her recently published book broken into mini episodes. The season before (season 6) focused on interviewing other creatives about their journey of building their business. What I liked specifically was that each interviewee shared openly and honestly the struggle and the ups and downs of their business, including their mistakes, their doubts- something that I found very helpful in navigating this first year of building my business. I also recently saw that Jen has teamed up with Sara Tasker (see below) for a new podcast called Letters from a Hopeful Creative. I haven’t listened to it yet, but plan on subscribing.
Why I love it: Sara’s podcast is geared towards helping online business creatives find their creative online voice, particularly on Instagram, but still has a lot to offer to those who are not operating online or online only businesses. Honestly I was very skeptical about this podcast because I’m one of those people who is/was very, very judgey about Instagram. I never really checked it out and assumed it was just going to be nothing but soulless hipster selfies and picture of food- and there is definitely some of that. However, after listening to this podcast I not only realized Instagram would be a beneficial social media tool for my business, but that I didn’t have to approach it in a soulless way. Sara’s podcast isn’t superficial, but really delves into the creative heart of small business.
These podcasts are not only informative, but give me a dose of inspiration when I need it and help remind me that I’m not alone in this crazy journey. For those of you who are thinking about or are already operating a creative business, I hope these provide inspiration and education for you as much as they have for me.
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