This knowledge is life changing.

Have you ever found yourself completely frozen on the dance floor when trying to put together a choreography?  Your mind goes totally blank as your hips grasp for a move that will be perfect for that section of music. We as dancers are forever hung up on the WHAT of our choreographies – more specifically exactly WHAT move should come next in our dance.

I have news for you.

The WHAT is not the really important part.  The HOW is.

Almost whatever movement you choose to do can be darn near perfect in the moment, if you do it while truly listening to the music.

Let me say that one more time, just to be sure you heard me.

Nearly any movement you choose to use while dancing can look like it was perfectly selected and destined to be there if you let the music be your guide.

So please let go of your quest to find the “perfect” or “best” movement when working on a choreography and open yourself and your heart to expressing what wants to come out of YOUR body.

Next, practice doing that movement in a way that expresses the music that is inspiring your dance. Whether your movement is a chest circle or a hip drop, I promise you can find a way to make it sit inside the music and create dance magic. So stop panicking and start enjoying the process!

Have your doubts?  Good! Try this exercise and see for yourself.

 

 

My top 6 choreography methods

So for years I created pretty much every choreography with a method I like to call “The Shotgun Approach”. 

Basically I would go into my practice space, put on my chosen music and dance to it.  Over and over and over. After a few dozen attempts, some ideas would stick.  I would write them down. Then I would lather, rinse and repeat until I finished.

This honestly worked pretty well for me for several years.

And then it didn’t anymore.

I found my combination ideas repeating themselves time and again, new concepts and movements I’d learned weren’t being utilized and worst of all… I was totally bored.

So I took action.

Over the past 6 years I’ve totally redesigned the way I create choreographies, and while there are many elements involved in the complete process, here are the six ideas that have made the most impact.

1. Create a framework through music mapping (this one is HUGE)

I took an amazing workshop at 3rd Coast Tribal several years ago with the director of Anahata Belly Dance (an incredible Texas-based tribal dance troupe).  She talked about the process that she uses to create her troupe’s choreographies and it REVOLUTIONIZED the way I approached my own. Through mapping my music starting first with the counts, I can divide up the piece into phrases and sections, better recognize repetition and variation and create a framework with which to create my choreography.

2. Invent a “storyline” to drive the movement

While belly dance doesn’t often use a formal “storyline” like some other dance forms, inventing one helps me to approach choreography creation from this standpoint. If I create a loose storyline – anything from perhaps a simple idea such as “unrequited love” to maybe a more specific “I’m unsure of where I stand, I seek and find hope in the world and emerge victorious” I can approach movement from a totally different angle, resulting in more creative choreographic choices.

 

3. It’s not about WHAT it’s about HOW

This idea is hugely powerful for me and for my students.  Stop worrying about exactly WHAT movement you should do for a specific phrase and start looking and HOW you do it.  I have news for you… there is no RIGHT or WRONG move. Stop for a second and think about it.  Almost any movement you are drawn to can work provided that you use the music to inspire it.

4. Emotionally driven content

Along the lines of our storyline idea but slightly different.  Try approaching your choreography through a series of 2-3 emotions.  For example – sorrowful, comforted, hopeful – and see where this takes your movement.  Allow yourself to use ANY KIND of movement in this exercise and don’t limit yourself to traditional belly dance moves. You may be surprised where this takes you.

5. Traveling vs. stationary moments

The first time I got on stage a soloist ever, it was with a live band at a Greek restaurant.  I was subbing last-minute for my teacher, and had probably performed a total of three times in my entire life (doing a class choreography with an entire troupe).  I thought I would be sick. She gave me just one piece of advice before I got out on stage. “Sometimes the music will encourage you to move around the stage and sometimes it will make you want to be still.  Alternate between those two ideas.” Simple, but it worked and I use this ideas in my choreographies to this very day.

6. The shotgun approach (yes…it’s still there!)

I haven’t done away with my shotgun approach.  In fact, after I map my choreography it’s often still the first method I use when starting to choreograph.  By combining this with the ideas above and a few more choreographic techniques, I’ve been able to create pieces that keep me, my dancers and the audience engaged and excited.

 

So – do you choreograph?  How do you go about creating your dances?  I would love to hear what inspires your creativity!

The Choreography Conundrum

So I just took a look in my “CHOREOGRAPHIES” folder on my laptop and over the last 15 years I have personally created more than 80 choreographies… that’s more than 5 each year (or one about every 2 months!)

Honestly, that surprised the heck out of me. But it also helped me understand the complete choreographic rut I found myself in about 6 years ago.

I am a belly dance instructor and director of two professional dance troupes. At one point in my career I taught five weekly classes. I was solely responsible for generating unique material for each of these classes as well as choreographies for my professional troupes.  

About six years ago I hit a creative wall.

I’m sure many of you can relate. Whether or not you teach, creating dances for yourself or others is a huge creative effort – exciting and enjoyable, yes, but an effort nonetheless.

My realization that something needed to change came one day in my Intermediate class… I was about halfway through teaching them my newest choreography when I realized I couldn’t distinguish this dance from the one I had just been teaching in my beginner class… the combinations began to blur and merge in my brain and I found myself totally lost in my movement.

I realized three hugely important things that day:

  1. Massive creative output without enough input to refuel you will end in a state of being creatively tapped out.
  2. Choreographing through my default “shot-gun” approach wasn’t working anymore.
  3. Something needed to change.

I am happy to say that six years (and about 30 choreographies) later, I have a new way of approaching my choreography creating that has helped me organize and strategize my work as well as avoid the repetition caused by my previous choreography by intuition approach.

Is this story familiar to you?  Have you found yourself creatively tapped out at some point in your artistic life? Or maybe your dancing has started to feel too repetitive or lacking of growth and change? I totally get it!

Tell me where you’ve gotten stuck and I’ll tell you what’s helped me pull myself out of my creative rut. Together we can rev up our creative engines to work in new and exciting ways!

21 Day #RakMyZills Resources and Reflections

I just spent 21 Days zilling playing the most amazing zills on the planet with some of the most amazing dancers on the planet.

And I am so very grateful.

The 21 Day #RakMyZills Challenge with Saroyan Cymbals far surpassed anything I could have ever hoped for. Over 70 dancers in more than 5 countries participated, making time in their busy lives to spend a moment making music with me. Wow. I am beyond honored.

I am amazed at where my life has taken me since beginning to dance nearly two decades ago.  Who would have thought the belly dance class I drove across town for once a week would put me on the path to find my calling, my passion and my sanctuary. Twenty years later and I am so grateful I can spread the joy of the dance with people around the world… and so easily! A one-minute video a day and new zill fans are created. Amazing!

So here it is, my lovely ZillStars – a list of resources for you to continue on your belly dance journey. 

I know we will dance together very soon!

A little zill jam for you

So it appears that Instagram may not like me rocking out on my zills to Prince… bummer!  So I am reposting here in case you like to check it out.  This is part of the 21 Day Instagram Challenge that I am hosting RIGHT THIS VERY MOMENT with the most amazing zill manufacturer on the planet – Saroyan Cymbals.  Check it out – it’s not too late to join in.  21 Days to build a new zill habit and become a better more confident ziller… and there are wonderful prizes to be won!

 

Here is the repost: 

 

Day 9 | #RakMyZills Challenge with Saroyan_Zills and @SahiraBellyDances

This week we tackle the question that plagues many a ziller … how do I decide WHAT to play on my zills once the music begins? 🤔⠀

Here are my top three answers. ⠀

You can play to:⠀
1. The tempo⠀
2. The rhythm⠀
3. The melody⠀
(There are certainly more options, but these are my favorite.)⠀

Today we discuss playing with the tempo and what that entails.⠀ ⠀

✨Your challenge: Pick a song – any song – and zill along to the beat. Now that we are a bit deeper into our challenge I invite you to move while you play, be it marking time with your feet, moving your arms, or all out dancing! (For inspiration visit @SahiraBellyDances)⠀

 

Need something sexy for Valentine’s Day? I’ve got you covered.

I’m not into chocolates or flowers, and my husband and I don’t even go out to dinner on Valentine’s Day to celebrate. I mean, why pay more for a limited menu in an awkward everyone-is-trying-to-be-romantic environment, right?

So this year I decided to gift the love of my life something a lot more memorable… this choreography. Incredibly sultry, with lots of room to add your personal flare, “Into You” has been tested and…let’s just say… approved.

The entire thing can be learned in under one hour – so get in there and crank up the heat!

Get this choreography for FREE for the next 24 hours only. After that the price goes up to $10.

(Available to Sahira newsletter subscribers only. To get the deal, please use the link below.)

Sahira.cc/ValentinesDay

Something is coming…

 

This is it people! I am beyond thrilled to announce that @Saroyan_Zills and I have teamed up on Instagram to give you 21 days of zilliciousness in our #RaqMyZills challenge. 💥

Designed to encourage even the shyest zillers among us to put on their cymbals every day and create a new habit (and love affair) with them, this challenge will be easy, fun and sometimes totally ridiculous! Daily challenges will get to the nitty gritty of understanding the basics of playing your zills with variations given for more advanced zillers. And yes…there will be fabulous prizes! 🤩

Make sure you are following @SahiraBellyDances and @Saroyan_Zills on Instagram and tune in on Wednesday February 6 for all the details! In the meantime, polish up those finger cymbals…it’s time to RAQ YOUR ZILLS!!

It’s time to break your brain… in the spirit of happiness!

I don’t know about you, but I LOVE a good challenge!  I recently took an AMAZING rhythm and zill class at Migrations World Music and Dance Festival with an incredible musician who totally broke my brain, and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. The older we get, the harder it is to encounter something we have NEVER seen before… so when it happens – relish it!

(That musician, by the way, is the amazing Lauren Checchio and you can find her here.)

A good challenge keeps your brain young, helps build new neural connections and fosters growth, which studies show leads to happiness!

So in the spirit of more happy… here’s a little drill for you! Enjoy!

 

 

I have a dream…

So excited to begin another fabulous year of belly dance with you!

Today we are embarking on my new quest in zill instruction for 2019… I promise to make you use ALL the zill sounds! No more settling for just a basic ring when there is a world of noises these things can make!

 

Check out my Zill Sounds Primer here: youtu.be/SAOzEK-EkRg

And learn how to count zills like a real musician here: youtu.be/1UBYe3Szd6k

Get your very own pair of Saroyan Ghawazee in Bronze (my most favorite zills ever!) here: sahira.cc/GhawazeeZills

Want to become a total zill rockstar? Take more finger cymabal classes with me here!

sahirabellydances.teachable.com

 

Let’s do this!

Happy New Year!

 

Happiest of New Years from me to you! I sincerely wish for you, my online belly dance family, a year full of friends, family, growth and of course, belly dance!

To help get you moving after a relaxing holiday season, check out my “Killer Driller” package on Teachable. Four one-hour classes that will get your heart pumping, your muscles working and your body moving in that belly dance way once again.

These four hours of class are yours for the next 48 hours for just $10.

Sahira.cc/HappyNewYear

Also, don’t miss out on your copy of my 2019 Goal Setting Workbook – just the resource you need to set smart dance goals that you will actually accomplish this year!

The download is FREE right here:
sahira.cc/GoalSettingWorkbook