Monthly Archives: February 2015

Let me upgrade you – how to advance your hipdrop

I love a bit of Beyonce as much as the next person and I’ve had her booty shakin ‘Upgrade U’ in my head all week. So thank you to the B for inspiring this week’s blog title! If you need a bit of Beyonce bling in your day before you read on – here she is!


In today’s post I’m not talking so much Audemars Piguet, rather I’m borrowing Beyonce’s sentiment to introduce my tip on one way to pimp up your hip drop.

So, if you’d like me to upgrade your hipdrop in 6 minutes, this class is for you. My aim in this class is to help you feel like your hip drop’s had an extra pinch of glitter dust  and a shot of espresso to boot 🙂

Go ahead and dive right in …



Once you’ve had a look, I’d love to know what you think! Do leave a comment below, especially if you have some tips on advancing your hip drop. And of course I’d love it if you were to share this with all your friends :)

As always, thanks for reading.

With love and shimmies,

Helen xx

Subscribe for blog updates with bellydance tips to get on track and stay inspired. Plus receive my free online class!

How’s your classroom etiquette?

Does it get on your wick when another student tries to chat to you when the teacher’s talking? Do you cringe when somebody’s phone goes off in class?

Most of come to class with an open heart, a passion for bellydance and an eagerness to learn, we don’t intend on doing things which might get somebody else’s goat. So, I decided to bring this (slightly tricky) topic to the fore and asked a large sample of my students: in your opinion, what makes for good classroom etiquette?

Let me be clear, I didn’t do this to unleash the moan-fest of the century. Instead, I wanted to make visible a kind of “code of conduct” which 99% of us abide by 99% of the time. However, we all have moments when we fall off the etiquette wagon, so this is a little nudge to get us back on.

Here are the top 7 answers from my students (with a couple of my own thrown in too) and remember, these are all meant with heartfelt love and affection 🙂

  •  (not) Chatting. Our ladies love having a quiet room so they can hear the instructor clearly. Plus, teachers aren’t keen on competing with other conversations
  •     Space. When you’re concentrating on getting the moves it’s easy to lose track of your spacing. Keep an eye that you haven’t “drifted” too close to another class mate. Also – don’t be shy about standing at the front!
  •     Time. We only have one precious hour together a week. Arrive early and settle up any payments or questions in good time before the class to avoid eating into class time
  •     Unofficial teaching assistant. It can be soooo tempting to help out a struggling classmate, but wait to be asked by them before offering help and do it after the class or during a break
  •     If you’ve been coming to class for years, remember that lovely person who said “hello” and made you feel welcome when you first came? Now it’s your turn to break the ice with any new class members and help them feel at ease
  •     DO ask for extra explanations and ask questions about the material taught in class and DO feel free to bring out your own and your class mates sense of humour. AVOID telling long anecdotes about your personal life and going off topic for too long
  •     DO ask questions about the music, where to get it etc. AVOID asking the teacher email you the music or burn you a CD!
  • Remember to switch your phone to silent before class starts. If you have to take an urgent/emergency call, take it outside

Thank you to all my students who contributed their thoughts to this blog, I learn from you all each and every day!

Now I want to ask you: Do you have any other suggestions for classroom etiquette that we could all learn from? Are you a teacher who has effective ways of keeping your class on track etiquette-wise? Leave your thoughts in the comments below and let us know. And of course I’d love it if you were to share this post with all your friends, especially as this has such a huge impact on the quality of our learning.

Thanks for reading, love and shimmies,

Helen xx

Subscribe for blog updates with bellydance tips to get on track and stay inspired. Plus receive my free online class!

How long does it take to be a good dancer? (here’s the real answer)

Have you ever watched a dancer and thought “how did she get so good?”, “what did she do that I’m not doing?”  Yep, me too.

In a world where everything is instant at the click of a button we can consume so much dancing so fast. There are hours of videos featuring totally amazing dancers, it’s almost too easy to just flick through and take it all for granted.

You see, what happens is that we get a snapshot, the finished article, but we don’t see everything that’s come before it. We don’t get the whole story, the hundreds (or thousands) of hours, the various evolutions and incarnations of that dancer, the incremental trajectory over the last 6-8 years that led up to that point. Having instant access to limitless amounts of the highest level of art forms that take hours, weeks, months and years to master makes it seem like it’s all achievable overnight for some people.

What can then happen is that we get stuck on a train of thought which goes something like: this dancer is just super talented, they have a more flexible body, a longer waist, they just have a “natural” ability and it comes easily to them, they are just super talented. One way or another, we can end up at the conclusion which basically says: I’ll never be like that no matter what I do.

However, let’s stop and think about really goes into those moments when we witness truly elite dancing. This begins by getting rid of the false idea that there is such a thing as overnight dance success. Let me reassure you that there is no such thing!

Now we’ve debunked the myth that some dancers are just super-talented and we’ll never be like them, let’s get down to some truths, so strap on your hip belt good and tight because there’s a secret that good dancers have been keeping and I’m going to let you in on it now.

Boredom. Yep, get ready to be bored. If you think you’re going to be skipping off to class with sunshine and unicorns every time or busting with enthusiasm and jumping for joy when it comes to doing your 20 mins daily practice, think again. It can be tedious and annoying to have to keep repeating stuff, hell it can feel like a chore, but good dancers don’t entertain the idea of letting practice lapse. For them, practice is non-negotiable, it’s part of their daily or weekly routine.
The truth is, those amazing, effortless-looking dancers have been chipping away on the same things that you’re getting taught in class, they just repeat it more times. Excellence is a gradual accumulation, sure sometimes with the odd highlight and breakthrough, but it’s all about consistency, not instant results.

I’d love to be able to say that I have stars twinkling out of my eyes and rainbows springing out of my ears every time I work on my movement or a choreography. Sadly, that’s not the case. I pretty much have to lock myself in a room until it’s done. An believe me I can procrastinate with the best of them!

As a person who hates using numbers to quantify achievement, this next bit is really hard for me. But the question I get asked most of all by students is “how long have you been dancing?” I know by now that what this really means is “how long will it take me to be able to dance like you?”  So I’m going to dig deep and do my best to be completely honest and realistic about the results you can expect to get in a certain period of time. Bear in mind that the time scales here assume that you are consistently attending regular classes. *A quick disclaimer before you dive in: each student is a unique individual with her own learning curve. This is a general guide to give you some idea, your own progression will be unique to you.*

What you can expect after 4-6 weeks   Depending on your teacher you’ll learn anything from around 10 to 20 moves and be able to execute most of them, there will probably be some moves that you can’t quite nail and others that are a whole ball of mystery. You might not remember them all and you won’t look exactly like your teacher just yet with perfect isolation, but you will begin to look like a bellydancer. It’s not unusual to still feel a little awkward doing the moves at this stage. You might think that you’ll never get to grips with the moves, just hang in there, we all start somewhere 🙂

What you can expect within 4-6 weeks of regular classes plus a short daily practice All of the above plus your muscle memory will start to kick in. This is where your body “remembers” how to do the moves and you won’t have to consciously think through every element of it. This means you can further refine the moves and start to improve your isolation.

What you can expect within 3-6 months A growing level of confidence as the basic moves become familiar. You will notice that you can begin to isolate the moves (even if you need reminders from your teacher). Short routines are no problem (though remembering the choreography might be!) Expect to struggle with tricky moves like the Egyptian Walk, undulations and umis – don’t worry, this is normal. The shimmy is still a bit hit and miss for you. Add a daily practice onto your regular classes and you’ll probably begin to notice changes in your body tone and shape, particularly in the obliques and shoulders. Your snake arms will start to look smooth and fluid and your hip locks will start to pack a punch. There are moments where your Egyptian Walk feels like it’s finally coming together (even if it’s not at full speed yet). Your shimmy is coming along nicely – yey!

What you can expect within 1 year to 18 months You no longer look like a beginner and you have no problem with the basic moves or routines. Your body has adapted to the movements and you’ve developed the appropriate muscle groups. Now you can do the moves you’re keen to do them with a good quality of movement. You’re being challenged with more complex routines and layering techniques, it feels like you’ll never get the hang of layering. Add regular practice and “extra curricular” workshops, private coaching or additional classes and you will find the content in your regular class very manageable. You’re most likely one of the strongest dancers in your class. Layering movements is still difficult but with concentration you are able to have a stab at more advanced material than you’re learning in class. You’re standing out from the crowd – woo!

What can I expect within 2-3 years? You’ve worked your way up towards the Intermediate or Advanced level and you have a decent knowledge of different bellydance styles and music to the point where you know musical and stylistic bellydance terms. Performances are a regular feature in your diary either with a group or as a soloist. Your choreographies include Egyptian walks, undulations and other tricky moves. You understand how to isolate the moves and they look impressive when you do them. If you’ve been keeping up your practice then your body is “bellydance-ready” and your movements are strong and clean. You keep your dance posture consistently when you dance (and sometimes when you’re not!)

When will I start to look like my teacher? You’re looking at anything upwards of 3-5 years of regular classes plus practice and extra curricular to grow into an elite dancer.

How long will it take to become professional? This is a tricky one and it’s a brave person to put an exact number on it. However I’ll step up and say that it would be around 8 years depending on your previous experience. It could be less or it could be more. For example I had 8 years of ballroom and latin training and then 4 years of bellydance training before I started professional work. It was then another 5 years before I became a full time professional bellydance performer and teacher.

So what is your first job as an ambitious bellydance student? Trust your teacher. Your trajectory is something that you don’t need to worry about or burden yourself with. Don’t take on the responsibility of worrying about the material and course content, just focus on surrendering to what you’re working on in that moment. Nothing more.
I once had a student who sent me videos of highly accomplished professional dancers and asked why we “weren’t learning that” on our improver course. I gently had to explain that these dancers didn’t go to class and “learn that”, they had spent hours and years crafting their art. But I reassured her that if she kept going with her dance journey then there was no reason she would not be able to dance like that in the future.


One last thing before I go, my exam coaching workshops are coming up in February, do have the feeling that you should be there? Is it the time to ramp up your dancing an really let the rubber hit the road? Check out all the details here. I’d love to have you on board!


Now I’d love to hear about you: What are the milestones that have marked your bellydance journey? What’s your next milestone you’d like to reach? Leave a comment below! And of course, I’d be delighted if you’d share this article with your friends 🙂

Thank you for reading,

Love and shimmies,

Helen xx

Subscribe for blog updates with bellydance tips to get on track and stay inspired. Plus receive my free online class!

Ready for your first bellydance performance? 9 tips to help you take the plunge

There comes a point in learning bellydance where the inevitable happens: your teacher or School holds an end of term show or hafla and offers a class the chance to perform the class routine. Many of us can’t get enough of performing and are eager to make the most of any opportunity to feel the buzz and excitement of the whole process: rehearsals, anticipation, excitement, nerves, make up, deep breathing, performance, thrill, adrenaline, living in the moment, applause, praise, attention (let’s be honest 😉 ), photos, congratulations, satisfaction, confidence, “when’s the next one?” The whole kit and caboodle.

When most students attend their first bellydance class, performing it in public is the very last thing they are thinking of. Performing certainly isn’t for everyone and my students frequently hear my mantra in class “performing is not compulsory, I have no personal investment in getting you to perform, only that you enjoy learning bellydance and get the most out of it”. However, over the years I have seen countless students go from not entertaining the idea of ever performing, to happily dancing in end of term shows experiencing all the fun that goes along with it.  In today’s post I want to get down to the nitty gritty of what happens in-between these two mindsets.

If you are progressing nicely in class and feel like you are starting to really ‘get the hang’ of bellydancing, why not think about developing yourself further and performing? Perhaps you have entertained the idea for a moment but you’re still not sure if performing is your thing. I mean, isn’t it taking this hobby a bit too far?

My action points for this Ezine are all about bringing yourself to the point where you are ready to perform. Or, if you have performed with your class, how to take yourself to the next level and do a solo.  If you have been toying with the idea and need that extra ‘push’ or permission to let yourself go for it – consider this it! Here are some practical ways to get your head around the idea of taking action and performing.

  • Go along and watch a student showcase so have a good idea what it’s all about before you take the plunge and join in. You may find yourself wishing you were up there dancing too!
  • Ask yourself why you are so resistant to performing with the group. Is there somebody/something holding you back?  Are you worried about being judged, criticised, feeling embarrassed? You aren’t alone. We all have to push through this stuff in order to put ourselves up there and perform. Take a look and chat to your classmates who have already performed in shows – they lived to tell the tale and have been back for more!
  • Do you enjoy seeing the side of yourself that you encounter and develop in class? Do you enjoy the company of your classmates who also do so? Performing gives you a chance to take this positive experience even further and deeper and is one of the quickest ways to bond with a group of like-minded people.
  • Think how you will feel after the show if you don’t perform: relaxed, relieved, safe, in your comfort zone, or just simply the same as before. Then think how you will feel after the show if you do perform: exhilarated, proud, satisfied, surprised, like you’ve added another facet to yourself, different. If you keep doing the same thing then you will feel the same. If you do something you’ve never done then you will feel like you’ve never felt.
  • Perform a class routine at the end of term show before you consider undertaking a solo to give you an idea of how it feels to dance in front of an audience. Get somebody to film it so you can look it over (and even ask your teacher to look at it and give feedback) and see how you can improve on what you did and move forward for a solo presentation.
  • Bring your fan club to come and watch you. Whether it’s your first group performance or your first solo, having your ‘crew’ there to support and witness you makes a huge difference (plus, they can do the drive home so you can have a glass of wine after). Your friends and family will love the opportunity to cheer you on.
  • Try dancing a class routine, that you’ve performed as a group, as a solo or duet before you embark on choreographing your own. All you need to do is repeat what you did before.
  • If you are a whiz with a sewing machine or simply can’t get enough of all things bling, then student shows are the ultimate way to push your creativity to the limits and make your own performance costume!
  • If you still can’t decide whether you should take the next step in your self-development as a bellydance student, try this classic mantra (it works for me every time I feel resistant to pushing myself further): ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’.

I’d love to know what, if anything, held YOU back from performing bellydance publicly and what helped you decide to take the plunge and go for it. Leave a comment below and let us know! (it might be just the thing to inspire somebody to go for it).

Thanks for reading 🙂

Hugs and hipdrops,

Helen x