How to do a single hip figure 8 (looks difficult, is easy)

Full Bellydance Warm Up

In today’s class I have a super cool move to teach you and the best part is – it’s not  that difficult!

It’s a cheeky little figure called a single hip figure 8. The good news is that you can dig out when you’re improvising, or use in a choreography if you’re looking for a new move.

In this session I’ll give you the technique plus some tips along the way to make sure you look as fabulous as possible :)

Once you’ve taken the class, I’d love to know what you think: did you find it easy? or was it trickier than I imagined?  Be sure to leave a comment on youtube!

Let’s get started!

If you have bellydance pals who would enjoy this class, I’d be so grateful if you were to share it on your fave social media platforms. You never know, it could be just what someone’s looking for!

Thanks so much for reading.

With love and shimmies,
Helen xx

Ps. Our NEW 6 week Summer courses are coming up! Early prices are up for grabs until 10th May. Go to our classes page to check out the juicy new syllabus!

How to improvise with bellydance

how to improvise

Picture this:

It’s that part of the class where your teacher shouts those dreaded words: “now it’s your turn to improvise”. You freeze up, your mind goes blank and – despite the fact that you’ve learned oodles of bellydance steps and techniques – you have no idea what to do.

For some reason, having to improvise makes us feel super vulnerable and self-concsious. But the answer to this isn’t to try and do away with those feelings, it’s to understand that these feelings are part of the experience of improvised bellydance.

Whilst I don’t, by any means, claim to be any kind of guru on improvisation, I do have some top tips that I’ve gleaned from teaching this topic for many years.

In this episode I’ll explain:

  • what improvisation is
  • why bellydancers need it
  • how improv is different to a choreography (and why that matters)
  • how to get started
  • what pitfalls to avoid

Improvisation seems to be going out of fashion in the bellydance world (I’ll dare to say that I think we, as teachers, even avoid demanding that our students improvise for fear of putting them off coming to class. Therein a vicious circle begins). So in today’s video, I want to, gently, help give you some assurance that YOU CAN DO IT!

If the idea of improvising to a bellydance song sends you into a panic, today’s post is for you.

I’d love to know what you thought of today’s video, do leave a comment on youtube if you have any tips, experience or thoughts to add!

If you want to explore my “Preparation for Improvisation” class with studies and exercises to get you improvising with confidence, why not think about subscribing to my online studio? You’ll find that class along with oodles of a growing library of my tuition, choreography and drills videos: santamariabellydanceonline.com

Thanks for reading and watching, it’s great to be back after my maternity leave :)

Love and shimmies,

Helen xx

Ps. Are you in the loop? Subscribe for blog updates with bellydance tips to get on track and stay inspired. Plus receive my free online class! Go here to get yours.

Bellydancing again after childbirth – my plan

After spending much of the last 3 months at home in my PJs with a new baby, I thought I’d check in and share with you my thoughts and feelings about my journey back into dance after childbirth.

This isn’t “produced” the same way as my usual blog posts, so please forgive the rough and ready style!

See what I have to say about starting from “ground zero” (again). Maybe you can identify with how I’m feeling too :)

Are you ready to feel stronger, more at home and confident in your dancing? If you’re local to Reading, UK, then you might enjoy one of our 5 week Drills and Technique courses with which we’re kicking off 2017. It’s the perfect opportunity to focus consistently on your strength and technique for a few solid weeks.

I couldn’t be more proud of my AMAZEBALLS team of coaches! Go to our classes page to see which level and location is right for you. (I won’t personally be teaching this course, but you may see me in attendance, it’s going to be mega).

Not local to Reading, UK? Or are you a complete beginner and can’t wait to get started? Why not check out my new online studio! There you’ll find a library of classes, techniques, warm ups, cool downs, exercises, drills and choreography sequences. (You even get the first 3 days for free so you can see if you dig it before paying)

Wherever you are in the world and whoever you dance with, I wish you joyful dancing :-)

Thank you so much for reading, I really do appreciate it.

Love,

Helen xx

 

 

Bellydance drill: shoulder shimmies

1

Are your shoulder shimmies out of control? Or, worse still, non-existent?

Do you try your best but somehow you can’t seem to get your shoulder shimmies off the ground?

Perhaps you’re stuck in a rut with your choreography and need an injection of ideas for shoulder shimmy layers and patterns?

If you need help drilling down and getting serious about your shoulder shimmies then today’s blog post is definitely for you.

I’ve put together a short shoulder shimmy drill that you can do with me on a regular basis to get your technique looking tip top.

This time I’ve given you a “follow me” style class with no verbal tuition. It’s a bit of an experiment to see what works best for you. So please feel free to post your thoughts below the youtube video, or even drop me a message to let me know what you think. And, of course, give me a thumbs up so I know you dig this kind of thing.

So turn the phone to silent, kick off your shoes, make a little space and get started!

If you’re local to Reading, UK then you might like to check out our next term’s classes launching in Autumn 2016 (we have early bird course prices up until 13 July). I’ve just finished devising the course syllabuses with my crack team of coaches. They really are the most caring, expert and consummate teachers I have ever come across and I feel blessed to have them on the SMBA team. Go here to book your spot (limited places).

Thank you so much for checking out today’s blog, I really am grateful to “see” you here.

Until next time, love and shimmies,

Helen xx

 

Express bellydance class: How to do a reverse camel

13321815_10153528312991857_8778267634966787494_nA recent selfie taken during some filming!

Let me ask you a quick Q: what’s your “nemesis” step?

I.e. the one that makes you want to stamp your foot toddler style and throw your hipscarf out the window.

When I was a relatively new bellydance student I was super frustrated about not being able to get the hang of reverse camels. I would watch other dancers impressively rolling their tummies so easily and effortlessly, quite frankly I was pretty jealous!

Can you relate to this?

After a few months of serious practice with a good dose of patience and determination and I was rolling away no problem.

So this week I set myself a challenge: how swiftly and concisely can I teach the technique for reverse camel?

The result was an express 2 and a half minute bellydance tutorial on reverse camel technique with a full breakdown of the actions and how to put it all together. How successful it is will be up to you to decide!

Why not come on over and join me in the class now, it will only take just over 2 mins:

If you liked today’s blog post then I’d be so grateful if you were to leave me a comment on youtube. And of course, be sure to share it with your friends, it might be just what somebody needs :)

Thanks for reading, with lots of love,

Helen xx

Ps. Are you in the loop? Subscribe for blog updates with bellydance tips to get on track and stay inspired. Plus receive my free online class! Go here to get yours.

12 schoolgirl mistakes to avoid when buying a bellydance costume

DSCF2756.120037Some of our stunning successful exam candidates looking gorgeous!

Do you have an upcoming hafla or showcase? Are you thinking of investing in some bellydance bling? Then today’s blog post is essential reading for you if you want to avoid some common pitfalls.

This week I’ve put together my 12 essential tips for ensuring you only ever invest in costuming that makes you feel and look utterly divine.

Don’t even think about buying your next cossie before you check out this week’s blog! Notepad and pen ready? Let’s get started …

  • Beware of the Cinderella Syndrome

You’ve seen your dream fairy-tale costume, it’s absolutely perfect and you just know you’ll transform into an exquisite goddess the moment you put it on. Or, you end up buying a costume that doesn’t quite fit just because you’ve fallen in love with the design.

Some costumes can easily be altered or adjusted, but many require expertise that is beyond most of us. Sometimes you just have to accept that it wasn’t meant to be. This leads me on to point 2 …

  • Be honest about your “side-boob”

I’ve done it, perhaps you’ve done it too. That is, had an emperor’s-new-clothes-moment when you tried on a gorgeous bra top and convinced yourself that it fits properly, despite the fact that you were clearly trying to wedge those puppies into a space way too small. You realize that you’re essentially playing the kid’s game Whack a Mole where you squash one down but another one pops up the other side. That’s not what I want for you.

It might be gutting to admit it (and no, you probably can’t drape or sew some material over to make it look like it fits, it’s a structural issue) and I mean these words with love: it doesn’t fit and you’ll have to find another, bigger, one.

  • Avoid always buying the same colour

It can be comforting and reassuring to know what suits you, however don’t be afraid to try something completely different and get out of your comfort zone. If you need some imagination, try asking your friends what you think might suit you (small caveat, ask friends whose sense of style and eye for colour you admire).

If you have the budget to get your costume made, get ideas from the designer as to what might suit you. Try not to be resistant to all the suggestions, especially if they come from a professional designer, they know what they’re talking about and you may be surprised at what you’re able to wear. If I hadn’t listened to Hoda Zaki many years ago telling me I should try green I would probably still only be wearing navy blue costumes.

* Think outside the box and consider prints, patterns, styles and fabrics that you wouldn’t normally choose. Dig deep into your confidence and go for it – if it helps to hear it: permission granted.

  • Don’t put all your pennies in one basket

If you are on a budget or you want to build up your bellydance wardrobe quickly with a few different costumes, don’t go for costumes where the belt is sewn all in one into the skirt. Rather, go for separate bra, belt and skirt sets so you can mix and match different skirts and harem pants and get several different looks out of just a couple of costumes. Then you can build up your collection of skirts and easily (and affordably) get a fresh look. Buying a super distinctive costume is great but it won’t leave you with many options.

  • Give body stockings a chance

Not all of us want to bare our tummies and that’s absolutely fine, you don’t have to. Though if deep down you’d love to wear a two piece but feel a little shy, try using a gorgeous sparkly body stocking underneath to ease you into it. If it helps to hear it: permission granted.

  • Think about combining things that you already have in the wardrobe

Be creative and combine different colour bedlahs and skirts. If you’re scared about doing this a great way to start is with a gold or silver bedlah that you can mix and match with different skirts, trousers and layer up with belts and other embellishments.

  • Consider what you’re letting yourself in for when buying general size costumes.

Although it can be cost-saving and practical, there are many hidden horrors when buying a one-size-fits-all outfit. Buying your costume isn’t the end of the story. You will have to double check the fit (especially if you’ve bought it online) and how if shifts about when you dance. Is it too long? Will you trip over? Is the skirt loose? Do you need to reinforce it with elastic? Will is slide down? Does the bra need padding out? Is it see-through?

As a rule of thumb: don’t expect anything you order online to fit you properly and always be prepared to invest some extra time in making it fit you properly.

Another danger of buying online: beware of see through material. That luscious, full, rich-coloured skirt you saw on ebay can sometimes turn out to be one thin flimsy layer of chiffon. This can lead to the unenviable situation of your undies being on full show; not a great look unless that’s what you’re going for.  Skimpy material isn’t necessarily a problem but you’ll have to have something waiting in the wings to layer it up with.

  • Beware of buying online when having no or little information about the company you’re buying from.

I’ll tell you straight: I’ve been burned. I bought a costume from a company abroad that I knew relatively little about and yep, my costume never showed up and there was no customer service in sight.  Stick to vendors that you know you can trust. Also, always check the sellers’ returns and refunds policy before buying.

  • Never order a costume too close to a show, especially if the seller is abroad.

It should be an exciting time when you’re building up to a show and waiting for your costume to arrive the week before can take the edge off it a bit! If you have to put in a last minute online order, try to buy from somewhere based in your home country who can offer you next day delivery.

  • Avoid choosing a costume because it looks good on somebody else.

Seeing a costume you like is a bit like falling in love: you think about it all the time, you obsess over it and you just want to HAVE it. However, if you’ve seen a costume on another dancer or model then bear in mind that you are looking at her as well as the dress. It may be a costume that you’ve seen on a top professional dancer, in which case you may have been wooed by her dancing as well as her outfit. The costume may well have been designed specifically for her, her body shape, hair colour and dance style. Think carefully and objectively about whether this costume will be right for you.

  • Think twice before buying into trends and go for a classic style. * disclaimer: unless you have pots of money or can easily whip up your own on a sewing machine

This is especially true if you want to go on to sell your costume so you can afford the next one. If you have a very specifically stylized, fashion-conscious costume then you may very quickly feel that “everybody’s seen this costume now” and you need another one. It’s also tricky to sell a costume that looks dated and out of fashion.

  • Add your own embellishments

The classic giveaway that you are a bellydancer goes something like this: you regularly buy up broken jewelry, go to charity shops to snag bargain belts, tassel shawls and jewelry, you recycle old costume jewelry to customize your costumes, your friends and family have started giving you gawdy accessories they found in the bargain bin at Primark.

* BONUS RESOURCE: check out my interview with Princess Farhana and home in at around 32min 50s  where the Princess gives us super detailed instructions on how to get a bedlah costume to fit perfectly, plus other surprizing pearls of wisdom about costuming. This really is priceless advice from one of the world’s best known bellydancers so be sure to take a look.

One final point for ambitious student dancers and fledgling professionals:

* If you are making the transition into professional performance work then you will need a professional costume that fits you perfectly. It’s not the time to cut corners when you are trying to send out the message that you want to be seen as a pro. Ideally you will either have your costume professionally made and fitted, or you will have it altered and adjusted by a professional to get it just right. It might sound harsh and a little unforgiving, but presenting yourself as a professional means putting yourself up for scrutiny from head to toe, both from your audience and from whoever is paying you. First impressions are crucial, take the time to get your costuming perfect and you’ll be sure to make an impact for all the right reasons. Be prepared to shell out a lot of money to invest in your first 3 costumes, then think of regularly selling them on and replacing them to keep your wardrobe fresh.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s blog, if so I’d love it if you were to share the love with your bellydance friends!

Are you a student local to the mother-ship here in Reading, UK? Then I’d like to invite you to join us for some really beautiful events that we have coming up this Summer starting with a day full of dance  on Sunday June 12th.

In the morning I’ll be teaching a sassy, shaabi-esque choreography in a punchy 90 minute workshop. It’s suitable for beginners upwards so don’t be shy! Expect plenty of drills and technique to help you polish up the routine. Go here to book your spot.

Then, in the afternoon, we have our annual BellyQueen showcase and award presentations. This is where you get to see a dazzling line up of bellydance performers including the successful exam candidates and SMBA Teaching Apprentice graduates  showcasing their Bronze, Silver and Gold routines.

I’m proud to say that BellyQueen is a charity event and all proceeds from it go to the amazing Plan UK, specifically to their Girls Fund which helps to ensure that vulnerable girls all over the world are given the opportunity to safely gain an education safely. This is a great opportunity for you to contribute to a really important and timely cause, I’d love to see you there.

If you’d like to snap up one of the remaining tickets of the workshop and/or BellyQueen, go here and book your spot.

Finally, I am suuuuuuuuper excited to say that an unmissable “Drills and Skills Workshop: Pilates for bellydance with technique drills” will be running in conjunction with SMBA in Central Reading from 7.30-9.30pm on Tuesdays 19th July (Sold out) and 26th July (just a few spaces left!). We only have a limited number of places and by popular demand we added the second session on Tuesday 26th July (hint: it’s likely to book up fast).

The workshop is hosted and part taught by SMBA’s coach Natasha. Natasha is currently one of our fantastic troupe level coach and choreographers and is known for her high energy teaching and precision technique. She’s teaming up with Caroline Rutzler, an expert in conditioning top level dancers through Pilates to deliver a 2 hour session that will really pack a punch in terms of achieving sound, isolated and safe technique. How lucky are we????

Find out exactly what to expect and book your place on Natasha’s site here (there’s an early bird price too).

Thank you for reading, I really do appreciate it, and of course remember to share it with all your bellydance friends :)

Love and shimmies,
Helen x

Want uber powerful hipwork? Try this daily bellydance drill for 30 days!

daily bellydance drill for powerful hipwork

I’m a big believer in practicing what you preach and the title of today’s blog is no exception.

How do I know that this week’s blog video can help you get stronger hipwork in 30 days? Because after having my first baby almost 3 years ago I had to find a way of getting my moves back up to full strength – pronto.

After some recuperation time where I spent most of my time nurturing and breastfeeding a baby (and indulging in a slice of cake or two), I had to face the reality that I had teaching commitments and performances looming close.

With my confidence taking a dip as I adjusted to my new body shape, I needed to get my mind and body back into “dancer mode”. So I started practicing this effective, speedy drill that didn’t need lots of space or time.

We’re talking one of those multi-tasking-when-you’re-brushing-your-teeth type drills. Yeah, you know the one!

After just a couple of weeks or so doing this drill every day I could begin to feel the speed and strength coming back to my hip actions. And yes, my confidence began to come back too.

So I invite you to join me for this short practice session every day for the next 30 days. My hope is that you too will enjoy the feeling of extra power in your hips and confidence in your dance.

Are you feeling the pressure about a upcoming performance or event? Don’t panic. Instead, take small, daily actions – like today’s drill –  to help  hone and improve your technique and build your confidence.

If you liked today’s blog post then I’d be so grateful if you were to leave me a comment on youtube. And of course, be sure to share it with your friends, especially if you know they are nervous about an upcoming event, it might be just what she needs.

Thank you for reading and watching, I’m looking forward to practicing “together” again soon :)

Hugs and shimmies,
Helen xx

 

Learn how to do this super sexy “Katie step” in 6 mins

Vintage

Firstly, huge thanks to you for wishing me and my bump well recently, I’m so grateful for your warm wishes :)

You probably already know that I am a huge fan of “Golden Age”, or as I call it “Vintage”, bellydance. The glamour and film star quality of those dancers just gets me every time with it’s understated elegance.

Trying to emulate in incorporate that into my own dancing has been a scary and intimidating process. After all, most of the dancers from the era of classic Egyptian film are no longer around to teach us their moves.

Plus, these ladies were film stars, not teachers. In fact the idea of “teaching” bellydance is a relatively new concept.

This week I want to try to break through the mystery of one of these black and white beauties and teach you a gorgeous move that I’ve studied from the utterly adorable dancer Katy Voutsaki.

This is a super sexy step that looks and feels ultra feminine and powerful at the same time. What could be better?!

Are you ready to add a luscious move to your repertoire? Here we go!

 

If you found this class useful, I’d be so grateful if you were to share it with all your friends. It might be just what somebody needs. Scroll down to the share buttons below this post and share the love!

If you’re not already signed up to receive email updates from me with other bellydance goodies, subscribe now and you’ll receive a free online bellydance class (my way of saying “thanks” for signing up).

Thank you for reading and watching,

With love and shimmies,

Helen xx

 

Are you making these 2 common mistakes in your bellydance practice?

1

I spend most of my working life thinking about my students. I think about them A LOT. And, as one of my blog readers, that means I think about you a lot :-)

As my own life gets more hectic (and will be even more in a few months time!) I’m continuing my mission to help you get more out of your home bellydance practice session without spending more time.

Among my students I’m known for devising drills which really pack a punch on technique and conditioning. I LOVE finding ways to help my students make their dancing better. What I love even more is helping them stay on track when life gets hectic. That means getting as much out of a practice session whilst keeping it short, simple, un-intimidating and fun!

So here is a short lesson from me on how to get better results from your practice session. I’ll let you know (in the gentlest possible way) where you’re currently going wrong and what to do to put it right.

Be sure to leave a comment under the video on youtube and of course give it a thumbs up if you enjoyed it!

Before I go, a loving reminder to my local students that early bird prices for our summer term end after tomorrow! Many courses are almost fully booked so don’t miss out, go here to book your spot.

Thank you, as always, for reading and watching.

Love and shimmies,
Helen xxoo

Ps. I know many of you aren’t local to the mother-ship here in Reading, but If you come from further afield in the UK and would like to make the journey join in some temporary SMBA fun then my Summer Anthem Choreography workshop could be right up your street. This is a short, fun punchy workshop where you’ll learn a routine a cool and catchy Arabic pop tune. Go here to get the full skinny and sign up!

 

1

Bellydance technique: upper body practice drill

One of my favourite parts of being a bellydance teacher is giving students one on one attention in my private classes. Maybe it’s because there’s a hint of Spring in the air but lots of my private coaching clients are asking for help and advice on a perormance piece they are planning for the Summer.

I wonder if you are too? Maybe you’re lookig forward to an end of term show with your class or a string of Summer solo performances.

I know what you might be thinking: “steady on girl, it’s only March!” Yes, I know we’ve only just finished the last of the Christmas cake and shaken off the hangover from New Year’s Eve, but there’s a seed I want to sow with you right now.

That is: how you’re going to look and feel as a dancer in 3 months time depends on what you do right now.

With that in mind, I’ve created another short, sweet yet effective drill to get you on the road to looking your absolute best for your Summer performances. I present to you my upper body technique practice drill.

Ready for some “me time”? Let’s dive in!

Let e know if you dig this kind of content by giving me a thumbs up on youtube, and of course I’d love it if you were to leave a comment with your thoughts too :)

If you’ve been dancing for a whole now, have you ever wondered how to become a bellydance teacher? Have you considered teaching but no idea where to start? Perhaps you’ve already been approached by friends or an organization to teach a class and weren’t sure what to say, whether to charge or even if you’re ready to teach. Maybe you already teach but you’re finding it tough going (how do you find the students?!)

If any of this resonates with you then you might be a suitable candidate to undertake my SMBA Apprenticeship in Summer 2016. There are just 2 places available this term.

If you would like coaching and mentoring from me on everything from how to set up your first website, find your first students and create sell out classes, then I’d love to invite you to apply for an SMBA Apprenticeship place starting in mid April. Just hit reply, tell me a bit about yourself and I’ll send you the full SMBA Apprenticeship info pack.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to join me in this week’s video – see you there!

With much love and shimmies,

Helen x

Ps. Are you in the loop? Subscribe for blog updates with bellydance tips to get on track and stay inspired. Plus receive my free online class! Go here to get yours.