Romana Gets Real…

It’s inevitable. Every student eventually experiences it. The seemingly lightning-fast pace of progress slows to a plod. Then stops. Weeks go by, frustration sets in.

Welcome to year two of any dance you’ll ever study, but in this case it’s “belly dance.” Thought you’d rocket along like a “raqs star” forever and pretty much catch up to Arbibi in about three-four years? Thought you’d be gigging restaurants and fielding calls from TV shows in about six months? Thought you were already a pro (bitch, please) because you were making progress so “fast”?

Look, other bloggers are not going to be this brutally blunt. They love being brutal, sure, but the brutal ones are rarely also “helpful.” Instead they like to posture themselves as mystical experts that you have to semi-worship to get their thousand word tidbits. Some only tell you what you want to hear out of a desperate attempt to get a “like” and a “share.”

But I’m gonna tell you what your teacher should have already said, if he or she is worth their ilk at all, as I’m sure, as a good student, you have already turned to your mentor with your concerns.

No? Perhaps you should be a better student by voicing your concerns to your teacher before reading some random internet advice.

Here’s the trick. NO PERFORMING ART has a curvilinear progress chart. It’s more like, sharp inclines and plateaus. If you’re a microbiologist like me, think of log phase, lag phase, log phase, lag phase.

But there is no stationary phase in art. Forget it.


If you’ve entered a lag phase, or a time of little perceived growth or improvement, do this one thing:

Take a video of yourself now and compare it point for point (preferably WITH your teacher) versus yourself 365 days ago. Odds are your perceived stagnation is just that- in your head.

But that doesn’t make your feelings of frustration less real or necessary to deal with. Here is one thing, student or pro, you need to do to fight through your artistic lag phase.


Odds are, you probably haven’t actually even committed to a consistent daily practice to begin with. Now is the time to start. Look up some of Rachel Brice’s posts and advice about developing a consistent daily practice- she’s the queen of it. And until you’ve done that, follow this simple plan:

Make a list of five things you either HATE or think you’re bad at. It could go something like this

-traveling moves (ugh)

– improv (I’m boring and I can never think of what to do)

– zil patterns beyond gallop (I can’t do music)

– looking like I’m not having a colonoscopy on stage (double ugh)

– the song Leilet Hob, god I hate that song


OK, looks like this week you will layering a 3-5-5 zil pattern over traveling steps to the fast section (pick one) of leilet hob! While looking like this is your FAVORITE SONG EVERRRRRRRR.

But you’re not doing this all at once.

Take another look, and re-adjust all that negative out of your plan while you’re at it. (Because I’ve dealt with enough students by now, I know it’s there). Negative Nellies remain lifelong hobbyists. Positive Pollies go pro.

Every time I hear a negative comment come from a student’s mouth, I mentally add six months to their timeline before they will be capable of going pro.

Remember that. Tattoo it on your wrist. Post it to your forehead. Positivity breeds professionals. Negativity breeds ne’er do wells who want to tear down everyone else. Don’t be a Negative Nelly.



DAY ONE: traveling moves (I saw April Rose do a killer choo choo grapevine thing, I’m gonna try it!)

DAY TWO: improv (I shazaamed an awesome shaabi song at the end of Kelly’s class, I’m gonna dance to it todayyyy!)

DAY THREE: I’m going to invest in Jamila’s finger cymbal pattern CD because I care about history and progression of the dance. 3-5-5 here I come! I wonder if that pattern will fit over a random song from the radio…

DAY FOUR: Boy, I love Egyptian music, and I want to convey my feelings to the audience, maybe I’ll take a few minutes to look up the history and translation of Leilet Hob, and think about what it means to me personally, and how I can bring that deeper understanding out on stage.

DAY FIVE: Wow! I never realized dancing to Leilet Hob could be so much amazing fun! I wonder if I can improv to this song at the next student showcase…

DAY SIX/SEVEN: I’m going to reward myself for my awesome work with Leilet Hob this week and dance to some funky fusion music one day, and the other day I’m going to drill some layers that I’ve already been working on, oh and just for about 5-15 minutes, I have a job, you know!

There you go. And if you fall off the CDP bandwagon, don’t waste your (or my) time bitching about it. If you need a break, take a break. That’s the luxury of being a student or hobbyist. You can take breaks. Just jump back on at the next stop in a couple days. Odds are, that train is about to accelerate. Exponentially.

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