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7 styles of learning dance

AURAL (Auditory-Musical)


Prefer: Sound and music

What to use: Create rhymes when memorizing

                        Sounds recording (as background to help you visualize)

                        Anchor your emotions with a song that touches you

Personal advice: 

- Prior dancing to a new song (whether improvising or choreographing), sit down, shut down all distractions and carefully listen to the music. Identify the rhythms and if possible, follow them with your claps and mouth.

- Buy a CD with plain rhythms (such as the instructional CDs from Osvaldo Brandan, Argentina, which are available in Amazon or Ebay), and play while driving, cooking, etc. This will help you get familiarized with how a particular rhythm goes, and when dancing to it, you will feel more comfortable since your brain already recognizes it.

 - Make your students listen to the song you are introducing them to in class (if they are performing to it, make sure the song is available to them so they can get familiarized with it by listening constantly prior performance).

     "Todos los Ritmos Arabes" Vol. 1

     "Todos los Ritmos Arabes" Vol. 1


VISUAL (Spatial)


Prefer: Pictures, images, understanding space

What to use: Visual media (pictures and images)

                         Colors (to highlight major and minor points)

                         Mind maps (spatial organization) 

                         Layouts (spatial organization)

                         Replace words with pictures

Mind map

Mind map


Personal advice: 

- When choreographing, it may help to draw out the foot pattern you follow on stage. 

- Before performing/competing, take a moment to close your eyes, breath deeply, and visualize your choreography in mind. Do so repeatedly, and it will help improve your confidence on stage.



VERBAL (Linguistic)


Prefer: Words (in speech and/or writing)

What to use: Practice scripting and more writing

                         When reading out loud, play with the tones of your voice

                          Role-play with someone to learn verbal exchanges (i.e. negotiations)

Personal advice:
- When preparing a class, I write down the main points I want to teach (i.e. Pops and Locks, Traveling shimmy, Figure eights), and a line or two extra if I want to remember something in particular (i.e. Practice slow and fast, add arms at different positions, etc).

- When teaching rhythms to students, it may help writing down the sounds of the rhythms as for example with baladi: Dum Dum Taca Tak Dum Taca Tak Taca.



PHYSICAL (Kinesthetic)


Prefer: Sense of touch (body, hands)

What to use: Focus on the sensations on each scenario

                         Describe the physical feeling of your actions

                         Use as many physical objects as possible

                         Writing and drawing are considered physical activities

                         Practice skills and behaviors with a partner

Personal advice:

- Before performing, sit down, relax, and rather than focusing much on remembering the choreography as it is, try focusing on how it makes you feel. For example, what sensation do you feel in your arms when doing that turn? Does that Baladi gives you stomach butterflies? Remembering these feelings will help you go through with your performance with much ease.

- Record yourself rehearsing and point out a particular combo, step or expression you will like to work on/eliminate. Focus on remembering what was the physical feeling you had while doing so. Next time you start getting that feeling while dancing, you will remember easier what you need to work on/correct.


LOGICAL (Mathematical)


Prefer: Systems, logic, reasoning.

What to use: Extract key points and make a list

                        Do associations when learning

                        Think about the system to learn the bigger picture

                        Understand reason behind content and skills


Personal advice:

- When choreographing, I like making my combos easy to follow for my body by inertia. For example, I am doing a hip drop with my right hip (weight on the left), and then cross my right foot to complete a turn to my left. In other words, work on doing a dance sequence that is logic for your body - that way you will avoid getting "blanks" and forgetting what comes next.

- When teaching a step, always break it down so the student can understand how that particular move is built up. This will help them perform better!





Prefer: Learning in groups

What to use: Share your key assertions with your group members

                    In group, practice behaviors to learn how to deal with variation

                    Share association and visualization techniques

Personal advice:

- When teaching, you can make different groups (2-3 students each), give them a piece of a song, and ask them to work together to choreograph to it in 15-20 minutes. This will help them put in practice what they are learning and the experience will feed their own development.

- Ask your students to share how they feel with a particular move/song/choreography/lesson. What is more challenging? And what feels more comfortable? This will most likely broaden the perspective the other dancers have, and nurture their own views/feelings on the piece.





Prefer: Self-study, work alone.


What to use: Find a personal interest in your topics

                    Align your goals and objectives with your values (be coherent)

                    Self-confidence (you drive yourself by the way you see yourself internally)

                    Positive thinking (your thoughts have a large influence on your      


Personal advice:

- Remember Albert Einstein's quote "Genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work". Practice, practice, and practice. This will be of great help to increase your confidence about your skills and performance.

- Record one "good" rehearsal and keep it. Whenever you start feeling dubious of your work or anxious, look at it and remember it may all be in your head. Just keep practicing. "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." - Aristotl

- CONNECT to the song. If you get to choose it, choose one that touches you deeply. When I close my eyes listening to a new song just to enjoy it, I know it is reaching to me at a deeper level. If you do not get to choose it (as a student or teacher), find a connection to the song. Bring out memories, look for associations, listen to it with an open mind.

Drum Solo in Belly Dance

The gorgeous and wonderful Sadie performing one of her “Wait… how did that just…what?” (I bet I am not the only one that has had that expression while watching her!). This is the very first belly dance performance I ever saw, many years ago.  

I am in love with the sounds of drums, especially coming from the darbukka. I find truly hypnotizing how the body imitates and follows so closely the music... the connection a dancer must have to the beat is unique. When dancing, whether you are just starting or have been doing it for a long time, you are in a constant “re-discovery” state; I believe you get to rediscover not only your own body, but your rawness inside as well, your reactions, your instincts. In my opinion, a drum solo in belly dance perfectly represents that state of rediscovery. For the length of the song, you devote yourself to the music, to your intuition, and let the joy flow out of your body, just in time to catch the upcoming "Dum" or "Tak".



Also known as doumbek, dombak, tablah (from the Arabic word “tabl” which means drum), among others. This Arabic hourglass-shaped drum is the instrument used for a drum solo in belly dance.


Back in the day, they were made up of ceramic, while the head of the drum was made up of either fish skin or goatskin. Nowadays, however, the heads tend to be synthetic, and the body is sometimes metallic.

The “Dum” sound is produced when striking the center of the drum, while the “Tak” sound (high-pitched) comes out of knocking the edge of the drum.


Dancing to a Drum Solo:

Pops, locks and shimmies tend to predominate in a drum solo performance. The layering moves (isolating the body) attempts to reflect the rhythms played on the drum. It is considered very challenging given that the dancer needs to have a great control of her technique in order to achieve sharp movements. The dance tends to be very energetic, and tends to be playful as well.

Originally, the drummer will perform a song never heard before by the dancer. It is why some people refer to it as an “Ask-Answer” interaction, given that the drummer is initiating the “conversation” by introducing a certain rhythm, and the dancer dances to it, hence “answering” to his call. Over the years, drum solo songs have been recorded, edited and dancers now also choreograph to them.

In 2013, I went to the worldwide recognized festival "Belly Dancer of the Universe" in Long Beach, California. It was such an inspiring weekend, full of emotions and beautiful talent from all over the world! I was honored by having the opportunity of dancing at the Opening Ceremony, next to Sadie and other four beautiful artists from different parts of the world. It was also a true gift to have danced that piece with live music by the one and only Amir Sofi! Although it was a choreographed piece (by Sadie), we were all asked to improvise for a while at the middle of the song. When dancing to live music, even though the dancer and the musician may have agreed on a song beforehand, the song will never be exactly the same. You have to be ready to improvise, go with your guts, and give your best at all times - and that includes not only a clean beautiful technique, but a great smile to the audience. Sadie made us feel so comfortable we hardly felt nervous by the improvisation part. We all let our bodies follow the beat of the drums.

                                                                           Amir Sofi, Rosa and Sadie.

                                                                          Amir Sofi, Rosa and Sadie.


This drum solo was my first winning performance. First Place "Ultimate Belly Dancer" (2012)


Another drum solo piece, performed in Peru, Dec 2013.



Videos :

I want to share with you some drum solo performances (from all styles) I personally find very beautiful.


JILLINA (USA): Her dedication to this art form is inspiring. And so is her talent.

AMANI (Lebanon): I fell in love with Lebanese Style through this amazing bellydancer.

SADIE (USA): The Queen of Drum solos; Can’t miss watching her.

AALIAH y SHAHDANA (Argentina): This is a wonderful piece. I had the chance to meet and dance next to Aaliah in 2011. Her creativity is outstanding, and I feel this video shows it clearly.

SHAHDANA (Argentina): I watched this Tap Derbake a while ago and truly think is amazing.

DARIYA MITSKEVICH (Ukraine): Beautiful piece.

AIDA (Russia): Aida's style is amusing to me. Such delicacy!

SONIA OCHOA (USA): This piece by Sonia, one of the Belly Dance Superstars is just gorgeous.


And what is your favorite drum solo performance?

8 qualities dancers develop


1. Respect

Dancers learn to have respect. Respect for the dance and culture itself, and respect for dancers that have been dedicated for years, have contributed so much to the community, and have been an icon in the dance world. It is necessary to recognize that mastering a skill, in this case, a dance style, it only comes with years of studying, practicing and experience. Dancers also learn to respect people in their community, such as teachers, partners, students, and anyone involved in their development. A dancer understands she shouldn't compare herself to others or be disrespectful with anyone else. Last but not least, dancers learn to respect their own body. You should work with your body, not against your body.


2. Discipline

Confidence comes from discipline and training. Dancing, just as any other performing arts, requires hours and hours of practice, and the only way to achieve so, it's through discipline. It's necessary for dancers to be willing to repeat something over, and over, and over again, until not only you get it right, but until you can't get it wrong anymore. We are always looking for new ways to do something we may have already have done before. It takes focus, concentration and a lot of determination that will not succumb under any obstacle.  

"Dreams are achieved not by luck, but by purpose, passion and discipline"                 Dancer: Mariangel Rodriguez;  Photographer: Carlos Matos;   Art Director: Rosa Vasquez

"Dreams are achieved not by luck, but by purpose, passion and discipline"

           Dancer: Mariangel Rodriguez;  Photographer: Carlos Matos;   Art Director: Rosa Vasquez


3. Courage

It takes courage to stand up on stage in front of 10 or 1000 people and perform - whether it's dancing, singing, or acting. Dancers develop the courage necessary to fight anxiety, the fear of not performing well, forgetting the routine or just the fear of being ridiculed by the audience. It also takes courage to ask for help, whether for coaching or just a constructive advice, in order to improve your own dancing. Also, dancers are courageous enough to believe in their own skills and abilities, and their own capacity of improving and developing their technique and expression when performing. 


4. Passion

It is not enough to be slightly curious or attracted to dance to stick with it. You must develop a strong feeling and commitment that will keep you going even when you don't want to continue anymore. A dancer learns how to motivate her/himself despite of being tired, hungry, with "no inspiration", or not having the perfect setting for practicing/performing. It is the passion that we feel for dancing that gets us through the process of learning and growing every single day.


5. Dedication

It takes so much effort and tenacity to become a good professional dancer. It is not enough to just take classes, but to practice on your own as well. Dancers, especially in belly dance, learn that they also have to dedicate to contribute with their own community and support other fellow dancers. You need to go to festivals, workshops, meet teachers, performers, get involved. And that requires time and dedication as well. Dancers' dedication also involves watching and learning from outstanding performers. You spend hours watching videos and live performances. A dancer learns that she needs to understand also the history of the dance, the culture and the language of the songs; and that she needs to take care of her own body since its the vehicle used to express herself when dancing.  

"Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body" Martha Graham     Dancer: Mariangel Rodriguez;  Photographer: Carlos Matos;       Art Director: Rosa Vasquez

"Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body" Martha Graham

Dancer: Mariangel Rodriguez;  Photographer: Carlos Matos;  

Art Director: Rosa Vasquez

6. Patience

The process of learning any skill in general takes time. One does not become great at something in particular from one day to the other. For dancing, one must learn how to be patient with himself. A dancer needs to undersetand her/his own body, be patient and strongly believe that whether it takes you less or more time to get where you want to go, you will get there if you are determined enough. Do not try to rush the process of learning and developing. Dancers need to understand their own process and ways of learning, and be patient with themselves.

7. Persistence

Persistence takes you through those longs hours of rehearsing. Persistence will get you where you want to go, and more. Persistence will make you master that particular step or choreography, even if you don't get it right the first 20 times. If someone criticizes your work, you will stay strong and continue to believe in yourself thanks to persistence as well.

8. Humility

Dancers need to be humble enough to accept they don't know something, and hence, they need help to learn it. This humility should not make you feel less than other people, but stronger. It allows you to receive help and guidance from others that are already further ahead in the path you are just starting now. Humility allows us to take the best out of advices other dancers or teachers give us. It also permits us to learn from our mistakes, and grow better every time. Dancers that learn to be humble, will recognize that even when they have achieved so much in their dance career, they can always learn something from others, and that there is always room for improvement. 

10 reasons why dancing makes you smarter

1) Increases your intelligence and solving problem skills.

Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist and philosopher defines intelligence as "what we use when we don't already know what to do". When the brain evaluates many viable responses to an unfamiliar situation, and choose one of them (not by automatic response or habit), then this cognitive process is considered to be intelligent.

Dancing, especially improvising, requires a great amount of decision-making (split-second decision making in particular). This trains your brain to create new neurological pathways which overall improves your intelligence and ability in solving problems.

2) Improves your focus

Right after exercising, you are at your peak of attention and focus abilities. Dr. John Ratey, author of "Spark - The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain" says thatexercising (i.e. dancing) improves your brain in the short term by increasing your focus abilities for 2-3 hours afterwards. This is because exercising increases the neuroplasticity and serotonin levels of your brain and body (Points 5 and 6 below).

3) Enhances learning abilities

Studies demonstrate that exercising helps increase your learning and memory abilities. Exercising (i.e. dancing) increases the amount of oxygen in your brain, enhances energy production and waste removal. It also increases the level of growth factors in the brain - which helps replenishing brain cells and establishing new connections. This applies especially to exercises that challenges physical or hand-eye coordination, such as dancing, or exercises you have never tried before (may be a new dance style such as Flamenco).

"A team of German researches found high school students who had completed ten-minutes of complicated fitness routines scored better on high-attention tasks than those who did 10 minutes of regular activity. Notably, those who did not exercise scored the worst."


4) Helps impulse control

Dancing triggers your endorphin levels which actually improves the ability of your brain to prioritize. After exercising, your ability to sort out priorities improves, which will allow you to block distractions and concentrate better.

5) Increases serotonin ("happiness hormone") level

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter found in your intestinal tract, central nervous system, blood plateles and the pineal gland (at the center of your brain).  It is responsible for enhancing brain's functions, such as learning. Research studies have also demonstrated that increased levels of serotonin improves your sense of well-being by improving your mood, appetite and sleep.

A study done at Princeton University says "serotonin is also known as a happiness hormone because it contributes to feelings of well-being."


6) Increases elasticity of the brain

The cerebral cortex and hippocampus of our brains are very elastic. They "rewire" themselves after each use. Dancing helps "rewire" our brain - it helps forming new neural pathways increasing the stimulation of our brain. The cerebral cortex's functions include memory, awareness, consciousness and attention. The hippocampus is a major component of the human brain - and plays a role in spatial memory and navigation.

7) Increases your energy (and ability to think clearer)

After dancing, you feel energized. Dancing (exercising in general) regularly not only improves your muscle strength and boosts your endurance, but it will also give you the energy needed to think clearer. If you are performing a task that requires high levels of concentration but not much physical movement (i.e. studying), every now and then take at least a 10-15 minutes break, move around or dance for a while. This will increase the production of energy in your body and enhance your ability to think clearer and come up with new ideas.

8) Increases/Improves cognitive functions at ALL ages

Cognitive function refers to our ability to process thoughts. It includes memory, attention, speech abilities, reading comprehension, and ability to learn new information. Aging and certain diseases may affect these functions over time resulting in memory loss and trouble with communication. Dancing improves your cognitive functions, regardless at what age you start.


9) Reduces the risk of dementia (including Alzheimer's disease)

Dancing improves our cognitive functions over time, which reduces our risk of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease (which is the most common type of dementia). A 21-years study done in Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City demonstrated that dancing reduced the risk of dementia by 76%, in comparison to other physical and cognitive activities such as reading, bicycling, playing golf, doing crossword puzzles, etc.


10) Activates different areas in your brain (areas that are not typically engaged in movement alone)

- Superior Temporal Gyrus: Processing the heard music

- Putamen: Rhythmic movement

- Thalamus: Sensory information with irregular movement

- Cerebellum (Lobules III, V, VI): Synchronizing movements with music

- Superior Parietal Lobule: Kinesthesia helping guide leg movements