Building Stamina for Belly Dance
It's happened to all of us. The music is bumping and your audience is having a great time, but your tank is close to empty. You try to push through but you're left absolutely spent. Not to mention you may have more than one gig that evening. Stamina is like a muscle, it needs to be exercised to make it stronger. Belly dance performances can range from 4-60 minutes. Don't be unprepared! Here are some tips on how to improve your stamina.
1. Cross train.
After training in a specific style of dance for a while your bodies muscle memory starts to kick in. Movements that made you that had sweat dripping down your face no longer have any hard effect. Think of the first time you did a shimmy. (Mine didn't look pretty and I'm positive my face looked constipated.) Because your body has gotten used to how you move you need to break the cycle. Pick another dance style that is exciting and challenging. I started taking Zumba and Bachata and wow did it do wonders for my stamina. It forced my body to consider movements in a different way and work muscles that had been underused for belly dance. Try picking a class that seems fun and drop in! You'll never know if you find a new hobby.
2. Do exercise other than dance.
I won't lie. I tell this to myself ALL the time; "Well I danced today plus taught a class so I don't NEED to workout." This is what a call an inner lie. An inner lie is when you knowingly lie to yourself about responsibilities or reality. The truth is when you dance often it's not going to always be enough to push your body to a higher fitness level. Will it stay the same? Probably. But you're not here to learn how to stay the same. Get moving outside of the dance studio. It doesn't have to be a lot but it will improve your overall fitness level.
3. Manage your energy.
A good friend described energy management best. She said, "Everyone starts with a certain amount of spoons a day. Every activity costs spoons. Some peoples spoons work longer than others. Some people have to use more spoons just to do basic tasks. Managing and knowing how many spoons you have left can be difficult. You can borrow spoons from the next day, but you'll have to suffer the consequences." Basically, know what you are capable of in one day. If a performance exhausts you, cleaning the house beforehand might be too tiring. Manage your energy to the best of your abilities so that you can use your spoons for your performance and classes.
4. Eat to fuel yourself.
Coffee is not food. Before a long day of performing or classes, make an effort to eat to fuel yourself. I hear it a lot that "eating before performing makes me sick" but you cannot perform at full energy on an empty tank. Make an effort to eat at least a small healthy snack before performing. My favorite start of the day food is oatmeal. It keeps you full without being too heavy and can be added to to change it up. For snacks I eat cut up fruit or veggies and cheese with peanut butter. It's quick and easy without being messy.
5. Change your music set to better fit your style/mood.
Not feeling well? Had a long day and performing a high paced song just seems laborious? Change your music. If your body is telling you to slow down, you need to listen. Pick songs that have a lower bpm, but still fit the overall feeling that you need. I dance in restaurants often and usually use a high paced 20-30 minute playlist. I have created other playlists for days when I'm just not feeling it. They include a longer veil song, a longer taqsim, and an easier drum solo so I can easily change if I need to. This makes the idea of a long set seem not so daunting.
6. Change up your personal dance practice.
Stop dancing to the same ole' same ole' songs. Break the mold and put on something way out of your comfort zone. I recommend putting together a quick playlist that's a few minutes longer than your comfort performing time. Put it on shuffle and go. Because its personal practice, it doesn't matter if it's perfect or repetitive. The purpose is to move to your limit. Make sure to properly warm up before attempting this! Injuries won't help your stamina either. ;)
Kat teaches, dances, and produces shows in Tacoma, Washington. You can find out more about her belly dance classes, belly dance performances, and belly dance shows at www.tacomabellydance.com