I've just returned from a weekend training with my hero, Suhaila Salimpour. I bang on about how awesome she is all the time, so I will not repeat myself (except to say I got to cop a feel yet again of her amazing glute contractions) but there is nothing like a little training with Suhaila to pull you apart, blow your mind, and be inspired to train harder and more passionately than ever before.
(She's the greatest! Ahem.)
Anyway, a big focus in Suhaila's format is conditioning - every class she will do a 30-40 minute strengthening and conditioning warm up to prepare our bodies to be able to handle all the stuff we try to get it to do in the name of belly dance.
Here is my confession - I used to hate squats, sit ups, push ups, yoga, pilates and all those dull, dull fitness-related exercises - I just wanted to dance. I didn't want to do stuff I felt was boring.
Then I realised if I just spent 20-30 minutes working on my strength and flexibility every practice session I would be so much stronger, so much more able to train the way I wanted and more able to dance with grace and strength without cocking up or falling over mid poncy move.
Since I've been adding conditioning to my practice (and I do, every day) I really feel that my dancing has transformed - my posture is better, my extentions are more elegant, my balance rocks, and I can stay one step ahead of my students in a choo-choo shimmy-athon. I feel much more of a dancer than I did before, as I know my body is strong like a dancer's should be.
And on the plus side, my body feels stronger and fitter, more snakelike than ever and I love it. All my puppy chub has turned into muscle. Hurrah!
True Story: I never liked doing dance conditioning until four years ago when doing forced conditioning in a thrice-weekly hip hop class, and I realised I could touch my toes for the first time in my life. It was a hallelujah moment. It was amazing. I told and showed everyone I met for about three weeks.
I feel conditioning is an incredibly important part of dance, and something we don't often get in a regular belly dance class - I think (cynically) because we are scared that putting anything non-dancey in our class will make our students go running for the hills.
Honestly, I still hate sit ups, because I suck at them. But the other stuff I love, as I have a goal in mind - strengthening my body so it's able to become the best dancer I can be.
From September I will be introducing more conditioning into my Fusion class warm ups - just enough for us to work the core muscles we use in bellydance and for us to nudge our bodies into becoming lean, mean dancing machines. Hurrah!!