Like Learning to Drive

I often tell my belly dance students that if they can drive a car, they can learn how to bellydance. I usually mention this when they’re struggling to learn a basic belly dancing move like a torso undulation and are feeling frustrated that they’ll never master it. Since most of my belly dance students drive a car, they soon discover the analogy between driving and dancing.

Anyone who has a driver’s license remembers what it’s like learning how to drive. The first time you get behind the wheel, it seems overwhelming trying to remember all the things you have to do: control the steering wheel, work the gas and brakes pedals (add the clutch if you have a stick shift), and keep your eyes on the road, the traffic signs, and rear view mirrors, plus so much more. The first time you actually drive a car, the ride is jerky and uncoordinated and you have to practice in an empty parking lot or some other safe place. It takes lots of time and repetition to be able to drive smoothly and competently enough to drive in real traffic, but your safety depends on doing it right.

After plenty of practice, drivers can coordinate all these actions so well, that they can drive on busy highways and freeways without even consciously thinking about how they’re handling the steering wheel, brakes, turn signals, etc. By this point, the mechanics of driving have become automatic and drivers think nothing about doing all of this at the same time that they’re talking on their cell phones, singing to the radio, or looking at the scenery going by – even though driving is a potentially life threatening activity!

When you learn how to bellydance, you follow a similar learning curve. First you learn the basic moves and techniques and then you practice to simple songs. In the beginning it can seem overwhelming to coordinate all the different parts of the body, but over time the mechanics of the moves become automatic. At that point you can concentrate less on how the moves are done and more on the enjoyment of just dancing to your music. Like driving a car, each dance is a journey, but without the potential for harm. With bellydancing, you don’t have to worry about having an accident and you always feel great when you reach your destination. Fortunately, almost every student can master that.

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