When You Don’t Know What To Do, Just Listen

Bellydancers who are beginners (and experienced bellydancers as well) sometimes experience ‘mental blocks’ while dancing.  During your dance, your mind suddenly goes blank and you don’t know what movement to do next.  Often you find yourself repeating the same move over and over again and you can’t think of anything else to do.

For most dancers, practicing a belly dance movement a few hundred times will make it an automatic part of her ‘muscle memory’.  The movement becomes permanently ingrained in her mind and body so that the body can automatically perform the move without over-thinking the mechanics of it (see my blog post ‘Like Learning How to Drive’).  Still, mental blocks can occur even though a dancer has practiced her moves over and over again and has developed her muscle memory.

When you’re dancing to music, mental blocks can happen if you start thinking too hard or you get distracted.  If most of your attention shifts to over-concentrating on the mechanical details of your movements (or some other distraction), instead of listening to, and feeling the music, your connection with the music gets broken.  Then the inspiration for your dance is gone and you flounder.    How do you get back on track?  I would suggest that you relax and let the music and your muscle memory work their magic for you.

Studies have shown that we’re hardwired to respond to musical beats – it’s a natural, automatic human reaction.  Just listening to music causes us to respond, often unconsciously, by tapping our feet, nodding our head, snapping our fingers, etc.  When we hear music we like, it’s hard not to move it!

If you’re dancing and experiencing a mental block, just relax, breathe deep, quiet your mind, and shift your focus back to the music. As you start to relax and refocus on the music, you can stay with your current move.  The nuances of the music will guide you to do simple variations on that move (slower, faster, harder, softer, etc.) and will keep your dance interesting until your muscle memory kicks back in.  Eventually you’ll start to remember other movements that you’ve practiced and you’ll be back in the groove again.  (Visit my belly dance movement variations page.)

The worse thing you can do is panic and let your over-worked mind block all the moves that your muscle memory already knows. Be confident knowing that you have numerous moves stored in your muscle memory and that when you relax your mind enough, they’ll surface.

So if you’re bellydancing happily along and you suddenly don’t know what to do, just relax and focus on really listening to your music.  The music will guide you back to your dance through the magic of your natural response to musical beats and your muscle memory.

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