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Improvisation is extemporaneous choreography. The creative mechanics are the same for both, but improvisation requires a really good grasp of technique, so what you do in the moment is at your finger tips.

I learned belly dance as an improvisational art. That meant we had to remember what we learned in class and practice a lot.

When I finally had to choreography dances as a teacher/company choreographer, I was at a loss. I had to study choreography as a subject. I read everything I could, took classes and workshops and finally, became good at both.

It didn't take long before I realized I was using the same techniques and principals for both. Here are some tips for improvisation – but they are the same tips for choreography!

  1. Wait a few beats before entering. Let the overture pass....(don't use the overture as your entrance music. The overture sets the mood and creates anticipation for the audience).

  2. Play your zills a little backstage to create anticipation for the audience!

  3. Do big movements – preferably spins – in your first sequence to grab the audience and make them want more. You have the audiences attention and interest prior to your entrance. You have to keep it once you are on stage. If they are wowed in the first 15 seconds they will continue to pay attention.

  4. Change when the music changes. Listen to changes in rhythm, tempo, melody and composition. Music is structured in passages, phrases (sentences) and has bridges, flourishes, accents, pauses, crescendos and decrescendos. Use them all!

  5. Compartmentalize the passages and end them with a big dramatic movement that matches the musical end and says, “end” to the eye. I call this closing with a completing movement.

  6. Make sure to move to the end of a held note....don't stop before the music stops.

  7. Recognize the coda and prepare to end on the final note in a great pose!

  8. Learn the various stances and poses of belly dance. You'll use these throughout your dance at the end of each sequence as well as throughout the taksim and drum solo - which are both executed pretty much in place.I have standardized these and you can learn them in my classes.

  9. Do everything on both sides- right and left. But, always come back to center.

  10. Perform to the audience sections: right, left, center and in the round, all around.

  11. Use a mix of angles and levels.

  12. Dance using the walls and corners as your directional markers.

  13. Don’t forget the flourishes in the music – give them life! They are an opportunity to give your dance panache!

  14. The Opening and Finale are the bread;the veil, taksim and drum solo are the meat (or veggies) and the most important part of the dance: become very good at each one of these.

  15. The bridges are transitions; use them as moments for introducing the next section.

  16. Be predictable but not too predictable.

  17. Use symmetry and asymmetry.

  18. Save your best and biggest grandest movements/sequencs for the last.

  19. Bow and make your exit as grand and memorable as your entrance. Leave them breathless:)

  20. Have fun and dance from the heart!

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