Beginner's Lesson 1: Introduction to Esoteric Belly Dance with the Alay'nya Studio
Warm-Ups, Energy Work (the Cabbalistic Cross), Energy Circulation (Introduction), Principles (Anchoring), Basic Techniques, Introduction to Music and Rhythm, Introduction to Choreography
This is a study guide and reference serving three groups:
- active members of the Alay'nya Studio,
- those who are visiting from out-of-town, or coming in for an "introductory visit,"
- those who wish to study with us "at a distance" - you can be living in any portion of the world, from Athens, Greece to Athens, TN.
Look throughout this blogpost for homework assignments; follow the links and be prepared to use what you've studied with the online materials when you come to class!
We typically use the same warm-up music each time; Cuts 1 - 7 (all or in part) of Beyond the Sky, by Omar Farouk Tekbilek and Brian Keane. We'll have the same warm-up pattern each time. You'll get detailed handouts in class ("Warming Up with Alay'nya") until you've built up a notes collection for the entire warm-up sequence.
Energy Boundaries: The Cabbalistic Cross
Our first step with energy work is to define our space. We do this by setting a boundary - circumscribing the area in which we will work. To do this, one of our mainstay "practices" is the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. (Please note: All words within this ritual are to focus our attention on aspects or emanations of G*d, or to invoke the protective presence of the archangels.
In the first class, we will learn and practice a dance version of the Cabbalistic Cross, which is the first part of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram (LBRP). The words that you will learn and vibrate are:
- Ateh (Thou Art),
- Malkuth (Kingdom),
- Ve-Gevurah (and Power),
- Ve-Gedulah (and Glory),
- Le-Olahm (forever).
(Those of you who are steeped in the Christian tradition of reciting the Lord's Prayer, or in the similar Jewish tradition, will note that these phrases are drawn from those prayers.)
Our music for this etude will ultimately be Anahat on Zaman by Kairo by Night.
Energy Circulation and Breath Control: Drawing Energy (Ch'i) Up Your Spine
In the Beginner's Series, we develop a number of energy-circulation movement patterns (or etudes). Our first one helps us to bring energy up our spines. We bring it to each of seven different "energetic way-stations." (Later on, we'll learn how to connect these to chakras.)
Our music for this etude is the beautiful Gayatri Mantra on Saffron Blue by Rasa.
As you listen to this music (do so online), you'll note that the word-sequence or change is repeated seven times. We'll ultimately use all seven; each for a different energy center.
In preparation for the first class, listen to the music, and read along using the translation.
While doing this, we'll use a series of mudras, which are hand gestures that help open our energy centers, circulate energy, and encourage certain mental/emotional states. Specifically, we're going to use two mudras that open our two lower chakra areas. Note that the two sounds that we'll use are LAM and VAM, with the two respective mudras.
As we do this etude, we will also incorporate a breathing pattern - a very simple aspect of pranayama. We use only a very simple three-part breathing pranayama for this etude. We will have a pause (or retention of breath) after each inhalation and exhalation. We'll use the four phrases of the Gayatri Mantra to cue our inhalation, retention, exhalation, and pause.
First Principle: Anchoring
We take a Principles-based approach to learning the dance movements. Each Principle gives us a kinesthetic and internal-image "cue" or "trigger" that helps us to align or move our body in a certain way. There are seven basic, or Static (non-moving) Principles that we'll seek to learn during the Beginner's Introductory Classes. The first Principle that we'll learn is Anchoring. This is discussed in Unveiling: The Inner Journey, in Chapter 22: "Looking Like a Dancer (Even If You're Not)."
Techniques: Hip Drops and Hip Thrusts
When we use the first Principle of Anchoring to align our pelvis, then all our pelvic and hip techniques come about automatically. We simply "discover" that they are there, waiting to be used! Over the first several weeks of the Beginner's Introductory Classes, we'll learn an etude that lets us practice lots of different hip movement techniques, particularly hip thrusts and hip drops, together with transitions, step patterns, pelvic circles, and other moves. Our music for this will be The Magic in Your Eyes (Cut #1) on Hossam Ramzy's Source of Fire.
We will start our musical analysis with the opening portions of Hossam Ramzy's Source of Fire. There will be a take-home worksheet for this.
Time permitting, we will start two or three mini-choreographies. Specifically, we'll focus on creating "choreographic units" - small sections that we can match onto a section of different pieces of music.
Cool-Down & Meditation
We'll close the class with a cool-down section. We often use Beautiful Friend on Dream Dancer by Light Rain as a gentle and beautiful cool-down. This is something that we can develop later for arm and hand work, along with undulations and some turns and rhumba movements.