No time to practice? Got 5 Minutes?

I find myself frequently talking with my students about practice. It is so important, and the students who do practice improve so much more quickly than those who do not. Yet, we all know that feeling when life gets in the way. We have the best intentions and even set aside time to practice, but then pow! Something comes up and derails all your plans. Sometimes, finding an hour of time to get in front of the mirror and throw on a hip scarf just doesn’t happen.
Often, what we choose to do in those little moments that are available to us make the biggest impact. Here are some of the practice techniques I use when I can’t get into the studio but I’m just itching for a little dance break!

Quick conditioning
I have been adding conditioning exercises to the end of the day, usually when I get home from teaching and I am digesting my dinner and watching a good movie. Now, after dancing for 6 hours I make rest a priority, but if I had a light day I will do short and simple conditioning exercises for various goals. Right now I am working on stabilizing my problem knee, and working on my external hip rotation. You can identify your problem areas and conditioning exercises to help those areas. Try back raises, or balance exercises, or roll out your hips and IT band on a foam roller or tennis ball.

Listen to music
I listen to new music at the beginning of the week, and toward the end of the week I make my performance selections and I listen to them over and over.
Once you have found music you’d like to choreograph, listening to it passively can greatly increase your ability to recall it, and can give you excellent ideas. To dance well, you must know your music like the back of your hand. Listening to music may not feel like “practicing” but it is key to creating good performances! You can also actively listen to your music, visualizing your performance. The same parts of your brain will activate, as if you were actually practicing. This is great for when you are injured or sick!

Focus on one move
When you only have 5 or 10 minutes it’s easy to just decide to do something else. Ask yourself what you struggle with the most and focus on that for just a few minutes. Is your balance off? Stand on one leg and close your eyes. Are your shoulders up in your ears? Find a mirror and practice your arm movements (this is great to practice when you don’t have time to warm up). Did you learn a new move in class? Practice it!

Read or watch videos
Since I have been dancing my whole life, I know how easy it is to fall into a rut or feel uninspired. You can’t create unless you are inspired. Try watching videos of other dancers – and other performance artists. Save videos that you find the most inspiring, and try making notes about what made it so exceptional to you. How can you achieve those things? Read those notes next time you practice.
Reading about dance, music, anatomy, or any creative subject will get the gears turning as well. I like magazines because they can give you short doses of information, but you can read a chapter or a page in a book in about five minutes. Keep reading material close at hand. I keep books by my nightstand, and in my dance bag to read between classes.

Mark out one song
Remember not to dance full out if you aren’t warm, but if you only have a few minutes, pop your headphones on and scoot the coffee table back. Mark your choreography as best as you can, and visualize performing it. See the stage, the audience, the lights. Marking choreography has been shown to actually improve recall, when practiced together with dancing full-out. I feel like this is so inspiring because when just “playing around” or “half-assing” you can actually make progress!


Snapchat-837073892Watch videos of yourself
Video is one of the best ways to improve. Record yourself practicing, and whenever possible try to get footage of your performances, even if you don’t share it. Watch a video or two and make notes about what could have been better. If you have a few more minutes, try doing the piece again and fix what you didn’t like! Sometimes I do this over and over in my studio. Film-watch-delete-repeat. Just be kind to yourself and give corrections as if you were giving them to someone else. We are our own worst critics!

Allow yourself to be bored
This tip is more for someone who is feeling uninspired than someone who doesn’t have time to practice. Good ideas come in quiet moments. Lay down and just do nothing. Sit on the porch and listen to the birds singing. Pour a hot bath and light a candle. Put your phone down and just be. I  know I get so busy I have to remind myself that quiet time is actually important – and that it’s not “lazy”. Relax and recharge and ideas and inspiration will come faster thank you think!

Know Your Arabic Music Lyrics!


Nefabit performing in Spokane Photo by Don Hinton

If you dance to Middle Eastern music, or work for Middle Eastern clubs or clients, it’s important to know at least a sampling of Arabic vocabulary. Here are a couple of starter words that are commonly heard in music to help you identify the type of song, even if you don’t understand every word. Is it a love song, or a song calling for political revolution? A song about dancing and partying, or a song about divorce? Even upbeat pop songs can delve into very serious topics, so do your research! A few of these words double as expressions you might hear from your audience members.

  1. Habibbi  – “My love” a term of endearment. (habibti when referring to a woman)
  2. Beladi – Country, “of the country” 2. A style of folkloric dance from the countryside 3. A rhythm from the countryside, which folkloric dance is performed to.
  3. Yalla –  Literally, “let’s go” 1. an expression of excitement as in “come on!” 2. Hurry up, let’s go now.
  4. Hizzy – “to shake”, refers also to shimmies specifically. Often heard in music for bellydancing to encourage the dancer.
  5. Aiwah – “My eye” an expression used often by spectators to express that their eyes are feasting. In music, this is common in love songs as the singer expresses how she or he feels when looking at the person they desire.

7 Tips For Memorizing Choreography

Ever step onstage and suddenly forget what you’re supposed to do? Whether you are memorizing your own solo choreography or performing in a company, these tips will increase your choreography recall, and ensure that you’re always prepared to perform your best.

Practice the choreography without music or with different music
Count through the whole choreography without the music. While you want to move with and cue off the music, you can increase your recall of each movement sequence by forcing yourself to memorize the movements on their own. I have performed to music that has been distorted, played too slow, too fast, or only through one channel. In those moments, I am grateful that I can count out the piece. Practicing the choreography to different music is also very challenging, and it’s helpful to think of the choreography even with different sounds.

Rehearse in your mind
Studies of the brain have shown that imagining something activates the same areas of the brain as actually doing it. Practicing the choreography in your mind can allow you to think of not just what you’re doing, but how you’re doing it. Imagine doing it perfectly – stretching a little farther, holding the balance a little longer – and your body will be better able to do it in reality.

Just listen
Another technique is to play your music and listen passively, while you drive or do the dishes, for example. As you learn the choreography, your brain will picture it automatically as you listen. You don’t have to focus, just let your mind process in the background. Memorize the music by heart, and you’ll never miss a beat.

Music roulette
Sometimes a cord gets bumped,  a CD skips, or the sound guy will forget to turn the music up after pushing play. Fast forward the song to a random spot and see how quickly you can pick up where you are. This is an excellent technique because it trains your brain to remember the point of the choreography based on the music. Use a program like Amazing Slow Downer to change the tempo or pitch of the music for some extra challenge, and to be ready for any musical mishaps.

Take notes
Writing something down increases your recollection ability, and it also provides a reference for later. Even if you are provided with notes, taking your own will often be more helpful.

Record Yourself
Video is the most amazing learning tool. You may watch yourself in the mirror but your brain can only process so much information at once. Watch a recording and you’ll notice many details you can improve. If you’re working in a group, record the choreographer and emulate his or her method. Rcord the whole group to help remember line changes and formations. And most of all, record yourself practing multiple times. You’ll see improvement, and you will subconsiously absorb the choreography even more as you watch.

Perfect Practice makes perfect
There are advantages to marking choreography (hitting major points without dancing full out). Your brain will make connections and you can work on memorizing the framework and transitions of the piece. But once you get more adept, you want to dominate your rehearsal time with Perfect Practice. Do everything as you would on stage. Smile, extend, make eye contact with imaginary people. Practicing in costume is also imperative, because it will change the way everything feels.
Don’t practice until you get it right . . . Practice until you can’t get it wrong.

The biggest key is to practice, practice, forblogpractice; until you hate your music, until the choreography bores you, until it feels frustratingly easy. You don’t just know it, you don’t have to think about it. When you are performing, you can’t think about your choreography. You have to think about poise, projection, expression, and all of the mishaps that can happen in a live performance. Try these techniques and let me know in the comments what works for you! How do you memorize chorography? What kinds of mishaps have occured during your performances, and how did you learn and adapt to deal with those situations in the future?

What to Expect When Hiring Entertainment

So you have a big day coming up – congratulations! Whether you are getting married, organizing a product launch, or surprising your best friend with a birthday party, certain events need something special to make the night memorable. That’s where live entertainment comes in.

Live entertainment makes memories
The first thing you can expect is for live entertainment to make your event memorable. Never in my 20 years as a professional entertainer have I ever heard of someone who regretted investing in a performer. But I have heard plenty of people lament about boring parties where everyone stood around eyeballing the punch bowl.


Nefabit and Delilah at a 50th Birthday party in Pearl City, Hawaii

Performers break the ice and bring people together
Let’s face it. Not everyone is a born social butterfly. The last thing you want on your special day is for people to stand around looking bored. Balloons are pretty, and cakes are tasty, but they won’t get people talking. Entertainment will give people something to talk to one another about, something to take pictures of, and a reason to let loose and enjoy themselves. Remember, the number one goal of a party is to celebrate.

So you want to hire entertainment – now what?
The first step is to figure out what you want. What type of party is it? Who or what it for? What’s the theme? If you don’t have a theme – figure it out, then come back.
If you’re throwing a party for your six-year-old daughter, why not hire a princess to  come in and take pictures and dance during the tea party? Or perhaps pony rides (my mom did this for one of my birthday parties, good job mom!). Moroccan themed sweet 16? How about some beautiful bellydancers to dance and teach everyone a move or two? 20’s themed gala? Get yourself a big band and some charleston dancers.
Now that you have an idea, now it’s time to start shopping.

What to look for in a performer
When hiring a performer, I recommend that you look first and foremost for professionalism and personality. Many performers are extremely talented, but don’t have a lick of business sense. Look for someone who has professional cards, a website, returns your call promptly, and has good speaking skills. Likewise, there are many performers that are highly skilled, but are seriously lacking in charisma, likeability and social skills. This is especially important if you want someone to mingle with your audience, dancing through tables, making balloon animals, what have you. You need the entertainer to wake up the wallflowers, not be one herself.
Once you’ve found a performer that makes a good impression, do look at pictures and video to see if they are actually good at what they do. Someone who gets a lot of work likely does for a reason.

party lesson

Nefabit (far right) after performing and teaching at a birthday in Liberty Lake, Washington

Take a hard look at your budget
I’m going to tell you right now, performers are not cheap. Neither are floral arrangements, DJ’s, catering, venue rental, photography, etc. If you want something elaborate – a wedding, corporate holiday party or opening night, you had probably better pony up a decent budget.
Professional performers will charge in the area of 200-300 or more, depending on your event. And they deserve every penny. Between phone calls, contracts, research, preparing sets, music editing, rehearsal, packing, hair/makeup, driving, wait time, performing, mingling, photo ops, and driving home, a professional will have invested 8 hours or more in your special day. 300.00 sounds like a lot of money, but for 8 hours of work that works out to 37.50 per hour. A good wage, certainly. Performers spend thousands of hours honing their craft and if they are good enough to be able to make it a career, you can bet your beans it will be worth the money.
Keep in mind that things like travel, wait time, and equipment, may incur additional fees.

Plan Ahead
Once you have found an awesome professional to dazzle your guests,  cross your fingers and hope he or she is available. The best performers are in high demand – the farther out you book your show, the better your odds are. I can very rarely squeeze in a show booked within two weeks. For example, as I write this article, I’m booked out Wednesday- Saturday this week and Thursday-Saturday next week. Keep in mind that wedding seasonholidays and prime time hours (6:00-10:00pm) are hardest to book. If you must book last minute, be prepared to be flexible. You’ll have the best luck if you book at least 4-6 weeks out, longer for anything around a major holiday, especially Halloween, Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Details, Details
Make sure you go over all details with your performer. Try to know as much about your event and crowd as possible. And be prepared to answer a lot of questions. Here are some questions I ask my clients:
Is there a stage or dance floor?
Am I dancing on the stage or among the crowd, or both?
Are guests standing and moving around, or seated? Dinner or theater style?
How many guests are you expecting? What is the age range?
Is there a DJ? Do you have a sound system, or do I need to bring one (for an upcharge)?
Is this a surprise? Is there a guest of honor? Will there be an announcement?
Is there a private, locking room I can change and stow my belongings in? How far is it from the performance area?
That’s just an example. A lot of my requirements are listed in my contract. Please be willing to discuss the event in detail with your performer. Doing so will ensure that he or she knows what to expect and can prepare accordingly, ensuring that your event is as perfect as possible.


Nefabit entertaining guests at a Halloween Party in Worley, Idaho

The big day
It’s your special day! how exciting! No doubt you are going crazy with details, racing around like a chicken with its head cut off. I highly recommend that you have an assistant who knows the entertainer is coming, where the dressing room is, etc. This person can meet the performer and show him or her to the dressing room, run the music to the DJ, etc. Another option is to have someone continue running things front of house while you do this yourself. Be prepared to pay before the performer begins (or better yet in advance of the show). Once everything is ready, sit back and enjoy the show! Don’t forget to take pictures of how much fun your guests are having, and hopefully take a moment to enjoy your party as well.

Have you ever hired entertainment? How did it go? Tell me about your experience.

Interested in hiring dancers? Click here. If you’re looking for something else, let me know, I’m happy to make referrals to dozens of talented performers in the area.


American Bellydance in Today’s Political Climate

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the state of our world right now. The heavier my heart gets
from all of the wrong and injustice in the world, the more important dancing becomes to me. I am so glad that in a time that is dark in many ways, I can bring fun, happiness and excitement to people, even for a moment. And through appreciation of art and beauty of any kind, people can set aside their differences and forget their cares. Live performance is more important than ever in times of war, hardship and unrest.

I think many bellydancers, in particular, are struggling with their inspiration to dance. In a time of such unrest in the Middle East, with political and religious revivals all over the world, being an American bellydancer puts us in a unique position. Being a bellydancer is not a reflection on any person’s political or religious beliefs, however, it is my strong opinion that we have a responsibility to study and understand the culture that our art originates from.

Nefabit Professional Bellydancer Spokane by John Austin

Photo by John Austin

In Egypt, dancers are being arrested for “inciting debauchery” and “disrupting morality” as the religious revival rises in the Middle East. Here on our own shores, some political candidates are condemning everything Middle Eastern, calling to deport all Muslims and bar entry to Syrians – even putting forth religious tests for refugees. And across our country and the world, religious extremists of various faiths are killing innocent people out of hatred.
Because of these and many other factors, some dancers are feeling disheartened. I must admit that I have had my own misgivings from time to time. Sometimes I wonder, “why would anyone want to see me bellydance right now?” On a few occasions, as I put my makeup on and packed my gig bag, it felt insignificant – frivolous even – when there is so much going on in the world. With paranoia mounting on all sides, I have felt less self-assured, and less confident of my safety and acceptance.

But to my fellow bellydancers and entertainers of all kinds, I remind you that being a performer now is more important than ever. Right now, people need hope, love, and joy. Live entertainers have an amazing ability to spread happiness, soothe unrest, and bring people together.
There is nothing that can replace that fleeting, intimate moment when a dancer and an audience member make eye contact and share an indefinable experience. Or witnessing the dancer moving in complete harmony with the music, and experiencing tarab, a musical ecstasy. Smiling at a stranger (not just smiling into the space above their heads) can be enough to melt a stressful day.
Bellydancers, in particular, have a unique opportunity to remind people of the good that comes from the Middle East. Modern chemistry, astronomy, and mathematics have roots in Arabia. There is so much artistic lineage in the Middle East, in every discipline from language, architecture, textiles, music, and of course, bellydance and various folkloric dances.

I think that being a bellydancer is relevant. So if you are feeling like you’re at a loss for inspiration or the news is making you feel downhearted, just think: if you can affect just one person today, you’ve done your job. Maybe someone will walk away from your show feeling less lonely. Maybe someone who has never seen bellydance will find a new appreciation for Middle Eastern culture. Maybe someone will work up the courage to take a bellydance class. If we focus on the positive, no matter how bleak the world gets, we will continue to make a beneficial impact on people’s lives, and that’s really what performing is all about.


Nefabit Public Performance Schedule October & November 2015 NEW DATES ADDED

A little late posting my schedule! Here is my public schedule for the rest of October, and November. Nefabit Professional Bellydancer Spokane by John AustinHope to see you one of these nights!
Thursday, October 22
– 6:30 PM Bellydancing at White House Grill 712 N Spokane St, Post Falls, ID
Friday, October 23 – 5:30 PM Bellydancing at Red Dragon1406 W 3rd Ave Spokane, WA
Friday, October 23 – 6:45 & 7:30 PM Bellydancing at Azars 2501 N Monroe St Spokane WA
Saturday, October 24 – 6:00 PM Sabah’s Halloween Hafla Tum Tum Community Center 6424 Highway 291, Nine Mile Falls, WA
Thursday, October 29 – 6:30 PM Bellydancing at White House Grill 712 N Spokane St, Post Falls, ID
Friday, October 30 – 6:45 & 7:30 PM Bellydancing at Azars 2501 N Monroe St Spokane WA
Saturday, October 31 – 6:00 PM Community Halloween Hafla Red Dragon1406 W 3rd Ave Spokane, WA
Saturday, October 31 – 9:00 PM Variety Show Rouge La Rue and Vermillion Villians Present Nefabit with Rouge La Rue at Twitterpated and TitillatedPhantasms and Fantasies The Big Dipper 171 S Washington St, Spokane, WA
Thursday, November 5
 – 6:30 PM Bellydancing at White House Grill 712 N Spokane St, Post Falls, ID
Friday, November 6 – 5:30 PM Bellydancing at Red Dragon1406 W 3rd Ave Spokane, WA
Friday, November 6 – 6:45 & 7:30 PM Bellydancing at Azars 2501 N Monroe St Spokane WA
Thursday, November 12 – 6:30 PM Bellydancing at White House Grill 712 N Spokane St, Post Falls, ID
Friday, November 13 – 5:30 PM Bellydancing at Red Dragon1406 W 3rd Ave Spokane, WA
Thursday, November 19 – 6:30 PM Bellydancing at White House Grill 712 N Spokane St, Post Falls, ID
Friday, November 20 – 5:30 PM Bellydancing at Red Dragon1406 W 3rd Ave Spokane, WA
Friday, November 20
 – 6:45 & 7:30 PM Bellydancing at Azars 2501 N Monroe St Spokane WA
Thursday, November 26 – 6:30 PM Bellydancing at White House Grill 712 N Spokane St, Post Falls, ID
Friday, November 27 – 5:30 PM Bellydancing at Red Dragon1406 W 3rd Ave Spokane, WA
Friday, November 27
 – 6:45 & 7:30 PM Bellydancing at Azars 2501 N Monroe St Spokane WA

Nefabit’s Public Performance Schedule August 2015

August 6 7:00 PM – Bellydancing at White House Grill 
712 N Spokane St, Post Falls, ID
August 7 5:30 PM – Bellydancing at Red Dragon
1406 W 3rd Ave Spokane, WA
August 7 6:45 PM – Bellydancing at Azars
2501 N Monroe St Spokane WA
August 9 2:30 PM -Sandpoint Arts and Crafts Fair
City Beach, Sandpoint, ID
August 13 7:00 PM – Bellydancing at White House Grill
712 N Spokane St, Post Falls, ID
August 14 5:30 PM- Bellydancing at Red Dragon
1406 W 3rd Ave Spokane, WA
August 16 8:00 PM – Jazz performance with Rouge La Rue
at the Vaudevillains Present the G-String Quartet
The Big Dipper 171 S Washington St Spokane
10.00 at the door, 18+
August 20 – Bellydancing at White House Grill
712 N Spokane St, Post Falls, ID
August 21 6:45 PM – Bellydancing at Azars
2501 N Monroe St Spokane WA
August 22 – Nefabit and Nickie B Bellydancing at Hopped Up On Art, Music and Beer
10421 E Sprague Ave, Spokane Valley, WA
August 27 7:00 PM – Bellydancing at White House Grill
712 N Spokane St, Post Falls, ID
August 28 5:30 – Bellydancing at Red Dragon
1406 W 3rd Ave Spokane, WA

August 2015 Bellydance Events in Spokane (plus Eastern Washington and Western Idaho)

Saturday August 15 2015Monthly Red Dragon Hafla
Dancers of all levels welcome to perform, contact Sue to sign up!
Red Dragon downtown
1406 W 3rd Ave Spokane, WA 99201

Saturday August 15 2015 Choreography workshop at Northwest Bellydance (invitation only)
3:00 Principal, 6:00 Corps
Northwest Bellydance
5515 N Oak St Spokane, WA 99205

August 26-30 Emerald Sanctuary Retreat  Emerald Sanctuary is an annual belly dance retreat in the high desert of Eastern Washington. Regional and local instructors offer an exciting range of workshops for the beginner to the seasoned dancer.
Coulee City, WA

Sunday August 09 2015 The Vaude Villians Present the G String Quartet 
Rouge La Rue, side project of NWBD dancers Nickie B and Nefabit will be performing 60’s inspired Jazz and contemporary at the Big Dipper with the G String Quartet

August 28-30 Fusion Fest 
Mardis Gras Ballroom, Boise ID
Performances, workshops, vending and more in Boise, Idaho

Recurring Events
Every Friday Bellydancing at Azar’s Greek Restaurant with Paloma and Nefabit
2501 N Monroe St Spokane WA 99205
Two shows every Friday evening at 6:45 and 7:30
Starring Nefabit every 1st, 3rd and 5th Friday
Starring Paloma Skye every 2nd and 4th Friday

Every Thursday Bellydancing at White House Grill featuring Nefabit

Photo by Dirk Linton

712 N Spokane St, Post Falls, ID 83854
Sets inside and outside starting at 7:00

Every Friday Bellydancing at Red Dragon Downtown
1406 W 3rd Ave Spokane, WA 99201
Show featuring five dancers begins at 5:30. 21+ only
1st Friday featuring Kori, Stephanie, Kendra, Paloma Skye and Nickie B.
2nd Friday featuring Zarina, Stephanie, Kate Altaira, Nefabit and Shamal
3rd Friday featuring Farasha, Stephanie, Nickie B, Paloma Skye and Olivia
4th Friday featuring Sue, Stephanie, Nefabit, Kendra and Olivia
5th Friday featuring Farasha, Stephanie, Nickie B and Kate Altaira