Posted in Articles, Audio, More Than Steps Podcast

How Improv is Like High School

How Improv is Like High School


And dissing your safety moves won’t make you popular…

Picture a cafeteria scene from a teen movie.

The main character is sitting at the lunch table, staring longingly across the room at the popular kids.

Did you ever notice that that character is almost never alone?

They’re typically sitting there with a friend, maybe even two or three.

But they only have eyes for the popular kids.

Belly dancers make the same mistake when it comes to improv.


Listen Now:


Or Read the Transcript

This was professionally transcribed, but it probably still has some errors. If you catch any, drop me a line at I’d love to hear from you!

Do you remember any of those cafeteria scenes teen movies, especially ones in the ’80s? You’ve got the main character sitting at the lunch table staring longingly across the room at the table with all the popular kids. Did you ever notice how that character is almost never alone? Usually they’ve got a best friend, maybe even two or three friends sitting there with them but they only have eyes for the popular table. All they can focus on is how much they wish they were there.

The same thing happens with belly dance improvisation. When I ask dancers what their biggest challenge with improv is what I hear over and over again is, “Oh, I can always remember just a couple of movements on stage, I wish I could stop doing those.” If you want to improvise successfully you have to do the opposite, you have to stop pushing those moves away and instead embrace them because those are your safety moves. Your safety moves are your real friends, they’re there for you in your time of need.

You’re on stage, you’re panicking, the audience is staring at you and you are sure that you’re going to just draw a blank and stand there like a deer in the headlights. Your safety moves say, “We’ve got you. We are not going to let you fail, we’re going to give you options.” We really need to cultivate that friendship. How do you do it? Well, it’s the same as making friends in real life, first you have to accept them and then you have to get to know them. When you’re improvising and you feel like you’re doing a move too often that’s a great sign that you’ve got safety moves on your hands. Embrace it and then get to know it. Practice it a lot, practice different ways to vary it.

For example, if you do a lot of step hip then dry it with different traveling patterns. Try it with different timing; fast, slow, mixing it up. Try three hips for every step instead of just one. Try mixing up the direction. Maybe you do step hip lifting and step hip strapping or step lift lift drop, that’s one of my favorites. Try decorating it with different arms. Now, this process doesn’t mean that you have to ignore your other moves, we just have to stop chasing them. Just like the cool kids in the cafeteria they’re not going to come to you when you’re needy and desperate. When you’re relaxed and confident that’s when your circle opens up.

Now, you may be worried that your dance is going to be boring if you let yourself focus on just a few moves but that is not the case. Typically, we have a double standard about this. When you’re the one using just a couple of moves it’s a crutch but when you see another dancer doing it you love it, you recognize it as their signature. Remember that it’s not the moves you pick, it’s what you have to say with them. Stop pushing your safety moves away, accept them, get to know them and make them the most important part of your dance life. If there’s one thing that we learned from these movies it’s that the most important thing is to be yourself and accept your true friends.


Your Turn

Do you have any thoughts, stories, or tips about fighting your safety moves? I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below.

Or better yet, leave me a short voice message.
Maybe I’ll even play it on the air!


Want More?

If you need some help with this process you can check out my video, The Improvisation Toolkit Vol.1 In this program we help you identify your safety moves, make really good friends with them, but also access the rest of your movement vocabulary.

Check It Out 


Comments are closed.

Want More?

Want More?

Subscribe to Belly Dance Geek News to get invitations to our monthly online radio show, plus more articles, videos, and other geek-tacular resources.

Thanks for signing up! Now go check your email to confirm your subscription.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This