TaktabaAuthor: Nadira Jamal
19 Feb 2019


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She Writes: the video podcast on dance composition for belly dancers

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    Video Resource Feedback

    For those of you who are interested in resourceful video production:

    - Did you like the Steven Washer video I sent out in today's newsletter?
    - Are you interested in video production resources from other people, or just my own articles and videos?

    Let me know what you think in the comments.

    p.s. if you're not on the newsletter, you can join here.

  • Posted on 13 Jan 2012

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    How to Tell When You're Ready to Make a Video

    If you saw someone drowning in a pool, would you think “I’m not a lifeguard. I’m not qualified to help”? Of course not! You’d do whatever you could to help: throw them a life preserver, jump in and drag them to safety, or at least call 911.

    And yet we belly dancers routinely let our fear of being “unqualified” prevent us from jumping in to serve those who need us.

    The "Big Name" Syndrome

    Most dancers assume that only “big name” dancers should give workshops, write articles, and make videos. On the surface, this seems to make sense: after all, the most famous dancers have a whole lot to share, right?

    But this is a terrible thing! There are plenty of "small name" dancers who have something to contribute. If we continue to believe that only experts are qualified to participate, then these people spend years waiting, when they could step up and be of service.

    Why Do We Assume that Only Experts Can Make a Contribution?

    I think this assumption comes from the very real danger of the one-year wonder. Throughout our dance education, we’re told not to be “that girl”, who takes a couple of lessons, buys a costume and puts herself out there as a professional.

    Now, I'm not saying that we should tolerate that kind of behavior. Our community needs to uphold standards and make sure that we what we present to the general public is up to par.

    But a lot of dancers get so afraid of overstepping our bounds that we hold ourselves back. And it's usually the most conscientious among us - the ones who should be putting themselves out there. The conscientious ones are the most aware of how much there is to learn in this dance, and so they never feel “ready” - even when they have the skills and means to make a difference.

    So How Do I Know When I’m Ready?

    The best way to know when you’re ready is to shift your focus away from yourself. Stop thinking about what YOU know, and focus on what OTHERS need.

    Ask yourself: what unmet needs are out there? What are people asking for or asking about? Do you have anything to share that would help fill those needs?

    • Maybe you have information that’s hard to find.

    • Maybe your style or material could help others expand their repertoire.

    • Maybe you have a teaching method or training approach that might help other dancers meet their goals.

    • Or maybe your unique personality makes a common topic more accessible and approachable.

    If you can say yes to any of these, you have something worthwhile to share, and you are ready to make a video.

    To put it another way: if you choose NOT to share, you’re withholding your gifts and your contribution from people who need them.

    Feels different, doesn’t it?

    Case in Point: Me

    This is exactly how I felt when I started my DVD series, The Improvisation Toolkit.

    I’m not a top-tier dancer. I’m not the first person to think about improv and dance composition. I’m certainly not the only fan of improvisation.

    But I saw that a big chunk of the dance community was terrified of improv. And, being a geeky analytical type, I knew that I could make sense out of all this scary, mysterious stuff, and make it approachable and manageable.

    I didn’t think I was “ready”. Sometimes I still don’t. And if it hadn’t been for a timely kick in the bum from my marketing coach Julie Eason, I wouldn’t have even considered this project for another 5 or 10 years.

    In short: I would have let everybody continue to struggle with improv while I indulged my inadequacy issues.

    That Said

    This is not to say that you should pretend to be something that you’re not. You should always be honest about where you are in your dance journey. But if you have something to contribute, you don’t have to apologize for not having arrived yet.

    What I Want You to Take Away From This

    It is important to maintain standards, but dancers needs to stop assuming that only big names have something to contribute.

    If you see a need that you can fill, step up and serve! Don’t pretend to be something you’re not, but if you have something to contribute, set your issues aside, and step up! There are dancers out there who need you right now.

    What You Can Do Right Now

    As yourself what needs are going unmet in the dance community. What questions are your students asking you? What questions and discussions are you seeing on belly dance forums, facebook, etc.?

    If you're not ready to meet those needs right now, that’s okay. Just put them on your "someday, maybe" list and keep your eyes open.

    And when you hear that splash in the deep end of the pool, you'll be ready to dive in and save the day.


    Has "but I'm not a big name" or "who am I to make a video?" been holding you back? What else is holding you back?

  • Posted on 18 Dec 2011

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    6 Reasons to Produce Your Video Resourcefully

    (Hint: only one of them is about money. And only sort of.)

    What is Resourceful Production?

    Resourceful production means fully exploring the resources available to you, instead of simply opening up your wallet.

    That involves:

    • Doing things yourself, when you can

    • Learning new skills

    • Looking beyond the obvious sources

    • Asking your communities for help

    • Expanding your network

    Clearly, this takes a lot more work than just paying someone else to do it for you. But that effort pays off in so many ways.

    So How Does Resourceful Production Pay Off?

    1) It saves you money

    Obvious, right? Paying less = saving money. But saving money isn't just about your profits; it helps you get more done.

    A typical video costs thousands of dollars to produce, which is out of reach for most dancers. But being resourceful can save you enough money to turn your pipe dream into a realistic project.

    And when you lower your production costs, you can recoup your investment much sooner. The sooner you break even, the sooner you can make your next video, and get it into the hands of the people who need it.

    2) It's empowering

    When you produce your video resourcefully, you're going to learn lots of new skills. And new skills are empowering! They give you a great sense of confidence and competence. Even better, once you learn a skill, you can apply it to your next video, or even adapt it to other projects.

    And you'd be surprised how broadly those skills can be applied. This year, I learned how to interview a target profile to help me plan my programs. I used some of those same techniques at my mother-in-law's 70th birthday (a room full of people I didn't know), and I was the hit of the party!

    (BTW, you'll learn how to interview a target profile in the Resourceful Video Production Guide.)

    3) You'll discover new resources

    I gave a talk on video production at the MECDA Professional Dance Conference and Retreat this year. (And for those of you I met there, hi!) The most common feedback I received was "wow, I didn't even know that those resources existed".

    The world is full of organizations, web sites, and other resources that can help you realize your dream project. And once you discover them, they can help you with many future projects (video or otherwise).

    4) It's great networking

    As you explore your personal network, you're going to have to talk to people. And that's a great opportunity to build some relationships.

    Think about it: if you were a band, which would you find more flattering:

    Yet another "like" on your Facebook page?

    Or an email saying "I love your music, and I think my viewers would love it as well. Can I license this song for my DVD?"

    5) It opens the door for cross-promtion

    Those same relationships can come in handy when it's time to promote your DVD. The band may be willing to mention your DVD in their next newsletter. The dancer who did your cover design could post the picture (and a link) on her Facebook page. That can get the attention of many people outside your own circle.

    Of course, you should always do the same for them. Don't limit yourself to the credits - if someone helped you out, mention them by name whenever you can. And always include a link!

    6) It helps you connect to different communities

    Being resourceful often means looking outside of your usual circle. When you do that, you'll discover many new circles to join. For example, I film my DVDs at my public access TV station. The station helped me connect with the local arts community (not just the belly dance scene), which had a huge impact. To this day, I get more students through my local arts council than from any other source.

    But I Really Don't Want to Do It All Myself!

    Being resourceful doesn't mean that you have to do everything yourself. It just means that you explore all your options, so you can decide whether the savings are worth the effort.

    And resourceful production isn't an all-or-nothing method. For example, if you hate video editing, by all means pay someone else to do that part. Being resourceful can still save you a lot of money on other tasks.

    Ok, I'm Convinced. But What Do I Do Now?

    You'll notice that I used the words "network" and "community" a whole lot in this article. Your local and virtual communities are tremendous resources, so get out there! Go to local dance events (don't forget to actually talk to people). If you use facebook, "like" your favorite dance bands, and let them know how much you like their music.

    And if you haven't already, be sure to get your copy of Practice Makes Perfect Videos, my free guide to practicing your video production skills before you begin your dream project.

    Don't Be A Stranger!

    Have a question? A comment? Just want to say hi?

    Leave a comment here, tweet me, or say hi on Facebook.

  • Posted on 02 Dec 2011

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    Five Things to Do in the Black Friday Line

    (Yes, people really do camp out outside the stores...)

    You couldn't get me to go to the Black Friday* sales if my life depended on it.

    Fighting with crowds and standing around in the cold are bad enough. But getting up in the wee hours of the morning? Hell no.

    That said, I know a lot of people who enjoy the thrill of the hunt and the excitement of the event.

    My sister Melanie (who designs the covers for the Improvisation Toolkit DVDs) and her husband go every year. My theory is that it's less about the sales, and more a way to get some time alone together during the holiday weekend. But don't quote me on that. :)

    So for those of you who love Black Friday, I've put together a list of five things you can do to have some fun while you wait in line.

    1) Secret Dance Practice

    It's COLD out there! Even if you live in a warmer area, the early morning can still get chilly.

    Keep yourself warm by doing some shimmy drills. Keep the circulation going in your hands by practicing your wrist circles and hand undulations.

    • If you're shy, wear a long coat. Nobody will be able to tell that you're dancing, rather than just shivering. If you're not shy, not-so-secret practice is a great conversation starter!

    • Bring your iPod. You'll want some music to inspire you.

    • It's more fun with a friend. Invite a classmate or troupemate along, and practice your routines while you wait.
    • If anyone else in the line looks curious, strike up a conversation. You could even offer to show them a few moves, if they seem receptive. (If you teach or perform, be sure to bring a few business cards.)

    2) Virtual Dance Practice

    Studies have shown that tennis players are more likely to hit a perfect serve if they visualize it several times first. The visualization tells your brain "hey, this is important - and I'm going to ask you to do it again." We can apply this to belly dance too, whether it's executing a perfect hip drop, or learning a combination.

    Standing in line is a great place to do just that. So choose something you want to work on, and just imagine yourself doing it over and over again.

    • Be specific. "I want to make my snake arms more precise" is much better than "I want improve my arms."

    • Be sure to visualize every detail. What's happening in your hips, waist, hands, feet, gaze, and breath? What do you see, feel, and hear?

    • If you're visualizing a combination or choreography, focus on one small snippet at a time.

    3) Air Zils

    Working on your finger cymbals? A great way to kill time is to play "air zils". Just tap your middle fingers and thumbs as if you were playing your zils.

    • If you're shy, practice with your hands in your pockets, or tucked inside your sleeves.

    • Bring your iPod, and play along to different songs.

    • Be sure to "ring" your air zils. When you don't have the sound of the zils to guide you, it's easy to focus on closing your fingers, which trains you to "clack" your zils instead of ringing them. Focus on bouncing open after the strike, instead of on the strike itself.

    4) Song Mapping

    Whether you're working on a choreography or just your musicality, mapping out a song is a fantastic training tool. So bring a notepad, pen, and your iPod, and do some song mapping while you wait.

    • Be sure to bring gloves that are thin enough to handle a pen!

    • Everyone has a different method for song mapping. However you choose to do it, I suggest recording the major sections, how many measures are in each section, and any notable features (accents, instruments, etc.)

    • In your notes, be sure to write down the name of the song, the artist, the album, and the date. I've gone back through old notebooks, and had no idea which song map was which!

    5) Video Analysis

    Do you have an iPhone, iPad, or another portable device that can play videos? Load it up with some belly dance performances.

    You can watch them just for fun, or analyze them for moves and ideas that you'd like to incorporate in your own dancing.

    • Don't bring your laptop. It's heavy, you won't be able to plug it in, and you don't want to risk it being damaged or stolen in all the Black Friday excitement.

    • Be sure to charge your battery before you go.

    • Bring a notepad and pen, so you can record your observations.

    So What Do you Think?

    Do these sound like fun? Too off-the-wall for you? Leave me a comment.

    And if you actually do any of these, let me know how it goes! You can leave a comment here, tweet me, or say hi on Facebook.

    * For those of you outside the US, Black Friday is the day after the US Thanksgiving holiday. Many people begin shopping for holiday gifts on Black Friday, and so many retailers offer special sales on that day, and open in the early morning. Because the discounts are deep and items sell out, some shoppers line up in the streets as early as the night before, to get a good place in line.

    Photo by John Neidermeyer, used under a Creative Commons Non-commercial Share Alike 2.0 license.

  • Posted on 23 Nov 2011

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    Announcing the Resourceful Video Production Guide

    I'm working on a pretty exciting project: The Resourceful Video Production Guide.

    The Guide will take you through the video production process, from researching your idea to holding your DVD in your hand.   

    As the name implies, we're going to focus on being resourceful.  We'll explore free or low-cost resources that will help you make a professional-quality instructional video for a fraction of the cost of a hiring a production company.

    (This is the same process I used to create the Improvisation Toolkit DVDs for less than $100 each up-front.)

    I'm shooting to release it in mid-November, but that may change.

    I Want to Hear From You!

    I already have a pretty specific idea of what's going to go into the Guide, but it's important to me to get your input too, to make sure that it's as useful to you as possible.

    If you have a few minutes, please give me your input.


    One lucky respondent will receive a free copy of the Guide. To qualify, you must:
    - Complete the survey by noon (EST) on October 28th 2011
    - Answer all the questions
    - Include your contact information

    Stay in the Loop

    Sign up now to receive the latest news on the Guide project, as well as pre-order specials. You'll also receive "Practice Makes Perfect Videos", my free guide to practicing your video production skills before you begin your dream project.

    I'll also send you additional helpful resources and information from time to time, to help you make professional-quality videos on a no-frills budget.

    But don't worry: I won't flood your inbox with emails, I won't share your information with anyone else, and you can unsubscribe yourself at any time.

  • Posted on 18 Oct 2011


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