Bellydance Troupe Constructive Critique

Your troupe performers will need constant verbal feedback from you, but it's also a good idea to do the occasional constructive critique in writing too.

The following is what I gave to my performing students at the end of 2004. It will give you some ideas as to what kind of points to make when delivering written critique, but the one rule you must abide by is to that you include positive feedback as well as the inevitable criticism.

Note that I’ve replaced all the names with Dancer 1, 2, 3, etc, for the purpose of posting this onto the website, but in the critique sent to the students I (of course) addressed everyone by name.

You'll see I followed a general pattern in each critique. First I say something positive, then I give some critique, and then I finish by giving my vision for that dancer.

You'll also note that I asked some of the students to increase their attendance to my classes. For anyone who thinks this suggestion was for my own financial gain, you're thoroughly wrong. When I ran my own school, the students had the option of purchasing an Unlimited Pass (which all troupe members would buy) and could attend any and all of my classes. By telling some of the troupe dancers to increase their attendance to classes, I was merely pressing them to use the Unlimited Pass they had already acquired to its fullest capacity.

Dancer 1

You always have ideas about staging, choreographies, entrances and exits and this is something that is very valuable to the troupe. As someone who is also self-employed, I know how hard it is to fit extra stuff in, but do try to schedule a little more time out for yourself to come along to more classes as your progress will otherwise stagnate.

Creatively, you have good ideas and you’re very quick to pick up new technique. But choreographies take a little longer to sink in for you, hence the need for more consistent attendance to non-rehearsal classes.

You are always helpful in many ways - even by making a joke and lightening things up in class, you help the morale of the Genies and the mood of the room. Your nuttiness is infections and appreciated.

I asked you to join the Genies because of your natural abilities in Bellydance. With such capabilities you don’t want lack of attendance to let you down. So the next step is getting you technically sharp and, besides practise at home, more class attendance will push you to developing more precise movement.

Dancer 2

You're not afraid to give an opinion, admit when you don’t know something, and you always think outside the square. I love all that about you!

Your improvisation skills have improved markedly in the past year and while your overall technique is good, you’ve stayed at the same level technically for a while now. I think you need a little something extra to push through to the next level and that improvement will only come with more technique classes.

I asked you to join the Genies because of the progress I saw in your dancing over a short period of time, and your near-unfailing attendance every week. I’d like to see you go the next level of confidence on stage and I believe that that will come with more work on technique.

Dancer 3

I like your give-it-a-go attitude and the fact that you’re willing to rehearse things over and over again without complaint.

You’re picking up again, but due to the long break you've had, you really needed a lot of emergency practice before the coming performance. I think you’ll need to get back to doing as many classes as you were doing before you went overseas. Your dancing has obviously taken a step backwards and you were progressing so quickly, so it would be a shame to lose the fruits of your hard work. (Also, you must start retrieving emails more often - I’ve had more bounce back to me than reach you!)

I asked you to join the troupe when you were very new to Bellydancing because of two things: natural potential and the amount of classes you were attending - I figured that with your moderate natural abilities and lots of classes you’d be well on your way to becoming a good dancer. And I was right, but the break from dancing has set you back and I’d love to see you back on track next year!

Dancer 4

You’re still looking good despite the recent slip in attendance due to entry to the full-time workforce. The huge amount of lessons you attended before your slip, along with your moderate natural ability, is keeping you well and truly afloat in the technical sense.

You’ve always been able to dance quite well, even from the very start, but need to really concentrate on unstiffening your legs. You lock out your knees quite often and doing that makes it impossible to have your legs ready for any type of dance action. Plus, it’s also very bad for your knees and lower back.

You’ve never had a problem with picking up technique and this is a big advantage for you. Try to get into the rhythm of coming to more classes again once you get used to being in full-time work. I chose you to join the Genies because of your natural ability and high class attendance rate. Your natural ability is still there, and you just need to get your attendance higher again in order to continue moving ahead.

Dancer 5

You have very high natural ability. However, doing only the minimum required classes has meant that you aren’t where you should be in terms of your current skills - you should have been a soloist a looong time ago as you have very beautiful movement. Your huge advantage is your experience in ballet as it has given you elegance and a good memory for choreographies.

I like and appreciate your suggestions and creative input, and your moves are sharp and clean. Your natural style is lovely, and that’s the reason I asked you to join the Genies. The next step for you is a big dose of technique so that you can get better at improvisation. You have wonderful stage presence and will be a fabulous soloist, but you need Bellydance techniques more firmly ingrained in your body in order to get there.

It's essential that you practise the skill of swapping from any one move to the next without a glitch as that's a big part of advancing your improvisation skills. Another suggestion is to start building your library of music. The more music you have, the more easily you can dance to any music that happens to be playing, because your understanding of and ability to 'read' Bellydance music will grow.

If you can get to plenty of classes now that you’ll be a working woman with a little more money in your hands, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a fantastic performer.

Dancer 6

I’m so proud of your improvement in dancing. You’re such a shy person and you really don’t give yourself as much credit as you deserve for what you’re naturally able to do and what you’ve achieved.

Your big technical flaw is locked-out legs - please try to remember to keep a very slight bend in your legs at all times. It’s more important than you may think! Your attendance is among the highest of the Genies, and it really shows in your dancing technique.

Your biggest mission in the near future is to build your confidence in both yourself and your dancing. You’ve been doing an awesome job, keep it up!

Dancer 7

I love the way you always have suggestions with stage directions and positioning. Your creative streak is a real asset to the troupe.

At this point, what you require is lots and lots of work on technique. In particular, sharpness of technique. Your movement should be looking a lot better than it does after all your years of Bellydancing. You have the potential to be a very good dancer in that you are confident, artistic and have a lovely personality, but you’re falling behind technically and being surpassed by Genies who have danced for much less time than you.

I strongly suggest that you step up the number of classes you attend next year so that you can become the wonderful dancer I know you can be.

Dancer 8

I admire the way you handle the repetitiveness of rehearsal after all these years and applaud the fact that you're always willing to do any part in a performance that's necessary, no matter how little or big it may be.

It’s remarkable the way your brain is like a computer when it comes to choreographies, and what I'd like to see you concentrate on now is injecting a lot more energy into your dancing. It’s a real pleasure to have you in the troupe.

Dancer 9

You’re very quick to catch on with choreographies and your attendance is good. Your ear for music is a big asset to our troupe, as is your knowledge and understanding of Bellydance music. Your technique is coming along very well, and the amount of classes you’re attending weekly is benefiting your dance progress immensely.

With a moderate to high natural dance ability, together with an especially keen ear for the music and lots of classes every week, you're advancing quickly in the technical sense. I can see you as a soloist in the future. Keep up the good work!

Dancer 10

You’re easily the top all-round dancer of the troupe - taking into account memory for choreographies, technique, improvising ability, and creative input.

Your attendance to ten classes per week has sharpened your technique and made your movements clear and perfect. Your very high natural ability coupled with practice has pushed you well ahead of the others. You are the top Genie! You’ve been working very hard and deserve that place. A huge well done!

Dancer 11

You have good technique and started out with enormous potential, but you’ve stagnated at that same level for at least a year now. With your very high natural ability, you should really be better technically, and if you want to improve, you need to start doing a greater volume of Level 1 and 2 classes. You’ve very quickly been surpassed by Genies who have less years of experience than you but attend a lot more classes.

I feel you want to be more advanced in Bellydance than you currently are - I’d love to see you there too, and it will take more skill in technique to do that. You should have been a soloist by now, but without the class attendance the progress required for solo work has not occurred.

Often during rehearsal you seem to be in a world of your own and doing your own thing, rather than what’s meant to be done. You need to rectify this by working on your listening skills - I know you’re often trying to help another with choreographies, techniques, etc, but don’t make their lack of knowledge your problem.

This is especially important if you want to teach when you soon move to another part of Australia: you’ll need to work on your listening skills as a student before you can learn to be a teacher. Your manner can sometimes come across as quite brusque, and you’ll have to curb that if you want to teach. You are an asset to the troupe in so many ways, and a lovely dancer with lots of natural ability, but people skills are not your forte. Work on them if you have any interest in teaching for the future.

The way you embrace detail gives you exceptional memory for choreographies. But in excess this fondness for detail makes your technique quite tense by stiffening movement and flow, and prevents a real connection with the music. You’re awesome when it comes to taking stage directions, and have a great memory for them, but don’t deal as well with last-minute change. The information is glued to your brain so much (which is good as you retain information) that it’s a little tough to unglue it if necessary (not so good as it seems to stress you out quite a bit).

There is a need to work on timing - you’re often dancing to the choreography as it is on paper without necessarily listening to the music. Also, you need to learn not to react dramatically if you make a mistake on stage. If you make a mistake, don't worry about it - just rejoin the choreography.

Being self-employed and a mother of three I think you're doing an extraordinary job in being part of the troupe. I hope you continue to be with us for as long as you stay in Sydney.

Dancer 12

You have been coming to up to 10 classes a week for the last 3 years, so you’re quickly shooting through as the second-top Genie. Loads of consistent practice and attendance has put you way in front in terms of technique. Unfortunately, you lack confidence in your own abilities. You must work on becoming more confident in you!

You’re the next soloist on my list of things to do. J

Dancer 13

Your energy levels seem to be a little low sometimes - or is it disinterest? Boredom? Or is it all in my imagination? As for your dancing, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone with such natural ability - you're an astoundingly good dancer without much effort, so I’d love to see you knock everyone out with your dancing in the future.

Although you’ve had an extensive break from classes, you have really shown yourself to be an extraordinary natural because you haven’t lost any technique from the long break. You've never had a problem picking up a technique and have a lovely, relaxed style that is a pleasure to watch. With lots and lots and lots and lots more technical classes you are right behind Dancer 12 in terms of becoming the next soloist.

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Quick Mediations For Workaholics
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Adopt a homeless animal instead - they all deserve a second chance

It's estimated that 130,000 dogs and 60,000 cats are killed every year in Australia because there are not enough homes for them all. And the global numbers amount to millions upon millions every single year.

Puppy mills are a major contributor to the terrible problem of overpopulation. Puppy mills are essentially 'dog factories' where dogs are forced to churn out litter after litter, with no thought for the welfare of the dogs and all thought for profit. The dogs live in appallingly dirty, cramped conditions all their lives, and when they no longer serve their purpose they're killed, dumped or sold to vivisection laboratories.

Petshops fit into the picture because puppy mills are generally where petshops get their animals from. Furthermore, having animals in shop windows encourages impulse purchases, and adding an animal to your family should be a conscious, careful decision - NOT one to be made while shoe shopping.

Breeders contribute enormously to the tragic statistics above too. And it doesn't matter whether they're professional breeders or backyard breeders, and whether they breed for profit or not, because while there are homeless animals sitting on death row in shelters, any and all animal breeding is utterly irresponsible.

Now, here's where you come in. You can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. You can either buy animals from puppy mills, petshops or breeders and be part of the problem. Or you can adopt from a shelter or rescue organisation and be part of the solution.

If I haven't convinced you, visit your local shelter to see the homeless animals. Let their innocent faces convince you that adopting is the only responsible choice to make.

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