The Wisdom of S-L-O-W

Recently in Bellydancing class my teacher deliberately worked us with slow movements for most of the class.  She talked about going slow and it became  apparent  she was doing more slow in the class than usual.  I didn't feel the difference because of the care she takes to have us move with awareness in all her classes. I was able to do the whole class and leave with a grounded, satisfied feeling that I hardly know how to define, but I sure like it.

When I first started going to her class, I felt like Moby Dick on legs:The great white whale waddling in grotesquely to do the impossible: move smoothly and gracefully. . I have small hands with short fingers which do not lend themselves to looking graceful at all, EVER. Making controlled, snake like undulations with my arms and hands was quite difficult for me at first. I would find myself frowning and staring into the mirror  growling. Then I'd think “hm. if you can drum you can do this. Since when is difficult about hating yourself? If not here and now,  then where  and when will you ever get back into moving?”

When I am drumming I simply project that my hands can do anything  that is necessary to produce great rhythm. They can expand like umbrellas, become hard or soft, move like swift birds and go SLOW, be deep in the percussive groove.  While I use some peripheral vision to monitor my strokes,  I play by feel and  sound.  Bellydancing requires much more  visual correction, yet I'm beginning to be Ok with that and project that my body is capable of learning to do whatever is needed , just as my hands are when they drum.

My cuban master teacher often says “NO SPEED.” and “SLOW”. While I have chronic  difficulty with what he means exactly in relation to the precise bata rhythms he is teaching me to play,  I know what he means in general.  As an inexperienced drummer, I was addicted to rushing the rhythm phrase, running the beat notes together, and playing in a tense and hurried way. I had tense confused with fast and  strong enough.  I have now learned to not Stuff the spaces in a rhythm phrase, meaning I don't cut off or skip them, and I'm better able to stay on the proper beat  more often.

SLOW  comes in handy when breaking down a rhythm or combination of rhythms or dance moves into pieces for initial learning, perfecting and practicing them, and then, once well attained, playing them at faster speeds. SLOW isn't always comfortable. Sometimes it's quite a challenge  to do a rhythm that is meant for a certain meter SLOW. It sounds weird, doesn't feel natural, and begs for speed. But SLOW is a friend to dancers and drummers.

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About Shirley

I started this blog to expand and explore my rhythm horizons as a hand drummer. That exploration includes touching on the rest of my life and inner world as authentically and truthfully as possible.
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