Since getting my new zills at the end of April, I've stepped up the amount of practise I've been doing. As I don't, unfortunately, have access to a teacher, I have had to find different ways to teach myself. My learning so far has been through online videos, and from a variety of CD and other rhythm resources. For anyone who might be in the same position, I thought I would share some of the things that have really helped. I'll start with the online videos.
YouTube is as good a place to start as any, when looking for some top up online tuition. A quick search for "zills" plus "lesson", "learn" etc. will throw up a range of clips of varying quality together with a few trailers for video resources that can be purchased. I found this a good way to cover a few basics and find some interesting play along material too. Some of the videos that are for sale also look good, although I haven't invested as yet. Here are 2 teachers that recommend.
Firstly, Anthea Kawakib, a master ziller from the States. She has an online course on her YouTube channel with 7 classes, suitable for both students and teachers who want ideas for teaching zills in class. This short course, felt like an opportunity to follow the classes I never had. The best thing about them is that from the outset, playing at the same time as dancing and moving about is absolutely essential. By stop starting the clips and doing the same lessons over and over, there are maybe a few hours worth of free training here. Here is an example of Anthea breaking the technique down into manageable doses, from her second lesson:
The second teacher is Mahin Sciacca, author of the "Daily Bellydance Quickies". She has posted a huge amount of free online material on belly dance and body conditioning. This includes over 40 great zills videos, again aimed at familiarization, practise, and getting you moving and playing at the same time. It helps to already have some experience of zill playing beforehand though, as does having some familiarity with American names for basic Arabic rhythms. Here is Mahin teaching a combination with zills to Leylet Hob:
The other set of videos I found useful, were Ansuya's online classes. Former bellydance superstar Ansuya is famous for performing high energy belly dance, zills always in hand. Just when I needed it, I came across a tweet from Ansuya granting a 24 hour free trial of Ansuya Online. This is a subscription service that offers 4 new videos every month, together with the previous few months worth in an archive. There is a basics class, a workout, a choreography and an "entertainment" section featuring extras type titbits. I followed I think 3 different zills classes from the archive. Lessons were 40 minutes long and I found the teaching to be excellent, clear and precise. Rhythms were broken down into small pieces, built up again, speeded up and combined with moves. I got a lot out of the learning, which even stuck with me for several days afterwards.
Although I am very grateful for the trial, I found the American belly dance posture and style quite alien to my own Egyptian Dance training. But I would still recommend this series to an experienced dancer who can't easily access classes/workshop, especially if you're already a fan or interested in learning a variety of different props in addition to zills.