I have been teaching since January of 1998 – 10 years at this point. My own journey to this point has been full of learning.
– learning how to explain a movement that I believe I found easy to do,
– learning how to create a choreography that works with the music and is still a challenging and achievable piece of art that an audience might enjoy watching,
-learning how to be encouraging, while pointing out ways to enhance and improve, without sounding cruel and insensitive.
These are lessons I continue to work on every time I go to class. I had two main teachers myself “growing up” in belly dance. Both had very different styles, and yet both had a relaxed attitude that allowed for personal growth and development. I am still good friends with my first teacher, and my second teacher played a very large role in helping move on to a better life when I needed someone’s support.
Both teachers provided the opportunities to learn and grow in belly dance, through seeing them and others perform as well as being included in the larger community through their efforts. I first saw a dancer similar to myself in carriage at a party held by my first teacher, opening my eyes to the beauty of belly dance on all body types.
I was an apprentice dancer for at least a year with my 2nd teacher, joining her at events and learning how to handle many varieties of performances.
My friends are predominantly belly dancers, and the few who are not have either tried it at least once, or come into my life through friendship with a belly dancer. We are spirited folk! And we love it – even when we take a break for personal reasons, feel the ebb and flow of the energy within the community, we are all powerful women who have found a home filled with jingly, sparkly things!
I feel for the students as they are embracing something new and unknowable. Will they be able to isolate their upper and lower half? Will they have the strength in their body to hold a position while allowing a separate part of their body to do something crazy? Why does one side work well and the other just make life difficult? All of these things create texture and turmoil that induce either the spark of “I will, I will…” or the winds of “Nope, it’s not for me…” And that’s how it should be.
As each new student signs up for class, they are taking the first step in a journey that may bring them into our world. Or it may lead them to a place of deeper self appreciation, with the knowledge that while they may not choose belly dance as their path, they are closer to finding the path they wish to be on, as they are at least making attempts to get somewhere!
Some come into the world as dancers and find their place as artisans and creative souls who embellish the others. They choose not to perform, but to enhance the experience of those dancers around them who are there to be decorated and amplified by something beautiful and glorious. A dancer without a costume to enhance her style is still a dancer, but there is magic in the bra and belt. In the swirl of the skirt. In the sighing of the veil. Jewelry and sparkle and adornments galore give spirit form. And someone who can relate will always provide the most significant contributions to the glorifying of the body to enhance the soul.
Ah, back to the student’s journey…
There is a joy in seeing a student work hard to achieve an isolation, a hip lift, a shoulder roll, a circle of the hips that is strong and yet sensuous. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes spirit.
When a dancer reaches a new level of skill, she will revel in it, she will explore it, then she will languish in it for a while. Her comfort achieved, she may relax in her efforts to seek improvement – for a while at least. Then something will trigger that spark again. A need to find a better way, a stronger move, a softer facial expression, something that will take her out and up will overwhelm and carry her through.
We are all students – always. It’s a cliche, but sometimes we need to be reminded of them. Seek your teachers, find the lessons they teach you openly as well as those lessons you can learn from their actions, choices and behaviors.