September 18, 2010

Belly Dance 101

When I sit down to count, I've been taking classes for 12 years, performing for 11 years and teaching for 10.  Whew!  The startling part of that sentence is not feeling amazed about how far I have come but rather everything I still have to learn, internalize and master.  It is all at once overwhelming and exciting.  I hoped that when I first started performing that this dance form would stay with me for decades, but I don't think I thought that much about the structure, history or culture of the dance.  I was lucky however because I had amazing teachers, attended workshops with masters in this dance and whether or not I was prepared to learn the scholarly aspects of belly dancing...I was thrust into those lessons and lectures.  

Now, as an instructor I really want to actively ensure that my students have all that information at their fingertips.  And with the growth of fusion and tribal styles of dance, I still want people to understand the roots...the heart and soul of belly dancing, from a cabaret point of view.  So, I've been sneaking in lectures and handouts and video clips for my students and decided to start chronicling those same topics here on my blog.  And although this is not the definitive guide to all things Egyptian, Arabic and Raks's a nice overview and starting point.

It took me years to figure out that belly dancing is not just about learning technique...hips drops, isolations and traveling is about comprehending the entire belly dance experience, where it started from and  the music, dancers and culture that have influenced it.  So, I put together this diagram to give my students an idea of life beyond a basic shimmy and to remind me as an instructor not to spend too much time on movement at the expense of everything else.  My goal in class is not to just follow one after the other, but rather touch on different elements at different times, but making sure people know each class...lesson...and experience is part of a bigger picture.  

In designing this diagram I thought about my own dance journey and what (and where) I learned different aspects along the way.  Some things like the movement were taught to me early on.  Others, like the influential dancers, musicians, classic songs and even culture I had to learn along the way or research myself.   All in all, I like my diagram and I hope you do as well!

September 16, 2010

Fall 2010 Classes

Well, I'm getting all geared up for some cooler weather and much warmer, sultry belly dance moves!  Come join me this fall for beginner and intermediate level classes at Tarrytown Dance.  You can register online and then just show up for the next available class.  Please note, the studio is making a move the first of October...and we'll have a larger and more wonderful space to dance out of very soon!

Happy Shimmies

September 7, 2010

Name That Tune

In a bizarre string of bad technological breaks, I have just spent four days of my life sifting and sorting through my music files on iTunes.   It all started with the addition of a new computer, and my overly naive belief that transferring my music from the old to the new would be simple, easy, and painless.  

Attempt number one resulted in the duplication (and triplication...if that's such a word) of the majority of my files.  So, instead of approximately 3,500 music files my folder showed close to 8,000. Two days of sifting, sorting and playing files resulted in a clean organized system.  Somewhere along the way I also learned that I could have purchased a $20 program to transfer the files, playlists and CDs in a more civilized manner. Too bad I didn't get that memo sooner.

The most difficult part was sorting through approximately 300 music files that had no name, no album and no home.  But, to my amazement and surprise I managed to find all of the files a home and I discovered how well I really do know my belly dance music. I was proud of my ability to 'name that tune' because I had  to listen to each snippet and then figure out what album it belonged with.  In many cases, it was a duplicate so I could just match up the times and delete the extra copy.  In some cases I had to play it over and over again, and even 'dance' the music a bit to figure out when and where I had used that song before. 

In a strange twist of fate, the next time I turned on my computer it asked me if I wanted to search for any music files to add to  iTunes.  Sleep apparently causes a memory loss, so instead of shrugging off that suggestion I told my computer, 'yes' and then watched in horror as my two days of work unraveled before my very eyes.  And now, two days further into this misadventure I am finally back to a clean set of files, with all my songs in their proper home, all my CDs with the appropriate artwork and a sense of wonder over my ability to sort through so many songs and know their name without hints.

I think back to when I first started dancing and didn't know anything about the music.  Everything ran together, I didn't have an ear for the difference in rhythms, instruments, composers or musicians.  Apparently all these years of immersing myself in the music has paid off.  I noticed this last week when I watched a show and could name the songs of most every dancer performing.  It was nice to sit there and think "ok, that's Ya Mustafa" or "hmmm...such a nice take on Jalilah's version of 1,001 nights" and although I don't want to play "name that tune" with my CDs ever again I'm feeling quite proud of my musical knowledge and acumen.  

So Internet, I dare you...could you take 100 songs off your iTunes list and name them all without peeking at the label or artist?  It's a daunting challenge but I suspect you're up to it!