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!

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