December 18, 2010

Career opportunities for belly dancers

When asked what we wanted out of the class, all of my fellow beginner belly dance students proclaimed that they wanted to perform on stage, and be a professional belly dancer.  It was my very first belly dance class and I was the only one that just took the six-week class for fun, with no thought beyond the end of the session.  I never saw any of these ladies again after that series, and I chalk their comments up to youthful enthusiasm (yes they were about a decade younger than me), and just plain excitement about belly dancing.  I think that same experience repeats itself on a regular basis around the world, but do women really know what different opportunities and roles there are in this dance form?

In my other life (the one that pays the bills), I have a background in human resources and communication.  I periodically have friends who call on me to review their resumes or offer career advice.  I’ve even helped some people negotiate their starting salary in a new job because my specialty is compensation.  One friend even set me up on a “date” with her husband who had been recently laid off and was contemplating a major career change.  Call it career counseling or just a willingness to listen; I’ve have a talent for helping people figure out what to do with what they know.

The conversations start out in the same manner.  What do you like to do? What do you find interesting/exciting about your job? What do you NOT like to do? People may not realize it, but the list of things you don’t like is usually the most telling part of the discussion.  There are always tedious tasks in every job (even belly dance ones), but knowing what you don’t want is the biggest battle.  This approach has also helped me over the years to hone my list of what I want to do as a dancer and instructor and what I don’t want.  And when I’m feeling less focused, it helps me figure out where to put my energy and effort and what to pass by.  So here’s my list:

  • I don’t do restaurant gigs, or belly grams, or weddings…or Renaissance fairs.
  • If I have to compete with your dinner or your expectations of what a belly dancer is…I’ll happily pass.
  • I do love performing on stages (large and small), dancing to fabulous music (live and recorded), teaching, taking classes and hanging out with fellow dancers. 
  • If I can dance or teach and easily see your face in the audience…that makes me happy. I may even wink at you. 
  • I’m not looking to make a living as a belly dancer, but it’s nice to have extra income to offset the cost of costumes and workshops. 
  • I’m not trying to be a nationally known dancer, but I am looking to be respected for my dance, my knowledge and skills. 
  • If at the end of the day, I help you become a better dancer or woman through my classes, my performances or my online musings…I’m happy.
As we head into that infamous time of the year when people are off making New Year’s resolutions, I’d like to offer a little career counseling.  Instead of focusing on what will you do as a dancer in this next year, or what are your goals; I’d like to spend some time talking about what you CAN do as a dancer.  Consider this a list of belly dance career opportunities, options to choose from…but not a list of everything you should try and do.  Because you simply cannot DO and BE everything in this list, however you can DO some things well and you can BE accomplished with a little dedication and focus.

We’ll start in the next post with the first steps:  Student opportunities.  So, stay tuned!

December 13, 2010

Top Ten Reasons to Come to Tribal Belly Dance Camp

Come to camp!  Come to Tramp!  We'll be spanking our sparkly junk and toasting marshmallows.  And you don't want to miss out on this opportunity. 

Tribal camp this year features Kajira Djoumahna with Black Sheep Belly Dance and is hosted by the lovely and talented Bahaia and the ever-adorable Michelle Manx!

December 6, 2010

Student to Student: Dance on Thru to the Other Side

(Najla's note:  Our guest post for the day is written by one of my lovely students, Krysta.  She's talented, witty, charming, uber-cute and quite enraptured by dance of all shapes and sizes...perfect for belly dance, right?  She wrote the lovely post below, and I picked the picture below...hee...hee)

Step.  Ball-Change.  Sache Right.  Oh hell.  Step.  Ball-change.  Shimmy, Drop.  No.  Step.  Ball-change.  I. Give. Up.  I.  Need. A. Drink.

Whether you’re a beginner or a veteran dancer, you have probably had a similar thought process while trying to master difficult choreography – or choreography that doesn’t necessarily come naturally to you.  Fear not my frustrated comrade, you are not the first or the last to feel the hopelessness of a blank memory when trying desperately to coax your arms and legs into the right formation in the right rhythm while the rest of your company kicks and smacks you while perfectly executing every turn, leap and shimmy across the studio floor.

Below are several helpful things to keep in mind while negotiating your way to the end of this agonizing class or rehearsal. 

Look and Listen
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen dancers try to dance a new choreography WITH the teacher while s/he is teaching it for the first time. I realize that people learn differently, but there is a lot to be said about watching and observing the moves you are about to spend an hour and a half (or three) working on. Take the physical break while you can get it, sister! It also helps to listen to your instructor, as they often mention small details and nuances of the choreography as they dance the routine (and sometimes even beforehand). If you’re already in the middle of actually learning the routine, it is completely acceptable to stop, step to the side, and watch the movement so that you can process it before jumping back in.

Do not give up, dismiss yourself or berate yourself.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Whether you think can, or you think you can’t, you’re probably right.” You are not Suzie-Q Dance-a-Roo next to, in front of, or behind you. She has a different past, present and future. Do not concern yourself with comparisons or self-deprecation. Those sorts of negative thoughts clutter the mind, and do not allow space for the choreography you should be learning right now. Get out of your own way. (And the way of your neighboring dancer).

I, like many others, forget to breathe – as a dancer and as a human. When you make sure to remember to integrate your breath into your movement, your body can associate the movement with the sequence of the breath. Breathing also increases the quality of your movement.

You are not alone.
Suzie-Q Dance-a-Roo may be dancing circles around you and the teacher, but have you considered the 10 other dancers who are either working through the same section as you are…or perhaps a section you’ve mastered?

Tomorrow is another day.
We all have off-days. Now, off-days are not an excuse for poor work-ethic, but they do happen, and it’s important to be forgiving of yourself if you’re having one. Keep working through it, stop when you need to, and jump in when you’re ready. (This is not a way to allow yourself to give up either, by the way.)

As with most things, at the heart of it all, if you just continue to do your work with positivity and optimism, you’ll surprise yourself one day with the perfect execution of your routine. And, I’m sure you’ve heard this a thousand times before in performance and rehearsal….but don’t forget to smile!

New class format, new website and a New Year!

We may be winding down the end of 2010, but I am gearing up for an exciting and busy 2011. I'm officially changing the format of my classes beginning in January, I promise to have my new website up and running and what better way to kick off your New Year's than with a shimmy?

What's the big news in classes? I will now be offering three different classes, each with a distinct focus as well as opportunities to combine classes. I made this change so that all my students can continue to work on their technique and skills, in addition to other areas of dance. For my beginner students, this change will help them move to the more challenging classes, combinations and choreographies and for those intermediate level students who don't aspire to perform, this will allow them to get a good work out and learn some great new techniques.

Currently all classes will be held at Tarrytown Dance on Sunday nights. Classes will resume on January 9, 2011. Online class registration is available as well as class gift certificates. New students registering in January will receive the "loyal student" class rate, so take advantage of the discount now!

Fundamentals of belly dance (4:00 to 5:00 p.m.)
  • This class is designed for students new to the dance, or those that want to work on fundamental movement and technique. Each month a new topic is introduced, with the idea that a new student to belly dance can gain a strong foundation in the dance over the course of six months. 
  • The topic for January is: Pops, Locks and Shimmies: An introduction to belly dance isolations and movement. The four-week class will cover rib and hip work, lifts, drops and shimmies. Perfect for students new to the dance or beginner students who want to drill these movements and increase their stamina.
  • Class rate is $12 a class. Students who have studied with Najla for at least three consecutive months, pay a "loyal student" rate of $10 a class.
Mixed-level belly dance (5:00 to 6:30 p.m.)
  • This class is designed for students who want to work on their technique and perfect their belly dance skills. With a mix of drills, combination and improvisation, this class is ideal for a dancer who has a strong understanding of fundamental belly dance movement. 
  • Experience with zils and veil is highly recommended.
  • This class may be combined at a discounted rate with either the fundamentals or performance class. The cost for the combined class is $22 a night for either combination (mixed+fundamentals or mixed+performance). Students who have studied with Najla for at least three consecutive months, pay a "loyal student" rate of $18 a night for the combined classes.
  • The topic for January is: Building Strength and Endurance: Work off those holiday calories and start your New Year off right with drills targeted at increasing your strength as a dancer. Class will not only include drills, but also cardio and stamina movements followed by a nice, long stretch at the end. So, how many hip drops can you do in a row? Let’s find out!
  • Class rate is $15 a class. Students who have studied with Najla for at least three consecutive months, pay a "loyal student" rate of $12 a class.
Performance and choreography (6:45 to 8:00 p.m.)
  • This class is designed for students who are interested in solo and group performance opportunities. In this class, Najla will explore more advanced and challenging dance technique, including performances with props, improvisation, designing choreography and deepening your understanding of Middle Eastern music, culture and costuming.
  • Enrollment in this class is subject to the instructor’s approval. Students attending the performance class must be simultaneously registered for the mixed-level technique class. Because the emphasis on this class is performance, students are invited but not required to perform at local dance events. 
  • This class is required for membership in the Baharat Belly Dance Ensemble. Members of the ensemble may be required to purchase troupe costumes for group performances.
  • In January, we’ll be starting a review of the drum solo choreography, as well as beginning new work that includes veil, floor work and sword.

What to Wear:
Wear comfortable clothing that is easy to move in, but try to avoid loose or baggy clothing. Yoga wear or leggings and tank tops work well in class. Bare feet are recommended, but dance slippers, jazz shoes or dance sneakers will also work (no street/athletic shoes please). Hip scarves are available to borrow in class, and information on purchasing scarves is available in class.

Payment and Attendance Policy:
Students may sign up and pay online, or pay at the door via check or cash. New students are required to sign up for a full month of classes, and classes are non-refundable. Current students may pay on a student account to cover classes. Class payments are non-refundable and expire six months after purchase.