Susan's Blog

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

High Heels are Okay

It’s amazing to think that there are folks out there who believe that one size fits all. This is not true for education, for autism therapy, or for clothing. I don’t think one size even fits all for belly dance instruction!

I hate dogma — even when it pertains to belly dance. I hate feeling as if there is a mysterious canon of knowledge that will take years to be imparted to me from On High. Demystification, bastardization, adaptation: that’s my style. There are very few rules in this world, or mysteries. You have to study, sure, and practice. But at some point, you also begin to develop your own ideas and take off. That is why it is so difficult for me to find just the right teacher right now. There are plenty of wonderful teachers around, but I am still trying to figure out just what this belly dancing means to me and where I’m going with it. There is a change occurring both within me and about me. And so my needs keep shifting.

Even my practicing has shifted. Because I practice every other day for an hour, I am becoming very adept at many of the moves; my muscles respond quickly and familiarly to my brain’s commands. As an “advanced beginner,” I can follow along skillfully to most of my DVDs and classes now. I am thrilled that I have mastered so many of the basics, from A to Z: arabesques to entering with a veil to piston hips to not-quite-zilling properly.

But within me the change is about confidence and thought. I now feel like I could demonstrate moves for people and not mess up out of embarrassment. I go right into Dancer’s Pose and start. I look up and I try to smile. (One thing you’re taught early on is how to look as if you are utterly detached from your body and what it’s doing; to smile in delight at your popping hip or your undulating tummy, as if its alive!) I know that what I am doing is not something most people I know can do at all, so it is special and they will admire my skill rather than see my flaws.

In thought, I find that I am shopping around for a teacher who corresponds to my way of doing things. I no longer feel that it is okay to feel like a novice. I know a bit, now, and I want to be treated as such. I want someone who focuses a lot on performance and choreography, who is careful about form but is not insane about precision. My very first teacher said, “As long as it’s pretty, it’s right.” I like that more than another teacher who said, “You want it to look like more than just shaking it around. You don’t want your audience to think, ‘I can do that!'” My feeling is, why not? Why wouldn’t I want my audience to feel that they can do it to, and want to? Isn’t that the mark of a true artist, someone who takes you to another plane of feeling, who makes you push beyond your usual boundaries to try something new? I want a teacher who is demanding but inclusive; who praises me and shows me how to do more without my feeling clutzy. A teacher who wants you to wear fun stuff to class, not sweats. One teacher I saw said, “high heels are okay,” which made me laugh. I thought, now that’s why belly dance is for me!


Practice, practice, practice – glad those neural pathways are firing on all cylinders.

— added by Anonymous on Tuesday, January 16, 2007 at 7:38 pm

I need a (my) thing. Your thing is inspiring. I hope you find a helpful teacher.

— added by mrs. gilb on Tuesday, January 16, 2007 at 11:34 pm

I am SO with you on every count. One thing I know about the dance is that it is for the dancer, not really for others. What we’re doing is allowing others to watch us while we dance, ultimately, for our own enjoyment. We are sharing our experience with others. If the dance is supposed to be joyful & a personal experience, it should be done in a way that reflects who we are as individuals. For instance, I detest drum solos. I like listening to drums for a little but, I just plain don’t like dancing to a drum solo. I do have to say that my instructor is wonderful in that she tells us that if we mess up the audience doesn’t know it, and even if somebody in the audience does know they don’t care. They are rooting FOR you, not against you. If you just smile & keep going or create something new that wasn’t in your planned choreography, hey it’s ok. You are there to enjoy the dance & let your audience in on the enjoyment. If you aren’t perfect, so what. I think there is alot of snobbery coming about in this field. Many are very supportive of newbies, but others almost shun you if you aren’t doing things just so. If you dance to music that is not Middle Eastern they about have a heart attack. Better not tell them that my first solo is going to be done to an LA Guns song. LOL Well, anyway, I don’t mean to run away posting on your blog. I just wanted to tell you how much I identify with you & how what you have written could have been my very own post. (((huggles))) Great post, honey.

— added by Melissa on Saturday, May 19, 2007 at 4:31 am

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