Yesterday, I returned a phone call and answered a Face Book message from two separate people interested in belly dance lessons in two different parts of estWay irginiaVay (I'm using pig latin so I don't come up in more searches). I used to have a directory on my website to help people help themselves (and give me a less cluttered inbox) when looking for Belly Dance teachers. When we moved, I took that down, but I still get many many messages and phone calls from people looking for belly dance lessons in places I don't, nor have I ever lived. Pre-baby, I spent a lot of time putting my information out on the web for belly dance instruction and performance, so when people search for belly dance in my former state, my info usually comes up, even if it's about 10 years old.
In an effort to change that, I took my "down time" (down with a cold, that is) yesterday to try to update and clean up as much as I could to reflect that I am a belly dancer living in Pittsburgh, PA. This sort of thing inevitably leads to a website clean up too, since the site is extensive and it's easy to miss some details that may lead people astray. This led to a more thorough re-write of my "about Narah" page on my website and it really got me thinking about how much more I could have written in it years ago. I probably left it out because I talked so much about the "new details" so much in class, with friends and in my introductions for belly dance shows, as well as because the page was already so long to begin with. Keeping up with all the "about me" stuff, advertising, organizing, etc. was overwhelming enough before I had Angelo, so afterwards, I certainly have neglected quite a bit.
Using that Oh-so-clear hide sight and thinking about some of the frustrations I've experienced along the way, I am wondering if having it in writing at least one more place would have helped me and the belly dance community in general at least a little bit more. For example, one of the things I added to the "about Narah" page was that I performed "with the encouragement of my teacher". I didn't decide it was time to perform. My [future] teacher (and troupe mate) invited me to join them in an upcoming stage performance when she saw me dance. Then she sent me out on gigs on my own later. I did not approach her or decide to do that on my own. I also added that I started teaching belly dance "as the only belly dancer in town". There was no one else and I wanted people to dance with. I also had had plenty of experience with performing (with my teacher's guidance and encouragement) on my own and already had a diverse education in belly dance. I bring up these two points because issues with students performing and teaching before they are properly trained and actually executing the necessary skills of said training has been a sore spot in the belly dance community in this country for ... I honestly don't know how long. Probably always- look at all the dancers who called themselves "Little Egypt" after the Chicago's World Fair featured Belly Dance and made such a stir that others wanted to be just like her, but only imitated what they saw.
Because so many of us cherish this dance form and know that it requires integrity for the general public to truly appreciate it rather than continue holding onto stereotypes, we have searched for ways to encourage people to dance and appreciate themselves without "going professional" before they are qualified to properly present themselves in mind, body and spirit. It may be more of a concern these days because so much of life is set up to be instantly gratifying, more intense, more sexy.
I've had such lovely and wonderful students who clearly "get it". They have made me so proud and excited that they are "inside" this dance and drawing out the joy it can give to both dancer and observer! These students make teaching joyful. The times when I run into students who are missing ... something... I wonder what to do. I am human and I am a belly dancer who loves the art form dearly and hopes for the best for belly dancers and the Dance itself, which, to me, often seems a living breathing Goddess we should pay homage and respect to.
Clearly, each case is individual because we are all unique in our backgrounds and natural abilities. But, there would certainly be no harm in everyone taking more time to enjoy the dance, immersing themselves, knowing that "family living room party dancing" before taking on the role of professional performer and teacher. Enjoy student haflas and dancing around the kitchen. I personally am thoroughly enjoying taking classes, dancing at home and am really looking forward to this weekend's Social Hafla at Sterling Yoga (no performances, just hanging out and dancin'. :) So, all you young gals thinking this is the most awesome thing in the world and wanting to take it further, I don't blame you, but trust me, there's plenty of time. Soak up the opportunities to "just be" with it. There will be time later for stage and class room. Boy, do I sound like a Mother Hen or what? ;)
Another piece of information I added was the variety of styles I've studied and venues I've performed at. Again, I've talked with students and friends at length about this and had the details in my introductions at belly dance shows, so I'm sure I thought that was enough. However, I have encountered instances where people assume that Tribal belly dancers don't know the roots of belly dance or that if they are studying Oriental style belly dance that it is some new thing they are getting into. I identify with Tribal and Tribal Fusion. I think Oriental/Cabaret style belly dance is beautiful. I fuse the two because I am an artist, not because I don't know enough about either. I could add quite a bit more here, but I think that's enough.
I do hope that this opens the door to at least some people thinking differently about these issues. I know that the art form will speak for itself, so I'll put my drop in the bucket and let go. :)
Thanks for listening! If you would like to read the new "about Narah" page, go to http://www.tribalbellydance.net/about.htm