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  1. #11
    Senior Member walladah's Avatar
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    Default Learning by dancing will also give you technique

    provided that
    a) you dance among people who dance for many years and their technique is elaborated the way you would like yours to be some day
    b) you spend many years dancing regularly with those people...

    Actually, in a society where bellydance or oriental dance etc is not traditional, you do not have the luxury to learn the easy way, e.g. learn by doing, because all people around you dance at any occasion (f.e.x when female friends gather to tell their news and they dance in the meantime for fun). In such a setting, you may see young women of 15 or 18 years old being really "experts", e.g. their technique is also very high-level and they have never attended a formal lesson with broken-down explanations for technique etc [By the way, gypsy tribes are also like this and if you have any connection to gypsy people, even if you know just one person who is gypsy, just ask them to invite you at their feasts].

    Taking lessons for bellydance but also for any dance is because you cannot learn it the easy way, e.g. within a social setting that is of everyday nature for you. In that sense, you skip the main road (learn by doing) and you learn technique to reach the level a woman who has experienced this art in its social setting might have. In other words, you take lessons because you have only one life to live and you cannot rewind it to go to a society where bellydance is traditional and live there for 10 or 15 years.

    In that sense, you need technical lessons as much as dancing.

  2. #12
    Moderator Darshiva's Avatar
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    I'd disagree with this on two counts:

    Firstly, with hard training in a class situation (private lessons, etc) one can reach a level of proficiency unlikely from learning in the situation you explained.

    Secondly, a huge factor is time. A teenager starting in a good dance school at 13 can become a stage-worthy dancer if she dedicates herself by the time she is 18. By your example it's taken 16 years to achieve the same goal (assuming that the student is one of the few who has the knack of picking up dance to that degree by the follow the bouncing butt method).

    I agree that is it possible to become an excellent dancer in this way, and a that dancer who has learned this way will have a vastly different energy on stage to one who has learned in a classroom setting. However, said dancer will also likely be lacking in a particular skill set - learning &/or writing choreography. Now I know it is strongly debated whether or not choreography even has a place in bellydance, but I feel that if it is good enough for Reda, etc, it's good enough for me. And by the same token I feel that a well-rounded dance education includes learning from teachers (as many as possible!), drilling your moves, learning how to write & learn choreography and learning how to listen to the music (how to improvise in a performance setting without losing it). By just learning in a social setting, you are missing out on vital parts of a dance education. You may end up being the best dancer at the social place you are dancing, and you may be the best thing anyone has ever seen on stage, but you are NOT being the best dancer you can possibly be because you are not developing all areas of your dance equally. And that is a shame, because think about how much better that dancer could be by focusing on other areas equally!
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  3. #13
    Senior Member walladah's Avatar
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    Default I am afraid that the issues of proficiency

    in art are also a matter of taste and of experience:

    a) i have met great dancers that have been dancing since their first walks on earth and they are proficient and able to teach at their 14. However, as you write, they know very well one style only, the one they learned in a social setting, and they do not know many styles as a trained dancer would know. Probably, most of them do not have the ability but to teach the way they learned and not the way a dancer who has formal training might be able to teach. This is not bad in itself, though, it is just a matter of taste, about teaching methods.

    b) people like Reda's style and as Reda invented it, you can only learn it by lessons, because Reda style is not community dance. I like very much community dances as well, not only because they are socially embedded, but also because dances which are traditional for centuries, have reached the quality of litotes (λιτότης) in art, e.g. they have only the ornaments that are essential and they have got rid of anything that might be in excess. Litotes is a matter of taste. There are people who like oriental dance to be like a Faberge egg and people who like oriental dance to be like the sea in a day without wind. Reda's style has not yet reached litotes and i am afraid it was not invented to reach litotes.

    c) proficiency in art, esp. in dance has nothing to do with athletics-body aptitude or with choreographies. Dance in itself, esp. community dance, is like a mantra creation: you dance and you celebrate the present moment. You dance and you dance again to celebrate your ability to create at every moment from scratch. You do not dance to show everything you can do with your body, but to show everything you want to say with your body.

    d) In that sense, despite the ballet influence on Reda, one cannot but point out the reversed-mirror orientalism that Reda's style reveals: He tried to prove that traditional dances of Egyptians are of the "level" of ballet. This is what most teachers of oriental dance try as well: they accept that ballet or western dance is of "higher" level somehow and they distort oriental dance's philosophy by making it a "ballet of the east". To accept a hierarchy of dances and dance learning methods is something very... western and modern (it holds for all arts and sciences). Even this worry that without formal lessons you cannot be a proficient oriental dancer reveals this attitude.

    e) my own experience is that i learned my homeland's dances to a proficient level by dancing all the time along with family and friends. And i attend lessons and workshops for the styles of other areas or communities, where i do not have the chance to live in and learn the same way. What lessons have helped me with is that i appreciated my homeland's dance and dancers (some of them are unbelievably good, fluid, stylish, inventive and music-fit) while this style of dance is not formally taught anywhere. And of course, by keeping dancing through lessons, while far away from my homeland, i can keep my movement ability to some sort of "readiness" to dance, as life styles in other areas might prevent people from dancing regularly.

    f) as for the music, well, traditional dances and community setting for dance learning is with music only! actually, there is no possibility to be considered a tolerable dancer in my homeland if you dance without respecting rythm, beats and music styles. Community art is not less demanding than teachers - it is less judgemental and even if you are not good, people will never tell you "you are out of the rythm, you are a bad dancer, move your arms that way".

    g) Moreover, community art has place for everyone, as they never tell you "you are too old/fat/skinny/poor/uneducated to learn more" but they smile at you, they have fun all together and at the end you learn without a formal teacher or with teaching, improvising, experimenting all together. This does not make the art of less value, nor the dancer a worse dancer. It just reminds all dancers that "you might be a divine artist, but you are still a human creature, you can make mistakes, confuse steps, laugh and make faces, get tired, drink water, and still learn from the dancer beside you, which might not be a dancer with a divine gift".

    h) No teacher can ever make a dancer an artist, but a community can! And dance teachers who "make artists" are those who reproduce community setting in classroom and after the lessons are over (you know, these are the teachers who create... tribes of students).

    I agree however with you that for people who have no chance to learn a dance since their first walking steps, then lessons is the only solution after the option that only very lucky people have to just travel a lot and staying for years in other areas where a dance type is a community art.

  4. #14
    Moderator Darshiva's Avatar
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    I disagree with you on a couple of points, but I really enjoyed reading that and it has given me some food for thought. Well said!
    Bellydance in Kyabram!
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    Email kyabrambellydance@gmail.com for more information.

  5. #15
    Senior Member walladah's Avatar
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    Default It has also been a pleasure for me

    discussing this subject.

    You know, given that i attend lessons and workshops, i am not longer the typical traditionally trained dancer. On the other hand, I really wonder how fun dance can be once you enter a realm where you need a dance resume to feel confortable while dancing with friends.

    I used to be stressed about keeping my programme of practicing and drilling once i had started formal lessons and some day this stress was so suffocating that i was not willing even to move my hand and i stopped practicing for a week. I felt i wanted to throw up. After that, i realised that if i accepted the "lessons-practice-good student" attitude, i would stop dancing or i would lose its fun for ever. Only after i discarded this student mentality, i started drilling again (maybe more than previously, perhaps with better results).

    And on the other hand, i really do not know what to say at the question "how many years do we need to learn bellydance?". I always reply "a life or more" and people get disappointed instead of thinking "wow, this art is a long journey that will never end". People need to know that 6 or 7 or 10 years of lessons are enough. 10 years of lessons are enough to make you apt, not enough to make you an artist.

    And as you may imagine, i keep attending lessons and workshops - under the idea that this is a gathering of friends who dance all together.
    Last edited by walladah; 05-08-2011 at 12:29 PM.

  6. #16
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    Wow, with the 98% stiff, stilted, boring looking belly dancing on the net and in the belly dance groups in my town, I am amazed to hear how many of you have an understanding of the importance of improvisation. I thought I was one of the rare few that understood this.

    Yes you do have to learn technique but in the first year, if you do not just practice playing, as well, then you will be more frustrated with the drills because you won't understand them. Understanding how to do the drills right only comes when you discover them after you have put them out of your mind while dancing. If you practice the drills without understanding them, you could end-up practicing how to be stiff and awkward and that will get you nowhere...it won't even be entertaining for your husband.

    The belly dance instructors in my city don't even understand the moves at a very deep level except for one out of the 4 and it shows even though they are certified instructors. They teach improv classes but can't improv themselves which means that they can't belly dance because belly dancing is not a string of drills but actual dancing.

  7. #17
    Member gypsy's Avatar
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    Interesting, many replies have said what I thought too, that BOTH were necessary for the best approach to learning BD. Now I may have to attempt some free style dancing after my practice at home, because as I said, we are not dancing at school. I guess it is assumed we are not capable yet

  8. #18
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    I think that a key note that some instructors miss, or do not know how to even approach teaching is that you have to progress from "doing the move technically right" to "feeling the music and the move move through your body"
    It can be a very difficult concept to introduce.
    I use a lot of martial arts and healing concepts in teaching, and this actually seems to help. Learning visualization and relaxation theories and exercises help to be more self-aware.

  9. #19
    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    When my students get too stiff and mechanical, I make them run like heck from one end of the dance room to the other and back again. Then while the adreniline is still pumping, I have them go right back to dancing. Works beautifully, but you should see new students' expressions when they see the others suddenly dash across the room.

  10. #20
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    Default My best dance teachers

    My best dance teachers growing up were three girlfriends around my age when i was 12, 15 and 17 and then I had another minor one when I was in my late thirties. None of them had any formal dance training at all but were the best that I ever came across. Interesting but true. My belly dance instructor and the three belly dance workshops that I did helped to solidify exactly what it was that those girls were doing as far as moves went from breaking them down but it was those girls who taught me how to put it together as an artform.

    Teaching it as an art form is the problem that most classes fall short on just like with yoga. No teachers show a student how to do their personal practice so they go about it like a laboratory practice. Kudo's to you guys for trying to think of ways to help eleviate this problem.


    Quote Originally Posted by walladah View Post
    provided that
    a) you dance among people who dance for many years and their technique is elaborated the way you would like yours to be some day
    b) you spend many years dancing regularly with those people...

    Actually, in a society where bellydance or oriental dance etc is not traditional, you do not have the luxury to learn the easy way, e.g. learn by doing, because all people around you dance at any occasion (f.e.x when female friends gather to tell their news and they dance in the meantime for fun). In such a setting, you may see young women of 15 or 18 years old being really "experts", e.g. their technique is also very high-level and they have never attended a formal lesson with broken-down explanations for technique etc [By the way, gypsy tribes are also like this and if you have any connection to gypsy people, even if you know just one person who is gypsy, just ask them to invite you at their feasts].

    Taking lessons for bellydance but also for any dance is because you cannot learn it the easy way, e.g. within a social setting that is of everyday nature for you. In that sense, you skip the main road (learn by doing) and you learn technique to reach the level a woman who has experienced this art in its social setting might have. In other words, you take lessons because you have only one life to live and you cannot rewind it to go to a society where bellydance is traditional and live there for 10 or 15 years.

    In that sense, you need technical lessons as much as dancing.

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