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  1. #21
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sirčne View Post
    "Harsh" will vary from person to person, but if you want an example I offer "the crazy woman with the pyramid system": Dance Moms - Episodes, Videos, & Schedule - myLifetime.com
    Okay, well to be fair, this is actually just a TV show, and at least half of the drama is made up. The premise of the show was originally supposed to be on how crazy the mothers were, who travel around to all these competitions every week and give up their own lives for their kids. You know, Dance Moms. Stage Mommies. But viewers responded "positively" to Abby's hysterics, so the show took a different turn.

    Have you experienced this?
    Let me preface this by saying there was never abuse. I never had bruises or experienced real pain. But it's very common in ballet for a teacher to use some kind of physicality to reinforce posture, feet, whatever. I have had my thigh whacked (not hard) with a yardstick, feet slapped to remind me to point, that kind of thing. But I had instructors who knew how to give physical corrective points without actually hurting you.

    Do you think it's acceptable?

    Slapping a leg to remember that THAT's the one you're turning on, well it sounds barbaric, but once you have that physical reinforcement, you sure remember to use the correct one! I think it can very easily turn into abuse if the instructor isn't emotionally stable, though. Other instructors I've had have encouraged us to slap our own thighs or feet or whatever. The tingling feeling is still there, to remind you, but you do it to yourself. There is probably a better technique, though.

    Have you ever heard of this in a belly dance class?

    Not outside of the internet.

    Thoughts?

    I think a lot of "she yelled at me" is misinterpretation. I was at a workshop once with Hadia, and she gave a basic correction to one of the students in the room, nothing harsh. I think it was "bring your foot closer in to your leg" or something innocent like that, and later I heard that student complaining that the teacher had singled her out to yell at her. Um, no. That was not the case at all. If that's the criteria, then I'm happy to say I've been yelled at by a lot of Egyptian instructors.

  2. #22
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    I really like the question you brought up with the title of this thread, and would like to consider what we all mean by this:

    SERIOUS dance training.

    Granted, almost all of even the full-time professional dancers in the US (at least) also have day jobs because the market today just can't support them as performers. So they teach, or have unrelated day jobs, or maybe they're fitness instructors or whathaveyou.

    But almost all of us who participate on forums like this are half-time pros or serious hobbyists, meaning we don't spend 8 hours a day dancing. So what, to us, is SERIOUS training?

    I always used to wonder why we refer to each other as "dancers." I mean, aren't we all really students? Mohammed el Hosseney, when he came to the US, gave us all a reality check when he addressed us as "students." "You aren't dancers -- you are merely students." I lot of people got annoyed by that, but he was right.

    How many of us actually train the way a ballet dancer or modern dancer trains? We're not in class or in rehearsal 5-6 hours a day. Some of us are not in the best physical condition -- I know I'm not, post baby. And even if you're not talking physical training, how many of us actually STUDY the music or the lyrics or the culture for an hour or two a day?

    There is so much more to serious dance training than just talking class an hour or two a week, and drilling "the moves" at home. Can you imagine a modern dancer trying to get by on that kind of schedule? Why do we set the bar so low for ourselves?

    So what would "serious dance training" encompass for you? How many hours a day? What subjects? What would you expect a Serious Dance Student to continue to study, outside of movement?

  3. #23
    Member Munniko's Avatar
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    Definitely agree with Aziyade on both posts. I think if the teacher knows what they are doing it is okay the tap the body part you want the student to move because to be honest a lot of people can't remember their left from their right on the spot.

    I definitely have to agree with the student comment, if I could I would try and focus on bellydance like I used to for my music or Japanese studies, but currently I can't. It definitely makes me push myself to the next level in class because I know that I can't give it the three hours outside class that you should realistically dedicate for every one hour that you have in class (although once I have a single job and out of school I definitely will)

  4. #24
    Premium Member Aniseteph's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade View Post
    I always used to wonder why we refer to each other as "dancers." I mean, aren't we all really students?
    Me, absolutely. I'm only a dancer in the hobbyist community context - it identifies me as someone who actively participates dance-wise. In any wider sense, no way. I'm just playing in the sandpit.

  5. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade View Post
    Let me preface this by saying there was never abuse. I never had bruises or experienced real pain. But it's very common in ballet for a teacher to use some kind of physicality to reinforce posture, feet, whatever. I have had my thigh whacked (not hard) with a yardstick, feet slapped to remind me to point, that kind of thing. But I had instructors who knew how to give physical corrective points without actually hurting you.

    Do you think it's acceptable?

    Slapping a leg to remember that THAT's the one you're turning on, well it sounds barbaric, but once you have that physical reinforcement, you sure remember to use the correct one! I think it can very easily turn into abuse if the instructor isn't emotionally stable, though. Other instructors I've had have encouraged us to slap our own thighs or feet or whatever. The tingling feeling is still there, to remind you, but you do it to yourself. There is probably a better technique, though.
    I think it's also worth remembering how physical and tactile professional-level ballet is. I mean they're all over each other sometimes, picking each other up etc. They have to be prepared to do that. I get the impression that touching is very normal in the ballet and contemporary dance world. And the body is an instrument that you're constantly pushing and prodding and doing things to, that is usually in some kind of pain or discomfort, so it can handle a lot, and it cannot be precious about its privacy. It's a thing that is, for want of a better word, more public than normal people's bodies are. It would be the same for athletes, gymnasts, I reckon.

    In the adult ballet classes I go to my teacher will sometimes use a student's body to show how something works - I am thinking pulling round the standing thigh to show how you rotate your leg when you promenade - but it's always a student he knows, he always lets them know it's coming and he's always very physically respectful of people generally. He seems to have quite a good knack for knowing who and when to touch and when not.

    I had a student at one stage who was trained at a Chinese performing arts school and she told me her teacher would stick her high heel into her thigh if she couldn't get down in a split! ARGH!

    WRT us calling ourselves "dancers" when we are not as serious as real professional dancers: well, I think that is part of the allure. I think that in the globalised bellydance world most of us buying and selling some fantasy, and part of that fantasy is of being a professional performer. We are encouraged to think of ourselves as "dancers", with all the grace and elegance and sense of accomplishment and specialness that goes with that word. We go on stage and we have costumes and lighting cues and dress rehearsals and we are members of "troupes". But 90 percent of us would not meet any of the criteria for a professional dancer, either bellydancer or other dancer.

    I don't think that makes what we do less valid. It's just different.

  6. #26
    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    I don't think that makes what we do less valid. It's just different.
    This absolutely. If it moves like a dancer and acts like a dancer and thinks like a dancer- well, it ain't a duck.

  7. #27
    Member Roshanna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zumarrad View Post
    I think it's also worth remembering how physical and tactile professional-level ballet is. I mean they're all over each other sometimes, picking each other up etc. They have to be prepared to do that. I get the impression that touching is very normal in the ballet and contemporary dance world. And the body is an instrument that you're constantly pushing and prodding and doing things to, that is usually in some kind of pain or discomfort, so it can handle a lot, and it cannot be precious about its privacy. It's a thing that is, for want of a better word, more public than normal people's bodies are. It would be the same for athletes, gymnasts, I reckon.
    Yeah, I noticed in my very tiny experience of adult ballet classes that the teacher was very 'pokey'. But it wasn't intrusive or abusive at all, more that she knew exactly where to prod or tickle someone to get exactly the right muscle to engage, which was quite fascinating to watch. OTOH, the contemporary teacher I went to for a bit never touched anyone, as far as I can remember. And when I went through a phase of taking Raqs Sharqi Society classes, they did contact improvisation with no question of whether we were comfortable with it, which really freaked me out. It does definitely seem like dancers in some other dance forms are far more touchy-feely and more comfortable with their bodies being 'public property'.
    My current bellydance teacher is actually fairly hands-on compared to most, but more in a 'gently moving things around' way than a poking and slapping way!

    Quote Originally Posted by Zumarrad View Post
    WRT us calling ourselves "dancers" when we are not as serious as real professional dancers: well, I think that is part of the allure. I think that in the globalised bellydance world most of us buying and selling some fantasy, and part of that fantasy is of being a professional performer. We are encouraged to think of ourselves as "dancers", with all the grace and elegance and sense of accomplishment and specialness that goes with that word. We go on stage and we have costumes and lighting cues and dress rehearsals and we are members of "troupes". But 90 percent of us would not meet any of the criteria for a professional dancer, either bellydancer or other dancer.

    I don't think that makes what we do less valid. It's just different.
    We should also remember that this isn't just us. My parents are seriously into modern jive, and there are a huge number of people in that style who refer to themselves as 'dancers' but are totally in-it-for-fun hobbyists, often with little technique and terrible posture. Even the teachers often have pretty bad posture, and practising outside of class, let alone cross-training, seems fairly unheard of for all except the most serious. From conversations with my Mum, it seems that posture is never taught, steps are taught without any refinement of technique, and few teachers have any knowledge of safe warmups and cooldowns etc.

    We beat ourselves up a lot by comparing ourselves to elite Western theatre dances, but actually, compared to the other social dances that adults take up for fun, which is arguably a better comparison for the majority of bellydance students, I think we are a pretty dedicated and well educated bunch.

    Having said that, I would love to be able to dance at a truly 'professional' standard. But unlike Western theatre dancers who study dance at school and university, and have full time training opportunities, most of us are stuck trying to fit our training around doing other stuff to pay the rent. There's only so much you can fit around a full time day job without driving yourself mad (or giving yourself horrible migraines in my case)... I dance pretty much every day, take time off work and travel 2 hours each way for weekly classes at a challenging level, take regular privates, and travel to workshops at least once a month. But, I'm aware that even pushing myself to the limits of what I can do, financially and physically, I can never compare to a dancer who was introduced to dance at a young age and has had the opportunity for full-time intensive training, and many of those dancers would probably never consider me a professional. It's pretty depressing, really

  8. #28
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    Having said that, I would love to be able to dance at a truly 'professional' standard. But unlike Western theatre dancers who study dance at school and university, and have full time training opportunities, most of us are stuck trying to fit our training around doing other stuff to pay the rent. There's only so much you can fit around a full time day job without driving yourself mad (or giving yourself horrible migraines in my case)... I dance pretty much every day, take time off work and travel 2 hours each way for weekly classes at a challenging level, take regular privates, and travel to workshops at least once a month. But, I'm aware that even pushing myself to the limits of what I can do, financially and physically, I can never compare to a dancer who was introduced to dance at a young age and has had the opportunity for full-time intensive training, and many of those dancers would probably never consider me a professional. It's pretty depressing, really
    On the other hand, people who start dancing very very young don't always choose to stick with it, whereas those of us who took up our dance form later in life, without serious professional expectations, are more often going to keep doing it as long as we can still stand up. (And then there are those who started young, became pros, danced as long as they possibly could professionally and then segued into teaching, choreography, showcases etc, and who will probably never stop dancing on some level. But they are our treasures and we can't complain about THOSE ones.) It has been really interesting to me with the ballet, dealing with people who have danced professionally or tried to, or who are working with kids who have professional ambitions - they are so fatalistic about it. Like, the idea of an injury that will kill a person's career, they're not "oh no how terrible" about it. It's just a given that it might happen, end of. We were talking about kids going on pointe too early, and I was all "blah blah damage to their legs and feet blah" and the woman I was talking to was all "well yes but ALSO, they LOOK TOTALLY AWFUL with BENT KNEES". I do get the impression that everyone knows hardly anyone can actually BE a dancer at that level and the goal of looking right and being able to do the movements right is paramount, and so long as you don't break first and you make the cut, that's great. But if not, oh well never mind. It seems that it would be heartbreaking, to me, to work so hard for nothing. But that's the reality. It's so weird.

    In my class the other week was a young woman who, well, I don't like using the word ballerina willynilly but she probably classifies as one - she was a principal dancer for the RNZB for some years, gorgeous dancer. She hasn't done anything but ballet in her whole life - she's still well under 30 - and she quit a couple of years ago. I mean, we think "oh being a ballerina, how wonderful!" But I guess if you are one, sometimes you get to a point where you go "well actually I am sick of being sore and maybe I'd like to find out what other things I like and could do."

  9. #29
    V.I.P. Yame's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roshanna View Post
    Having said that, I would love to be able to dance at a truly 'professional' standard. But unlike Western theatre dancers who study dance at school and university, and have full time training opportunities, most of us are stuck trying to fit our training around doing other stuff to pay the rent. There's only so much you can fit around a full time day job without driving yourself mad (or giving yourself horrible migraines in my case)...
    This is exactly right.

    And honestly, I'm getting tired of constantly beating myself up for not being able to train at a truly professional level. We can't blame ourselves for not having the sort of training Western theater dancers have, because we don't have the public funding, we don't have the audience, we don't have the demand, we don't have the academies, we don't have the companies, we don't have the opportunities.

    It just isn't there. Not even close. Most belly dancers who do this full time can barely afford to pay for their living expenses, let alone continue training. Actually most of us can't do it full time. Most of us have day jobs. If we're working 8+ hours a day, how exactly are we supposed to fit in 8+ hours of dance training a day? Nobody is going to pay us to train for our shows. We have to pay for our own training.

    The thing I envy about ballet the MOST, is the fact that if you are very talented and work very hard, you can audition and get into a company and get paid to take classes and perform. The pay is ridiculously small, but it beats nothing, and it certainly beats running on the negative like we do. Even if there were classes available where I could dance for 8 hours a day, I would be spending over $80 a day and that's an extremely conservative estimate. I would love to be able to get that kind of training in belly dance.

    But it doesn't even exist. Even if I had all the money and time in the world, I'd never find a belly dance academy that offers that many classes and that kind of quality of training. So it's just not a fair comparison at all. I think anyone who spends a significant amount of their free time taking classes, practicing, studying, going to workshops, performing, etc, gets to call herself or himself a serious belly dancer.

  10. #30
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    For a while, bellydance was a dance form for people who loved to dance but who would not make it as professional dancers in other forms because they were too old, too fat, too short, too tall, lacked the ability to put their foot on their ear, and so on. You could be a good bellydancer without having to tick every box, and even without being an athlete. You could even get paid to do it. I fear we are losing that in our quest for quality dancing sometimes.

    My teacher was a self-identified "technique freak" and she was very frustrated at the poor technique and level of performance that was out there as bellydance in our country, generally speaking. I think that has improved radically since those times, though there are still dreadful performances in awful costumes etc etc, just like everywhere else. Overall people are a lot more polished and technically proficient than they were. Now though I fear an excessive focus on technique and performance and very little on culture and feeling.

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