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  1. #1
    Premium Member Aniseteph's Avatar
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    Default What's going on in your belly dance world at the moment?

    Thought I'd start a new thread.. what are you up to then?

    10+ years in, I am back going to weekly drop in belly dance classes, Egyptian style, which keeps me going - I wouldn't say progressing much, but I've got a knee injury that's increasingly taken the wind out of my sails in the last couple of years. I go to fairly regular local workshops that pick it up a notch, and perform very occasionally at a local hafla. More performance would be nice but I'm not in a troupe and don't get to do community events.

    I used to go to more festivals but there are less than there were, also I hate megaworkshops, feel increasingly alienated from anything that's not reasonably hobbyist-friendly, and have got quite picky about workshop topics with time. I'm off to one in a few weeks time though, which I know will tick all my boxes. And has Lorna of Cairo.

    Style wise it's Egyptian for me, although I loved a Turkish style workshop I did last year and quite fancy investigating further with DVDs, although I suck at DVD learning. I gave Tribal Fusion a go a while back and didn't get on with it because it was close to belly dance but very different at the same time, and I missed the part that wasn't, if that makes sense. I just took up adult beginners ballet, which I do get on with even if it's really difficult. Turn out is so odd.

    So, what's going on in your belly dance world?

  2. #2
    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    I have thirty-eight years of involvement in belly dance. I retired from performing a couple of years ago due to physical limitations but continue to teach a single one and a half hour class a week with a regular group of nine or ten students. Most of them have been dancing with me for years, including one gal who could teach the class as well as I can if not better but she won't. She and I have been dancing together for over a quarter century and she is a huge help in class. Occasionally an old student will drift in and out according to her schedule or we'll get a newcomer who sticks with us, but belly dance has never been wildly popular in this area. About every twelve or fifteen years it becomes a big fad for those seeking new exercise experiences but only a few people remain past the curiosity stage- too much work, I think.

    AmCab aka Classic American Oriental is my preference though over the years I've added some assaya, debke, and fusion just for fun and to shake things up. I do a lot of choreography since the group dances together at least twice a year but I also have a couple or three dancers who are willing to solo improv. This summer, we're scheduled to dance at one SCA wedding for one of the dancers and again at a RenFaire here in town. Troupe name is The Veiled Threats though we have referred to ourselves as The Belly Button Jewels of the North Platte when we're feeling really silly and assign ourselves jewel names. I'm Aquamarina.

    Several years ago, Salome taught a workshop for us but as a general rule, workshops are too far away and too expensive for most of us. Marjorie used to teach regular workshops about two and a half hours from here but she lost her studio space in Cheyenne and no longer comes up to Wyoming. We can't afford to sponsor her; not enough interest in central Wyoming. I got burned by people making a commitment to attending a workshop, then backing out before paying and leaving me holding a very expensive bag so I don't arrange workshops any more.

    A couple of years ago, physical problems became bad enough that I thought I'd have to quit teaching as well but matters have improved, somewhat to my surprise and greatly to my delight. I guess I'll keep teaching until they pull me out with an assaya or carry me out on a veil.
    "Well, now that we have seen each other," said the unicorn " if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you."

  3. #3
    Member BigJim's Avatar
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    Happy to report that I still find time to dance everyday. For the last 6-9 months I'very tried to become a better dancer by trying to have more flow. Have danced a couple of times lately doing improve with a live drummer which has been a great learning experience. In 2 weeks I'm in to Regina for a 3 day workshop with Ashley Kirkham from Vancouver. A workshop once or twice a year is greatly needed as I find I become very insulated dancing on my own.

  4. #4
    Member Roshanna's Avatar
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    I'm about 8 years in, and have had to take a big step back in the last year, because of Real Life rudely intruding when we had to move for my partner's job last summer. To be honest, I've been feeling a bit sorry for myself.

    I'm now living about an hour's journey away from the town where I used to live and where I still work, and there's not much of a bellydance scene in our new home. Before the move, I was teaching 1-2 classes per week, taking weekly classes in my town, and also travelling into London every week for a 2h advanced class. Now I've had to give up the London class because I just can't make the logistics work any more, and have quit the teaching because I was finding I was too exhausted to do it, so all I'm doing class-wise is trying to get to the one weekly class in my old town, although the level of it is not all that challenging. It's better than nothing.

    I still go to quite a lot of workshops at weekends, mostly semi-regular ones with UK teachers rather than one-offs with visiting stars. I'm doing less of those than I used to, simply because I am so tired after the working week now that I commute, and if I go to workshops a few weekends running, the exhaustion starts to really take a toll on my physical and mental health (and my partner keeps telling me I'm trying to do too much and I need to cut myself some slack, even though I feel like I'm doing far too little training right now to even maintain my current level).

    I'm slowly trying to integrate with the scene in our new region by going to haflas and things, but even that is proving surprisingly hard - they aren't really set up in a way to be accessible to newcomers, for the most part (most are not publicly advertised, and the locations are often difficult to get to by public transport). I'm not sure if this insularity is a regional difference, or if it's just that I'm only noticing it now that I'm an outsider in a new area. Getting to know people is a challenge because I'm pretty socially awkward in real life and I find it really hard to just approach strangers, but I also don't feel necessarily like the bellydance scene is very welcoming to new dancers, in that whilst I don't feel actively *unwelcome*, I don't feel actively welcomed either - more like I have to make a real effort to push my way in if I want to be included.

    It's not all doom and gloom though. I've started working with a teacher (Melanie Norman) who specialises in doing things with live music, and whose approach is a good match for my own - music-driven, and combining feeling in the moment with geeky analysis of what works and why. I'm really enjoying her regular workshops (even the choreography ones, even though I usually get very quickly bored with choreography!), and am going to be performing with the band at her quarterly show with live music next month I've also been working a bit with another teacher who I previously lived too far away from to study with (Diana Mehira), and whose teaching I'm also a fan of so far, in order to perform in a show she's putting on with live music in May. This is the kind of thing I live for, so I'm really happy to be getting more opportunities of this sort, but at the same time a bit frustrated that it's coming to fruition at a time when I also feel like my basic technique is slipping through lack of regular classes.

    I'm also starting to countenance the idea of teaching again - partly to give myself some regular training structure and motivation, and partially because several dancers have been pushing me to do it, because there's a serious gap in the market locally for something that's neither a beginners' class nor a student troupe. I'm leaning towards some kind of monthly-ish workshop, at the moment. Plus, as mentioned elsewhere, I'm starting to put myself out there a bit as a guest instructor.

    As far as festivals and stuff goes, I'm booked in for a week-long intensive this Summer with a couple of Cairo-based teachers (Yasmina and Kazafy), which I'm hoping will be a bit of a kick up the bum technique-wise, as well as a chance to catch up with bellydance friends. Apart from that, nothing much planned right now. It seems like big festivals are on the wane for now, and the events doing well are the all-inclusive weekend away type thingies.

  5. #5
    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    May truly wonderful things be ahead for you, Roshanna.
    "Well, now that we have seen each other," said the unicorn " if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you."

  6. #6
    Premium Member Aniseteph's Avatar
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    I feel your pain with the logistics. It doesn't take much to make plans disintegrate and become exhausting, especially when things are in out of the way places with flakey/ impossible public transport.


    I'm slowly trying to integrate with the scene in our new region by going to haflas and things, but even that is proving surprisingly hard - they aren't really set up in a way to be accessible to newcomers, for the most part (most are not publicly advertised, and the locations are often difficult to get to by public transport). I'm not sure if this insularity is a regional difference, or if it's just that I'm only noticing it now that I'm an outsider in a new area. Getting to know people is a challenge because I'm pretty socially awkward in real life and I find it really hard to just approach strangers, but I also don't feel necessarily like the bellydance scene is very welcoming to new dancers, in that whilst I don't feel actively *unwelcome*, I don't feel actively welcomed either - more like I have to make a real effort to push my way in if I want to be included.
    I know what you mean. I don't think people are unwelcoming, maybe more that haflas are on and people go but no one takes ownership for socially hosting them like you'd host a party at home - none of that welcome to our hafla, enjoy, are you OK, can I introduce you to, etc etc. It's easy for people to stay in their groups. Maybe lots of us are shy geeks and need a social organiser type to kick our butts.
    I know a few familiar regional faces from workshops an haflas over the years, and there are haflas, but spread out and as you say, in less than accessible places if you are not immediately local. Aaargh, gotta run off to yoga...

  7. #7
    Premium Member Aniseteph's Avatar
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    ...back from yoga and got SOAKED on the way. Breathe, be at one with nature...

    We are all on our pathways and things move on even if we don't want them too - sigh. But who knows there's not something better round the next corner? Finding a couple of teachers who have something to offer in terms of teaching and performance opportunity is exciting. As for technique, I'm sure it will come right back with a bit of practice as soon as you find a bit of time for it. It's not like you don't know what you are doing, I've seen you!*

    *(He he he, creepy stalker in the house. No, really, I'm not, honestly. London and the South East is a small belly dance world).

  8. #8
    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    Lack of welcome is not something my dancers are guilty of. New person walks in, everyone hollers, "Oh, HELL, YEAH! Here, borrow a scarf, use my veil, stand where you can see good, want to come to dinner with us after class?"
    "Well, now that we have seen each other," said the unicorn " if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you."

  9. #9
    Member Roshanna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aniseteph View Post
    I know what you mean. I don't think people are unwelcoming, maybe more that haflas are on and people go but no one takes ownership for socially hosting them like you'd host a party at home - none of that welcome to our hafla, enjoy, are you OK, can I introduce you to, etc etc. It's easy for people to stay in their groups. Maybe lots of us are shy geeks and need a social organiser type to kick our butts.
    I know a few familiar regional faces from workshops an haflas over the years, and there are haflas, but spread out and as you say, in less than accessible places if you are not immediately local. Aaargh, gotta run off to yoga...
    Yes, I think this is it - most dancers have their little group of friends, especially if they are there with their classmates, and everyone tends to stay with their comfortable group by default, because nobody feels personally responsible for making newcomers welcome, and chatting with your friends is just easier. And shy geeks definitely do seem to be overrepresented in this world

    I suppose this is a lesson to me for the future that it's important for teachers and event organisers to 'play hostess' and actively engage with people, especially for the dancers who aren't affiliated with anyone and come to events alone, even if it goes against one's nature as an introvert - or perhaps rope in some handy extraverts to do it for us...!

    I find it interesting the contrast with morris dancing, too, which is my other nerdy hobby. Morris dancers are also often socially awkward and geeky, but they manage to be very welcoming anyway, and my side are very good at integrating newcomers so they quickly feel like 'one of us'. I think it's because it's a much more socially-focused thing (we always go to the pub after dancing, whereas all of the bellydance classes I've ever been to have had a social every couple of months at most, or not at all), and also because all morris dancers are keenly aware of the need to retain new recruits to keep the tradition going. Also, our practises are more anarchic than bellydance classes, with no single clear leader or teacher, which lends itself to everyone feeling some responsibility for welcoming people.

    I've been wondering a lot over the last year how the bellydance world could be made more like this socially - especially when so many teachers seem to struggle with student retention.

  10. #10
    Member Roshanna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shanazel View Post
    Lack of welcome is not something my dancers are guilty of. New person walks in, everyone hollers, "Oh, HELL, YEAH! Here, borrow a scarf, use my veil, stand where you can see good, want to come to dinner with us after class?"
    Heheh, I think that might be a bit of US/UK cultural difference! I can't even imagine a roomful of British people hollering, and I'd possibly run away and hide if they did
    Sounds like a lovely group though!

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