Helloo! Excited to get involved

dipslip

New member
Hey everyone, I'd like to start by saying how glad I am to have found the forum. I've spent a few days looking for online bd groups, from facebook to reddit, but they seem to be riddled with nonsense or inactivity, or both! I'm delighted to see how knowledgeable and helpful most of the folks here seem to be, so thanks for existing.

I'm not particularly experienced with forums, since I've grown up with social media and that's really the only way I've spent interacting with people online, so sorry if I break some sort of etiquette! Anyway, I'm 19, just started to get into belly dancing maybe about a month ago. For now I'm teaching myself with free videos on YouTube, which should be just about enough to teach me the basics until I can start shelling money for proper online courses. I've always been interested and tried to get into it here and there in the last few years but only now did I feel tempted enough to dive in. Living in rural Tennessee means there's virtually no belly dancing scene here except for the 3 instructors living an hour away who haven't updated their info since 2011 so who knows if that's still a thing anymore. I'm having some trouble navigating I guess the more cultural side of the dance? (for example, I only know of a few styles, and I can't really tell them apart if it weren't for the obvious costuming and staple moves. The music is also something I know I will struggle to get acquainted with. Basically, there's a lot more that I'll have to figure out.)

Looking forward to growing with you all!
 

Zorba

"The Veiled Male"
Welcome to the forum and welcome to the dance! Forums beat so-called "Social Media" hands down for a variety of reasons.
 

Tourbeau

Active member
Welcome!

For now I'm teaching myself with free videos on YouTube, which should be just about enough to teach me the basics until I can start shelling money for proper online courses.
I don't want to get into a massive rant about free online material and the ethics of undercutting teachers whose expertise is subsequently devalued and income is lost (much bandwidth has been spent on this topic and its sister, dancers who volunteer to perform in professional settings for little or no money), so I will just point out that prerecorded YouTube clips can't reach through the screen and correct you if you misunderstand something, and it is easier to learn a dance movement correctly the first time than reverse engineer a bad habit you didn't realize you were cultivating.

Also, quality varies a lot. Some highly regarded teachers give away massive amounts of great material for free online and see it as a high-tide-raises-all-boats project in educational goodwill, and some solid-but-less-famous teachers use free videos to build their brand value...and some frightfully unqualified quacks are out there, thinking they know what they are doing but are teaching stuff that ranges from "factually wrong" to "may encourage you to inadvertently hurt yourself." Of course, the quack risk can apply to in-person classes, too, since Middle Eastern dance does not have a widely agreed upon credentialing system to determine when someone has reached "professional" status.

The curse of being a beginner is that you don't know what you don't know until you learn otherwise, so try to stick to teachers who have good online reputations (professional presentations, lots of likes and views, positive references on other dancers' sites, and so on) until you can get yourself into real classes (in person or streaming). Even still, be prepared to learn about lots of gray areas where different, conflicting opinions can be equally valid. Sometimes the difference between good and bad comes down to personal taste and cultural bias.

Living in rural Tennessee means there's virtually no belly dancing scene here except for the 3 instructors living an hour away who haven't updated their info since 2011 so who knows if that's still a thing anymore.
It's hard to tell with the pandemic, especially since belly dance has been in a downward popularity cycle for a while (it'll come back up again--it always does), but the scene in your area may be more active than you think. I lived down south about 20 years ago (which was before the last popularity peak), and I was constantly amazed at how many belly dancers were hiding in plain sight in places where you didn't expect to find them. Tennessee had pretty big communities in Memphis, Nashville, and Chattanooga, and smaller ones scattered in between at the time.

Then again, the pandemic has created an explosion of teachers offering live and prerecorded streaming classes, so even if there isn't anyone close to you, there are more opportunities to learn online (from all over the world!) than there have ever been. Even a single private session with a teacher online may be worth the money to make sure you are on the right track.

I'm having some trouble navigating I guess the more cultural side of the dance? (for example, I only know of a few styles, and I can't really tell them apart if it weren't for the obvious costuming and staple moves. The music is also something I know I will struggle to get acquainted with. Basically, there's a lot more that I'll have to figure out.)
Middle Eastern performing arts are enormous subjects, and sometimes attempts to categorize things into sub-areas drift into "Well, I can't quite define it, but I know it when I come across it," so it can take years to amass the experience to recognize the various facets of things. Don't panic that it seems like you've barely stepped off the starting line. Everybody feels like that at first, and conscientious dancers never quite shake the feeling.

If you have specific questions, feel free to start a thread and we'll try to help you out!
 

dipslip

New member
The curse of being a beginner is that you don't know what you don't know until you learn otherwise, so try to stick to teachers who have good online reputations (professional presentations, lots of likes and views, positive references on other dancers' sites, and so on) until you can get yourself into real classes (in person or streaming). Even still, be prepared to learn about lots of gray areas where different, conflicting opinions can be equally valid. Sometimes the difference between good and bad comes down to personal taste and cultural bias.
wow thank you for the thoughtful response! I totally agree with you on the risks of learning from free online content, I have a few good creators that I cross-reference from constantly. I 100% plan on paying for a class to get crucial feedback from eventually, just isn’t financially viable for me right now, so I guess this is my way of “writing down questions” to ask the teacher when I see them! I’m trying to be as thorough as I can, not rushing anything, and paying attention to my body so hopefully that ends up paying off.

It's hard to tell with the pandemic, especially since belly dance has been in a downward popularity cycle for a while (it'll come back up again--it always does), but the scene in your area may be more active than you think. I lived down south about 20 years ago (which was before the last popularity peak), and I was constantly amazed at how many belly dancers were hiding in plain sight in places where you didn't expect to find them. Tennessee had pretty big communities in Memphis, Nashville, and Chattanooga, and smaller ones scattered in between at the time.
I think I saw a dancer somewhere around here, but that was many moons ago, and google is not proving useful at all. I’m sure i’m bound to find the scene eventually, but that can wait until I can do vertical chest circles without frying my brain in concentration! Thanks again 😊
 

Greek Bonfire

Well-known member
I get what Tourbeau is saying but for me, I didn't know of any teachers at first, so my first nine months were instructions from either DVDs or YouTube. When you do find a "live" teacher, make sure he or she does correct you when you need it. If they don't, find one that does.
 

Zorba

"The Veiled Male"
I get what Tourbeau is saying but for me, I didn't know of any teachers at first, so my first nine months were instructions from either DVDs or YouTube. When you do find a "live" teacher, make sure he or she does correct you when you need it. If they don't, find one that does.
This is VERY important. I've had teachers - good ones - that wouldn't correct their students, and that does no-one any good. I've probably told this story a few times:
I was a "Baby Belly" and we were practicing down hips. Down hips took me a long time to learn, I found them difficult. Anyway, this particular day we were drilling them, the teacher kept saying "down, down, down" with an increasing amount of agitation in her voice - someone wasn't getting it. I checked myself and was sure I was doing it right. Finally, she yelled "down Zorba, DOWN!".

Oh. Its *me*. (!!)

The next day I called her up and sincerely THANKED her for "yelling at me in class". She started to fall all over herself apologizing - I told her "No, I mean it. THANK YOU." She got somewhat better at corrections, but she still had problems - we discussed it at length...

A different instructor however, told me she was asked why she was always "Yelling at Zorba" - she responded to this query, "Because he asked me to!" - which was correct. My current instructor is also very good at corrections - but fairly early in our relationship she started to tell me that "When I critique you, its because I want you to improve, not to make you feel bad, blah, blah, blah..." I interrupted her and gave her my "Please DO!" speech. Goddess knows I need all the help and correction I can get - even more so now that I'm older.

Beginners are "fragile", and need to be given their feedback very carefully, but at the intermediate and higher levels this shouldn't be a problem and instructors should "give it straight", but with tact. Everybody needs time to figure things out, but letting bad habits develop serves no-one. I blunder around horribly *ANY* time I'm learning something new, but I do want to know if I'm screwing it up or not - that way I can fix it eventually.
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
One of the hardest things I ever did as a teacher- maybe THE hardest- was tell a dancer that unless she got it together and practiced, she couldn't dance with the group in an upcoming program. Everyone else was letter perfect while she flailed around chatting and giggling and not paying attention. There was no reason she couldn't do the choreography- she just wasn't trying. It wasn't fair to the others to have a performance jinxed by a lazy student. We talked about this privately- I didn't call her out in front of everyone. We had known each other for twenty years and it was as hard for me as it was for her. The next week, she had the choreography nailed, put due effort into practicing, and I was delighted to tell her she could dance with the others. Unfortunately, she was so upset by the whole affair that she didn't sign up for the next semester and quit dancing all together. We talked about it later, she knew exactly why what happened happened, but I suppose treating dance class like class and not an hour and a half social event was not what she wanted. I always felt kinda bad about it, but to this day don't know what else I could've done.
 

Greek Bonfire

Well-known member
One of the hardest things I ever did as a teacher- maybe THE hardest- was tell a dancer that unless she got it together and practiced, she couldn't dance with the group in an upcoming program. Everyone else was letter perfect while she flailed around chatting and giggling and not paying attention. There was no reason she couldn't do the choreography- she just wasn't trying. It wasn't fair to the others to have a performance jinxed by a lazy student. We talked about this privately- I didn't call her out in front of everyone. We had known each other for twenty years and it was as hard for me as it was for her. The next week, she had the choreography nailed, put due effort into practicing, and I was delighted to tell her she could dance with the others. Unfortunately, she was so upset by the whole affair that she didn't sign up for the next semester and quit dancing all together. We talked about it later, she knew exactly why what happened happened, but I suppose treating dance class like class and not an hour and a half social event was not what she wanted. I always felt kinda bad about it, but to this day don't know what else I could've done.
You did the right thing. This is insulting almost to the other dancers who do practice and then have to contend with that one student who doesn't. I used to be really annoyed when the teacher wouldn't step up like you did. In my first flamenco recital, our teacher did not do this and we looked so bad because of this one student that I almost quit. She admitted that she shouldn't have done that but she was so experienced that I couldn't believe she didn't know to do this. This student was the only man in our class, and I think she really wanted a male flamenco dancer in her recital but, to me, it was even disrespectful to the audience and to the rest of us.
 

Zorba

"The Veiled Male"
You did the right thing. This is insulting almost to the other dancers who do practice and then have to contend with that one student who doesn't. I used to be really annoyed when the teacher wouldn't step up like you did. In my first flamenco recital, our teacher did not do this and we looked so bad because of this one student that I almost quit. She admitted that she shouldn't have done that but she was so experienced that I couldn't believe she didn't know to do this. This student was the only man in our class, and I think she really wanted a male flamenco dancer in her recital but, to me, it was even disrespectful to the audience and to the rest of us.
Agreed. There's nothing worse than a goof off disaster on the stage; male, female, or Martian.
 
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