Where are you in your educational journey?

Aziyade

Well-known member
I'm not sure where to post this, so mods feel free to move it.

The other day I got to thinking about my first dance classes and how different they are from how I study today. I'm curious about the path that other people took/are taking. I'm also curious about where others see themselves going, or how they anticipate moving forward.

My dance training started with generic classes with a relatively new teacher, in basically Am-Cab style but with a strong female empowerment element. From there I moved to private lessons with a regional teacher who taught "Pan-Arabic" style, and I learned a little bit about the ethnic dances. At that time, I was enamored of the Egyptian dancers like Fifi and Sohair Zaki, so I wanted to dance that way, rather than with veil and candles, and to music from the golden era, or at least similar to Jalilah's "Raks Sharqi" CDs.

Feeling like I had too mongrel of an education, I decided to commit to Suhaila's training program, which I did for about 7 years, but gradually lost interest when I saw I was getting farther and farther away from that Fifi Abdo look I so enjoyed as a beginner. Most of this time I was doing Turkish technique, and hadn't really ventured into Reda material yet.

So after some folkloric with Egyptian instructors, including the Reda stuff, I decided that still wasn't what I wanted, and by now I'd found Aida Nour and fell in love with her style. It took me a while to sort through all the teachers who CLAIMED to teach Egyptian style/technique, and those who actually PRODUCED dancers who captured that particular look and style. Messing around as an older student in that technique (and having a baby in the process) I've now come back around to the realization that I LOVE beledi and beledi-based Oriental, and older Awalim-style or Mohammed Ali Street style dance, and that no matter how much I like watching Turkish dancers, that style just isn't the best for my body/personality.

I still dig some of that old-school Jamila Salimpour style (California Tribal, lol) and I alternate between playing with that and playing with a more beledi-based Oriental. I wonder if ten years from now, I'll be firmly settled in this style, or moving on to something else.


How about you all? What has your personal journey looked like? Did you ever make a complete U-Turn in your dance education/career? Or has it been a twisty but largely straight road the whole way out?
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
My road has been relatively straight because I've rarely had the money and/or time to seek out varied educational experiences. I really do live in the boondocks, belly-dancily speaking, and have to travel several hours one way to a workshop or class. I started in AmCab because that was what was available. Over the years I did add Egyptian texture and musicality, etc. thanks to workshops and classes I was lucky enough to take but I am still firmly in the AmOriental camp.

I'll be fifty-nine next month and at least every two years I think it is time to retire all together. If I mention this inclination, however, my dancers get het up and remind me that they all know where I live and can drag me back to class by force. It's nice to be loved. I don't say needed because I have one or two students who could take over the class if they wished. Melissa and I have been dancing together for a quarter of a century and sometimes I am not sure who is teaching whom what. :lol:
 

Darshiva

Moderator
Last year I managed to overcome a fear of writing choreography by forcing myself to spend time on it at the same time each day (after about a week it becomes habit instead of being a chore) and I'm feeling confident in my ability. Now I feel it's time to round out my education, so I'm currently studying Kajira's BSBD and Keti's A-Z, both because they represent a challenge for me in terms of learning choreography. Both are sequences of moves in a specific order, so it's helping me to learn how to learn choreography. The other thing is that I'm trying to conquer a dislike of tribal that originated in a bad experience early on in my bellydancing career and I'm trying to overcome the initial 'in over my head' feeling I got with Keti's. I know I'm perfectly competent to tackle both issues now, I've just got mental blocks in place that are inhibiting my progress.

It's time for me to shimmy on up and meet my fears head-on. :)
 

Jane

New member
Like most I started with a local teacher doing 70s style AmCab. The teacher did't know it had a name, it was just belly dance as she knew it. I did that for 7 years and wanted a change. Tried ATS during that time when it was new to my area in the late 90s. I didn't like the group limitations and I really felt I wanted something "real from over there" and ATS was too fantasy oriented and negatively charged for my taste. Totally turned me off of Tribal anything for good. After a while, researching Turkish was just too darned hard because I couldn't find enough teachers/videos for it at the time. Most of what was being taught around here was AmCab-Turkish fantasy, so it fell by the wayside for me after a certain skill point. Traveling out of state to Artemis Mourat, Eva Chernik, and Helene Eriksen workshops was becoming cost prohibitive. I had always loved Egyptian style and there was a quality teacher (Aisha Azar) within five hours- somewhat reasonable driving distance, so I started seriously exploring Egyptian style. That's what I'm still doing. It's been a combination of what I gravitate to (dance from over there) and quality availability of teachers and information.

I still love Turkish and would love to do that too if a good teacher ever comes to this part of the country. Probably sticking with Egyptian for good.
 

Kashmir

New member
I started with a local teacher but after two years was lucky enough to do a workshop with Aisha Ali. It totally changed my approach. Then while on secondment in the US, I attended classes with Cassandra Shore and a workshop with Raqia Hassan. That set the bar much higher and I was hungry for depth I was struggling to get at home.

I briefly tried the Sydney Festival (I'm in New Zealand - so we are talking international travel) - but the two hour workshop format was just a tease - and I struck a couple of less than stellar teachers. My breakthrough was the Brisbane Winter Warm-up - 40 hours of tuition by a (single) Egyptian master teacher (not including warm-ups which were done by a local), plus seveal hours in physio workshops, plus lectures, shows, shopping and networking. It was heaven. I attended from 1997-2011 when they stopped (the attraction of 8 days study was not everyone's goal and numbers were just not enough to even break even)

Problem is they spoiled me. Local teachers simply cannot compete. Having done 50-60 hours looking at a single folk style with a range of professional Egyptian dancers, a local presenting a workshop after their own attendence at a two hour workshop grated (while I, aware of how much I still had to learn didn't have the balls to offer workshops in styles I was only just getting to grips with myself).

Problem was performance opportunities were limited - I did the restaurant thing for a couple of years but was not that upset when it faded out (I was when I found out why - but that is another story). I really wanted to teach - and think I have a lot to offer - but I'm competing with people with less experience who are happy to give the customer what they want - even if it isn't really belly dance - or worse don't know what they don't know. Now with the recession and our earthquakes the market is really hard to work and I have to weigh up every possible learning opportunity. Can I really justify it with my (now) limited income?

I try and still make one significant workshop a year - but it is hard.
 

Safran

New member
Egyptian all the way :)

When I started, Egyptian was pretty much the only thing available in the region, and somehow it logically proceeded to workshops by Egyptian teachers or Egyptian-styled teachers, trips to the Egyptian festivals, and eventually actually dancing in Egypt. Of course, I've tried a lot of other styles, and intend to continue that... but just today we had a conversation with the hotel staff if I am a "European bellydancer" or an "Egyptian bellydancer". And we settled for the latter :D
 

Mosaic

Super Moderator
Yes a local teacher, Egyptian style, then onto another teacher also Egyptian with several Brisbane Winter warm-ups under her hip belt ( the folkloric added spice & flavour to her style which I fell in love with) I continued with this teacher who became a good friend but also took lessons until last year with another dancer who was mainly Egyptian style with a Lebanese style background ( she is Lebanese & her mother, aunts & grandmother use to dance at village festivals & celebrations their particular folk style which this teacher/dancer grew up with. Sadly she decided to retire from teaching this year:( But I added another life-long friend under my hip belt:) So I am definitely Egyptian style with strong leanings towards the folk aspects of the dance. But these days I only dance for me & relief teach for my 2nd teacher/friend.
~Mosaic
 

allinorah

Member
This has actually been on my mind a lot lately, where my dance journey is heading me. I took classes in college that were pretty generic belly dance classes. There was no specific style and at one point it was just me and my friend who was the instructor. Then I had a bit of a hiatus (the hiatus included 3 classes of tribal and decided it wasn't for me) and eventually found a teacher who was in my area and in my price range. I have been with her since then and her style is generally Vintage Oriental and Turkish. I seem to be leaning more towards Egyptian and have absolutely fallen in love with beledi. Last year I joined a professional troupe and we tend more towards generic "belly dance" and some folk. Now, with my teacher's blessings, I'll start teaching next month. So, right now I'm scouring through old threads (thank you everyone, btw) and basically getting my hands on EVERYTHING I can. I'm working through Morocco's book, especially for the historical information. I still feel vague on what my actual style is, though I think when I dance it comes across as Egyptian. One of the other local dancers commented on how my "good Egyptian" style, but I don't want to lay claims to being an Egyptian style dancer.

So, right now I'm doing a lot of self-study. It's pretty much what I do when I'm not at work (well, when I'm not working. Breaks are a different story ;) ). My days off are spent working in my "studio," watching videos, reading, breaking down the moves and writing down the different ways to describe them, coming up with simple combos. Basically, when I get excited about something, I dive headfirst into it. Where am I going though with this? Not sure, Wednesday - Saturday are going to be filled with dance and quite frankly, I love it. Eventually I would like to make a website for myself, but not yet. I'm using Facebook right now and it's suiting my current needs.
 

Sophia Maria

New member
My first year I was self-taught from the internet and from a friend who had learned from a friend. It was very vague and not any legitimate style, but to be fair, it taught me how to de-stiffen my body and start getting into Arabic music. 4 years ago I started with a wonderful teacher who teaches a style that is Egyptian influenced, and yet pretty Suhaila-based and American. I still attend classes when I can, but as I am in school and travelling (I am not sure where I will actually end up a year from now), it is hard to attend any sort of regular class. I mostly hop around the workshop scene and try to learn everything I can there. While I was studying in France, the teachers were very much Egyptian style. I managed to snag some workshops with Diana Tarkhan while I was there. I also did a workshop with Karim Nagi and Nourhan Sharif. Next weekend I have a weekend long workshop with a bunch of New England teachers and I am very excited!

I am definitely very heavily biased towards Egyptian style...the more Egyptian the better. My regrets thus far are not having enough time or sufficient motivation to learn from a regular teacher while at school--the only local teachers are Tribal or Tribal Fusion.

At the moment, I am spending the next few months organizing a tahtib and ra's al assaya performance for my school. So basically every day after class I come back to my apartment and fight myself with sticks :lol:

I am also committing myself to learning Arabic, although I try not to blurt out masri dialect words in class when my professor can hear me :) It's strictly fus7a for now.
 

Amulya

Moderator
I started out with what was called 'Classic Egyptian' style in The Netherlands. My first teacher probably stayed quite close to that style but she became ill after half a year and I got a new teacher who did a mixture of Classic Egyptian and Turkish. She used to go Turkey often for workshops. I stayed with that teacher the longest so I think that my basics are mostly from her. Next I joined another classic Egyptian style teacher and another one that did some Egyptian folkloric. I also had a Turkish teacher, but not sure what she did, it was a mixture of ballet and belly dance, definitely not Turkish. Did loads of workshops in different styles as well.
Later I tried out ATS and ITS classes but it clashed so much with what I was used to, it felt all 'wrong' to my body type somehow (especially when everything is only done on the right side, I am left sided in dance and prefer a balance) But it was fun and good for posture and arms. I like the tribal posture and tribal arms.
Tried Tribal Fusion too but again it doesn't work with my body type, I love it though, but it's a very different dance style of course.
I tried modern Egyptian style as well, but too easy to fall back in old patterns of what I am used to.
I don't know if my journey is going to continue, I'm retired now due to disability. I was hoping to recover but I don't know if that is going to happen.
 

walladah

New member
Straight line? what is this?

Hello my friends!

Learning for me has never been linear, in anything i have learned so far.

The funny thing with dance is that i never had considered a career or going pro in serious, although i have been bellydancing (the traditional way of my homeland) since i remember myself. Then i met my Arab friends in England 12 years ago, where i started to learn from them about music and dance - simple things, i mean the community style of bellydance.

I would have never started formal classes if a doctor would not say to me, your health is devastated by stress, would you consider to go to an analyst? THen i realised that instead of sessions, i would take over what i had always wanted to do, and that was.... bellydance classes. I chose the best teacher i could find in Greece, Diana Rhea, and that was it.

I studied with her since 2005 till 2009-2010, which is a bit more than 4 years, plus workshops with many other teachers since 2005 onwards. My other education obligations and also my financial constraints meant that there are times since 2010 where i had no workshops for 8 or 10 months, but i insisted in practicing everyday and learning anything i could from youtube or inventing my own dance projects.

What was very important to me was to do field research concerning the local types of bellydance in Greece, which proved to be very fruitdful given that there is no such research and many things i see here and there on youtube are anything else but any type of local bellydance style.

Now, i am preparing for my grad thesis (a thesis required for a 4-year undergraduate programme) in Turkish and Contemporary Asian Studies, which will be in dance. I also try to resume my music studies in Mediterranean music (greek traditional music has no notation, but turkish and arabic has and it is very complicated, as each region has its own maqams) and improve my Mediterranean drums skills.

Given that i am done with modern Cairo cabaret style in music and dance and i have started considering to stop investing in this style, which is very popular in greece and available too, and collect my scarce money for teachers and workshops that might be more expensive but at least will develop my dance skills in a more global way.

Oh, by the way, i also work on gypsy-roma style which is excellent, and yes, it is has not been researched in Greece either.

finally, i also use instructions DVDs, to improve myself and have some access to teaching, whenever i cannot affort workshops.
 

Darshiva

Moderator
And when she says that she's doing research, that doesn't even begin to cover it. Walladah and I were chatting about this during the skype & stitch and it was absolutely fascinating. And by chatting I mean she talked and I uhuh-ed with the occassional question or comment from my own limited background. Walladah's research is amazing and I'm looking forward to the final outcome.
 

Daimona

Moderator
As soon as Walladah is publishing her finds, we'll all be referring to her research on greek bellydance and greek-roma dances. Walladah - the great pioneer in academia of this topic. Yay! :dance:



My first bd teacher was half-greek and had been traveling with Greek roma people for some years before she started teaching dance. Another dancer in town also studied greek bd and greek folk dances for a while, but none of them have done academic research on the topic.

And where am I in my educational dance journey?
Currently walking down memory lane to the beat of the baladi drums... (or maybe I should say tsiftetelli instead? ;) )
 
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Shanazel

Super Moderator
I was crushed to miss the Skype session but I was a long way from the nearest available internet hook up at the time. Was it wonderful? Who else was there?

But I digress.

Again.

As usual.
 

Darshiva

Moderator
Just the two of us this time. I believe the US was experiencing more white than was strictly necessary at the time.
 

BattyBaby

New member
I'm very early in my education; I began taking group classes in Egyptian and Amcab via groupon, to impress my sweetheart at the time, at the age of thirteen. However, ironically I fell in love with raqs and out of love with the girl I took it up for. After about two months I began taking certifications on top of my classes, and after a year and a half, privates on top of those. Eventually I decided that I wanted to spread out a bit and replace my certifications with group classes in Tribal Fusion and privates with whoever wanted to teach me. Now I'm 15 and have been dancing for about two years, much more to learn! It's wonderful, I'm so glad I took up Raqs, it's become my passion and my life.
 

walladah

New member
My friends, you cannot imagine...

...how bellydance helped me to survive through very difficult situations, how it kept my body healthy and my mind sound to make my other, non-dance-themed research, and at some point, it gave me my only income to get by during hardships.

Then, i feel bound to bellydance in many ways, and i decided to use my research skills for the benefit of the community of fellow dancers and for the art, as a collective creation, to gain some more info, that is around, but difficult to have in papers, books, or videos.

So, i will let you know about my paper on greek tsifteteli i prepare for a conference that will be held in Athens next summer, and once my thesis is ready, i will also send it to you [in english of course! :D ]

by the way, there is a possibility to have a documentary on gypsy music and dance in Crete and i might be involved as well. If the people who proposed it are serious enough about it, it will be ready in a year from now (and available online, probably).

THen, i think that every bellydancer is doing research in some way, and it shows at her dance and discussions and in everything. Moreover, this research by doing is transferred to all of us, and this is how i learn and how we learn about our art. THat our western or westernised civilisation does not accept research but only the one written on paper.... well that is the wrong with that. IT is not a mistake of the dance or the dancers.

PS/Battybaby, oriental dance is a true love itself! you are lucky that you discovered it early! Nice to meet you in the bellydance universe!
 
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Safran

New member
Walladah - I think your commitment is amazing! I am really looking forward to reading your research!
 

Selene

New member
Reading all your belly dance journeys is amazing! Everyday I think of what I will do next because I've picture myself bellydancing for so long(since I was a kid) but I didnt have many chances for many years. I started learning on youtube because I didnt have another option back then and I even joined two talent shows and danced(I was so sure I knew so much lol I knew merely the basics) and I remember how it makes me feel being on a stage, how it makes me feel to practice everyday, it's such a great feeling!

I continued researching, and learning, both the dance and the history. I was in love with the music aswell and there are so many beautiful and talented dancers out there that I couldnt help but feel a little bit sad because I couldnt see a way to actually starting to learn for real. Well, last year I found an opportunity to go to a belly dance school and I cant explain how excited and nervous I was. But I was disappointed after the first class, I didn't see the beauty I've seen in this dane for so many years and I didnt feel the teacher took her students seriously, sadly. I only went twice but I didnt waste time and looked for a second option. Found another school and I was amazed by the teacher but for different circumstances I couldnt get into the class. At that point I was a little bit frustrated because my desire to learn is so big but I couldnt find the chance. Finally, a year later after my first class, I found a class and enrolled without thinking twice and I am so happy now!!! I just finished the first period of the class which was just an introduction to all the basics of the dance, not focusing on an specific style (although it's inclined to egyptian, the classic). My journey it's small, for now, but I have no plans on stopping, I can't wait to start the next period next week and I really just want to learn and enjoy it as much as I can. I am not sure where it will lead me, I just want the dance itself to guide me through this journey, after all I'm just 21 and this dance and belly dance community have more to teach me than I can imagine.


Too cheesy? Lol

I love this forum btw, but Im usually a ghost Xd just reading and not commenting


Omg after I posted this I noticed how long it is >< sorry!
 
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