Is Belly Dancing Teaching a Sisterhood?

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3 Responses

  1. Rachel Bond says:

    You can’t learn everything from one person. My first teacher only gave me the briefest introduction to the dance. My next one cultivated an initial understanding of Arabic cultures and simple troupe choreography. My third showed me what structured classes could look like, how a more organised troupe can work, and very importantly, taught me about performing and professionalism (including dealing with clients and customers). As soon as I reached intermediate level, I started learning and performing under several teachers, and I still do. Some have focussed on footwork and complex combinations; others on the soul and meaning and history of the dance. Some are into fusion, others are Egyptian purists. This diversity of styles and approaches has added hugely to my own development as a dancer and teacher.

    On occasion, I have found myself in an awkward position when my teachers didn’t see eye to eye, and I was given a hard time because of it. But I’m better off for the experience, and I always urge my student to study broadly, to enrich their experience and discover their own style.

    Sadly, I am aware of some teachers who prefer their students to only attend their own classes. But I don’t see this as being in anyone’s interest: neither the student’s, whose learning is limited, nor the teacher’s, because your students will eventually realise your insecurity and leave. I want students to come to me because I offer them something unique and worthwhile, not because I’m trying to hold onto them. When they get to the point of having learnt what they can from me, I will wish them well on their journey!

    And I LOVE mixed haflas, they are more varied and interesting for everyone and a great opportunity for students to experience the diversity and sheer size of the dance community! Even for those students who aren’t interested in taking other classes or extending themselves, it allows them to be part of something bigger. It is sad that this isn’t shared by other dance forms.

  2. Erica says:

    I’ve had a very similar experience. I teach and I am part of a network of regional teachers who have mixed haflas and workshops together. Of course any time you have more than two people involved in anything there is some level of politics, but for the most part all of the instructors I know are happy to share experiences and techniques and even teaching tips. We recently hosted the Club Bellydance Tour in Moorhead, MN USA and there were five different teachers involved in the same show with their troupes as well as soloists. We had everything from straight up Egyptian to ATS to Bollywood fusion to Turkish, and it was amazing!

  3. Thea says:

    Thanks, Erica and Rachel! Having just attended a show last night with an amazing mix of teachers and students, I agree mixed haflas are one of the great benefits that flow from co-operation between teachers. It certainly sounds like that exists in both Oz and the US – I wonder how it goes in other parts of the world?

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