Below is an excellent reminder from The Healthy Dancer blog about the meaning and value of individual feedback in class. One of the teaching points I pride myself on is that I DO give individual feedback to my students. I have been in workshop situations and have seen many other teachers who never do. Are they afraid they will alienate or offend their students or are they just oblivious? I think instructors do a great disservice to their students if they do not offer individual feedback.
Here's a blip from the article (link below for the full effect):
“If you do not hear the advice, corrections and words of your guide, it makes no difference how great the teacher. You will never dance.” - Author Unknown
Dance is a bit of an enigma: it is taught in a class setting and, yet, it is an individual sport. Each person learns differently and every movement needs to be adapted to accommodate each individual body.
Dancers learn the combinations, run through them in their heads and execute them as a class. The teacher will quite often give group corrections, but because of the individuality of dance, it is also necessary to give individual corrections. Today’s dance students often express feelings of defeat and discouragement when a teacher corrects them, yet they should be feeling quite the opposite way. Dance students need to realize that it is a very high compliment to be corrected. A correction means that a teacher has noticed you, has seen potential in you and is willing to take the time to help you improve your dancing.
This is an excellent article by Yasmin Henkesh that explains the difference between zills and sagat (yes, they ARE different musical instruments...they are NOT interchangable names for the same thing):
Over the past decade, I have attended more classes and workshops that I can count. I've amassed a list of etiquette and tips for students of belly dance, both new and veteran, to help make the most of the instruction given at classes and workshops. Some of it may seem like common-sense, but all of the points below are there because I have observed the behaviors from which they are inspired...ranging from mildly distracting to down-right rude. I don't understand why students think a belly dance class/workshop should warrent any less respect than the school classroom. (Maybe they were the ones sitting in the back, shooting spit-wads and passing notes?) Nevertheless, for the malicious or just oblivious, the inexperienced or those who just need a refresher, here is
How to Attend a Belly Dance Workshop or Class:
Etiquette and tips for making the most of your instruction
Suggested items to bring:
Notebook and pen
Footwear (if applicable)
Hipscarf (preferably without coins or with few coins)
Folding fan and/or small towel
Snack (banana, granola bar, etc)
Zills, veil (or other props, if applicable)
Sweater/shrug/hoodie during cold months
Any leg warmers, braces, or wrappings (if applicable)
Cash, check, and/or CC (not all vendors can accept CC!)
Before the workshop/class:
Register as soon as you know you can attend the workshop. Events can sometimes be canceled if the sponsor thinks there is no interest. This also makes it easier for the event organizer to plan.
Avoid wearing loose-fitting clothes (ex.skirts, t-shirts). It will be much harder for the instructor to see your movement. Recommendation: yoga/tribal pants and a tank top. It is also wise to wear a sweater/shrug/hoodie during cold months until you are warmed up.
Do not wear perfume, body spray, essential oils, or strong lotions.
Inform the instructor prior to the workshop of any injuries or physical restrictions you may have. Instructors can often offer an alternative move/stretch to accommodate you, or at the very least can advise you not to do a certain move/stretch.
Turn your cell phone on silent mode. If you MUST be on-call for whatever reason and you receive a phone call, take it outside/in the hall/as far away from the area of instruction as possible to limit the disruption.
During the workshop/class:
No street shoes on the dance floor.
Let the instructor know if you cannot hear them. If it is a large workshop, feel free to ask the instructor to rotate rows if they do not do this automatically.
If you have a question, ask the instructor, not a fellow student. It is best to raise your hand to signal to the instructor that you have a question (yep, just like in school). If you have a specific, personal question that you are not comfortable asking in front of everyone, ask during a break or after the workshop.
DO NOT TEACH or give advice/feedback unless the instructor has specifically asked you. You are there to listen and learn, no matter what your skill level. If a fellow student asks you for instruction, encourage them to ask the instructor. Quell the urge to “help”, no matter how small you believe the matter may be.
If someone asks a question, pay attention. You may not realize until you hear the answer that the question is of interest to you as well.
When the instructor is talking, shut your mouth and listen. Workshops are allowed to be fun, but limit the joking and conversation to breaks.
If you are drilling and the instructor decides to assist individuals, do not stop working on your own. Continue until the instructor gives direction to stop the exercise.
Keep an open mind. Just because you have been taught to execute a move one way does not make it the ONLY way. Make every effort to execute the move as instructed, even if you have learned it a different way. There are many different modes of execution, styles, and names for movement in belly dance. Learning more of them will make you a better dancer, even if it is not your particular style or taste.
Do not shimmy or play your zills if the instructor has not asked. The noise can be distracting to others.
Refrain from negative self-talk (aloud or in your thoughts). It will NOT help you and it can dampen the mood of others around you. Realize that you may not execute everything perfectly on the first try and that you will need to practice to master it.
Avoid whispering about others who may be performing/demonstrating. This is extremely distracting, even if you are whispering good things.
ASK before you take video of anything. If the instructor requests you do not record any aspect of the workshop, respect that and do not record. Most will not allow you to record them, but they generally do not mind if you record yourself after the workshop or during breaks. Do not purposefully record other students without their permission. If you are allowed to video, do not redistribute, post to YouTube, etc. Video taken at workshops should be for your personal reference ONLY.
If you disagree, have issue with the instruction, or just have something helpful to add, approach the instructor privately during a break or after the workshop.
Take notes and water breaks as needed! The instructor will NOT be offended if you leave the dance floor to do this.
If you have to arrive late or leave early, do so quietly. Do your warm-up or cool-down to the side of the room/in the hall.
After the workshop/class:
If you make a mess, clean it up. If you move tables and chairs, put them back. Respect the venue.
If you learn choreography and intend to perform and/or teach it, make sure you have the instructor’s permission and you give them credit for it. (Ex. If performing, note it in the printed program, include the information in your announcer’s notes, etc. If teaching, tell your students and include credit on the choreography notes.) If you alter the choreo, you still need to give credit to the original choreographer (Ex. Choreo by ____, with adaptations by ___.)
Unless you have permission from the instructor to make an announcement or someone has asked you privately, do not blatantly cross-promote your own or your teacher’s class/event/studio.
If there is a costume vendor present, you decide to try something on, and realize it is not going to fit, do not force it. You can ruin a costume by stretching it out and you can tear out seams. Ask the vendor if it is available in your size if you love it.
The Oasis is unusually quiet. It is just after 4pm and vendors are beginning to trickle in, setting up their wares at the row of empty tables for Kira's Oasis Ladies Spa + Night Out. There is an air of uncertainty. The Oasis has never hosted an event quite like this before. How will it be received? Will people show up? Either way, I'm determined to enjoy the experience as I roll out my Persian rugs and toss around some throw pillows in the henna room. Matthew is with me to assist, feeling overwhelmed by the estrogen, as he always is at these womens' events. (That's love, no?)
It starts slowly, but as the evening rolls on, more and more people show up. It gets louder. I snag a sinfully delicious pumpkin spice cupcake from For Goodness Cakes, courtesy of my hafla pal and amazing swing dancer, Jessica Featherstone. The girls from Dr.Holten's office are immediately put to work, as they are giving away FREE chair massages. I manage to buy some raffle tickets to try to win one of the DOZENS of prizes the Oasis has solicited. They have everything from Pure Romance gift baskets, to cakes, to massages, to Silpata jewelry, to Oasis class passes, a henna gift certificate (of course), and much more. There is also a 50/50 pot to benefit Pink & Chrome Motorcycle Ride for Breast Cancer, an event Oct 2nd that is sponsored by the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Kira's Oasis dancers demo belly dance classes and invite the audience up to join them in learning some simple steps.
Then Kira makes the announcement of the vendors on her mic, people figure out that I'm back in the "henna room", and I get busy. All of the henna proceeds are being donated to the Susan G. Komen foundation for breast cancer research. I am happy to give back, especially for this cause. I turn no one away, even if they have only a few dollars to donate.
As the night wears on, more and more people want henna but near the end, I finally manage to break away from doing henna to pamper myself a bit. Matthew takes over for me and Sandy Lozier from the Art of Health Wellness Studio in Centerville treats me to a muscle-melting reflexology foot massage as I watch the talented dancers exhibit demos for chair exercise and pole dancing classes offered at Kira's Oasis. (Note to self: pole dancing looks FUN and so gymnastic! I want to take this class!) I buy more raffle tickets, unable to resist all the wonderful prizes they have, right before Kira announces the winners. I win the 50/50 pot!! I smile at my luck, but give it back to the organization as an additional donation. I have had a blessed year.
I work up until the very end of the fair, as other vendors are packing up to go home. I manage to snag the last chair-massage slot with one of the staff from Massage Envy, who melts away all the tension in my shoulders with her peppermint oil mix. I really enjoyed the event. It was a great opportunity to meet vendors of excellent product, to soak up free massages and such, and most importantly, to help continue the fight against breast cancer.
The grand henna total to donate to the Susan G. Komen Foundation (not counting the 50/50 pot) - $161!!
Thank you to all of you who donated for henna on Friday. Your purchase is helping to fund breast cancer research. Thank you to Kira for hosting this wonderful event at Kira's Oasis.
It's that time of the year again...Troupe Roja will be performing at the 17th Annual Lebanese Festival!
I'm especially excited about this year's performance. After last year's Roja debut at the Lebanese Festival, which included everything from Khaleegy dance to American cabaret to Flamenco-inspired fusion, I am relieved that we will not be fussing with so many costumes this year. (Nothing like frantic costume changes in under two minutes in 90 degree heat backstage while breathless from performing the previous number...) BUT the show will be no less spectacular; Roja will be debuting FIVE choreographies never performed at the Lebanese Festival, two of which are original and have not been performed anywhere yet!
This year, we focused on the variety within the genre of Middle Eastern music. Our set will include an acapella zill (finger cymbals) number, the classic "Zeina", a fast accordion solo with Isis wings, a Hossam Ramsy drum duet, and a Lebanese pop song fused with Egyptian melaya leff dance and debke. And--I am very excited about this--Roja will have a special guest performing during the set. It will be her very first performance and what a venue to step out into the stage lights!
So, for her (and any other dancers wondering what to bring to an outdoor show in 80 degree weather) here is...
Zattana's Top 10 List of Lebanese Festival Must-Haves for Performers
1. Costume (duh) that includes top, skirt, harem pants (required for dancing on the raised stage), dance shoes, and belly net cover (required for this show)
2. An adequate cover up/abaya/moo-moo (required for any show). A veil is NOT a cover up!
3. Jewelry (earrings, rings, bracelets, arm bands, and/or necklace) and bindis (if you like to wear them)
4. Makeup (you will need it for touch-ups), fake eyelashes, eyelash adhesive
5. A wash cloth to dab the sweat off your brow backstage between songs
6. A folding fan to use before/after the show and a water bottle (it is HOT, stay hydrated)
7. Safety pins, dress tape, industrial staples, or whatever you need to keep your costume in place
8. Zills and melaya (props of choice for this year's show), CD with music/announcer's notes, troupe sign, and easel
9. Clothes to change into after the show, including shoes and (ahem) under-things
10. (optional) Camera, sunglasses, cash for shopping, snacks, friends, family...
It helps to carry an "emergency kit" for the troupe as well (credit for that fantastic idea goes to Alan Louie) and I always bring it with me to shows when I'm performing with Egyptian Breeze or Roja. But that's a topic for another blog!
I hope you will come out to the Lebanese Festival on August 28th to see Roja's set at 8pm, to support our brave new mystery-dancer, and to see the other fabulous troupes as well. It's going to be a great show!
Groveport’s historic Town Hall is the place, quiet and unassuming on this colorless day, a sentinel on the corner of a cobblestone street in the outskirts of Columbus. Asiya, Nafretiri, and I shuffle in through the labyrinth of halls after the hour-and-a-half drive of self-doubt and nerves, packed like a caravan of camels with our garment bags, makeup boxes, and water bottles. We are to compete in the Troupe category of the Personal Best Middle Eastern Dance competition, hosted by Shakira Al-Fanninah.
"If you take anything away from this workshop, may it be that form is the most important aspect of your dance."
Leila Gamal, master teacher with over 25 year’s experience, is one of the veteran greats of the 2nd "Golden Age" of belly dance in the United States. Aside from being a gracefully commanding performer, she is a treasure trove of knowledge, which she shared with dancers at a workshop covering four decades of Classic Egyptian style at Kira's Oasis in Centerville on July 11th.
Admittedly, as an American cabaret/fusion dancer, Classic Egyptian is not my preferred style of dance. Going into the workshop, I wondered if I would learn anything I could apply to my own performances. At least, I figured, this would be a good history lesson. I was very pleasantly surprised!