Gilded Serpent presents...
“Searching for Your New Dance Teacher, The First Interview”
by Najia El-Mouzayen
"Hi, I am looking for lessons in Belly Dance for a raw
beginner. I have never had any dance lessons before at all", said the
young voice. The voice on the other end of the phone was "interviewing" me
as she conducted a search for her appropriate dance teacher. That put her
at least one notch above my previous callers who had begun their calls by
asking "Where, exactly, is your studio?" or "What do you charge
for lessons?" Of course, everyone has to consider convenience and cost
in order to make an intelligent decision about starting a long series of
lessons in any subject, but I think that other factors should weigh more
heavily on the equation. For instance, the reputation of the instructor and
her style of the instruction would spring to my mind!
stunned with amazement when people undertake an ethnic study with
an instructor who has never traveled to the country or countries
of the subject's origin.
For example, I would not even bother to study Hula dancing,
from a woman who had never set foot on any part of Hawaii at any time. Yet
hundreds of Middle Eastern dance instructors in America do not even own a
passport. I do not care how many videos one watches -- there is no substitute
for having "been there"! Furthermore, making an effort to meet
the people of the culture in question is of the utmost importance when studying
foreign subjects. It is through knowing the people and their attitudes, and
simply their way of being, that the dancer gains a sense of "belonging" and
competence in the exotic form of dance. You do not have to attempt to become
an Arab or Turk in the process, but I think that disregard
or disrespect for the ethnic dance is shown when it becomes the repository
of so much Western fantasy through benign ignorance. (Or should I call it
you are into a fantasy form of your ethnic dance you should attempt to understand
the cultural dynamics from which it springs. So I tell every inquiring voice
on the phone, "As you shop for your new teacher, be sure to study with
one who cares enough to have invested in travel to the Middle-East. She should
care as much as she has cared and invested money on lessons, costumes, and
advertising!" Some of my callers say, "Well, that makes sense.
I hadn't thought of that."
One caller began our conversation by asking, "Just what
kind of Belly Dancing do you teach?" (By the way, not one, in the past
30 years has ever asked me for "Raks Sharqui or Raks Beledi, Oriental
Dance, or Middle Eastern Dance.) "My goodness", I thought to myself, "people
are beginning to know what to ask!" However, I was a bit off track because
she quickly clarified her question by stating that she was really only interested
in the "spiritual aspects of Belly Dancing". (That was a new twist!)
It has always puzzled me that some people consider "spiritualism" to
be something visited upon one from external sources, rather than a perceived
calling to dance, dance, dance! I gave her the names of several local teachers
whom I thought were more full of spiritual hocus-pocus than I.
After hanging up the phone, I became increasingly disturbed
that I did not give a better answer. "My dance is just as "spiritual" as
the next person’s," I thought to myself. Lamely, I had told her
that, if questioned closely, all dance teachers of all dance forms would
consider themselves to be dancing with a "spiritual aspect". That
is just the inherent nature of dance!
many days of mulling this over, I have decided that one brings spirituality
to whatever one does, rather than the other way around.
Perhaps it would make more sense to ask your prospective teacher
if she felt that there was any spiritual value to her dance. Additionally,
asking if the dance teacher has ever traveled to the countries of origin
to research her subject first hand, would reveal a good deal of dedication
to authenticity, somewhat like a pilgrimage to a religious person. If one
is on a search for spirituality in dance or in fly fishing, one will find
it. It would be a good bit better to identify what it is one is attempting
to say though the dance because dance is the medium of the spirit, rather
than the end result.
a comment? Send us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for
other possible viewpoints!
Ready for more?
more from Najia-
7-25-03 The New Age Adage for
If you have
nothing to say through your dance, do not dance.
5-23-03 The “It
Between the two men, my dance teacher and my artistic lover, how could I not
learn to bring the movements from the core (heart) to the outside?
I'd like dancers to understand how the ideas of color, texture, tone, shading,
etc. can also apply to the art of speaking through movement.
Remembrance & Requiem: the Best “School” That Ever Was,
Part 2 by Morocco/ Carolina Varga Dinicu
great stuff; so little time to see and learn it all. So much of it disappears
down the oasis daily.
Journey to Nepal, Part 2 by Daleela
had suddenly changed pitch from regular speed to very fast speed.