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Gilded Serpent presents...

A Question of Style
by Bert Balladine

This is a subject I addressed years ago, but it crops up occasionally, so it might be worth writing about again.  At a recent workshop some dancers felt that there were too many teachers and so many styles, so they felt uncomfortable and stressed by it. 

My response to that is that in our dance form talking about different styles is rather silly because unless you are very limited you can pretty much follow any teacher's instruction.  There are, of course, some schools whose method of instruction limits the students because they teach routines and insist that their method is the only one.

  If your only knowledge of the dance is one or more rigid routines you will have a hard time following a new teacher who is offering material you haven't yet seen.  If you feel uncomfortable with a teacher I don't think it is so much the teaching technique as the teacher's personality.  Certain teachers might be more attuned to your needs.  Some students crave a strict disciplinarian while others rebel against any form of authority.  With other words, some like to be told exactly what to do while others need a freer, more nurturing atmosphere.

Seminars are not only designed to teach new steps and routines,  but also to inspire you to use the abilities you already have.  In my seminars I have always tried not to change, alter or put down any of the techniques or abilities of the dancers, but rather to add some new ideas as to how they can improve what they have.  In short, teaching more attitude and less technique.

  I would feel bad to take something away without being able to replace it and add to the dancer's vocabulary; it is important for the dancer to leave a class with a positive sense of achievement.  Students should be given a lot of leeway and freedom as to how they interpret  the material which they have been shown.  We all work from the same root movements and the question of style is just a personal choice.  Not liking someone's teaching style is a different matter.  Dancing styles and teaching styles are two completely different things.

Since  most of us have chosen Oriental Dance for the pleasure of doing it, being a zealot about purity and ethnicity will just hamper getting the fullest enjoyment out of the dance.  One might say, "Dancing is my oasis in the desert of stress that is daily life!"

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