“I was beginning to HATE belly dance.”

I listened in shock.  I was at a luncheon Tuesday, and these words were  from  a young, 20 year old student.

She was given my email and phone number, but it was wrong and couldn’t contact me.  Here  she was in front of me, a beautiful young woman, who was expressing her sentiments about something I loved.

This I had to hear, and I wanted to know what would drive her to make such a statement.  The more she talked, the more I felt like crying.  It became pretty clear what was the problem and I thought back to my own beginning with belly dance.

I could really relate:  For the first year…it was one choreography class after another where we went through the motions of different set dances.  Not hard, looking back,  but intimidating then.

I hated belly dance, too.  I paid for many classes that I skipped.

Well, each of us as dancers are different, but there are common things drawing us together.

A lot of women are drawn to belly dance because it’s such a beautiful and sexual expression.  Yes, it is.  There is no way you can get around this because the usage of the body in belly dance is earthy, expressive, sensual.  It comes up from the ground, infuses the limbs, and ….when it’s done in the most expressive ways….shines forth in our faces.  It can create an aura.

What happened here? What happened to her?

I think…and this is a very broad statement and doesn’t apply to every teacher…but to some it does.  They rely on set choreography to impart a certain competence in students: to at least give them some bang for their bucks.  Six weeks of different set routines and some think they have made the jump to dancing.

Sometimes it works….but many times it doesn’t.  The drop out rate is high.

There are many things that kill our confidence, our enthusiasm, our excitement in trying something new.  I have seen much of this in life, and much of this applies to me.  There have been people…male and female….almost strangers and relatives who are so destructive in their own behaviors that they can’t allow someone else to fly….but must control and demean a person.  They are out to destroy any creativity or confidence.  This is usually a mental issue of theirs, but it’s hard not to trip up over the actions.

It can set you back, derail you.  For a while.

As she talked, I was fighting back tears.  This young woman saw something beautiful and hoped it was accessible in belly dance, but there was something fundamentally missing.  She tapped into this in the very beginning.  Students don’t  know what it was, it’s buried too damn deep….but the teachers should.

I wondered why some of my students just stood there: they didn’t move, and damn it! you have to move in belly dance.  It’s a natural expression linked to the body/music/visual stimuli.

Perhaps it’s this:  lack o’ confidence.  Not trusting that your body is going to be trained soon enough…but first, you have to free yourself from the mental images of limitations we all carry around  as women….not being ‘good’ enough, flexible enough, graceful enough, etc.

You have to believe you are capable of creating BEAUTY!

You have to trust your body and the  spark of LOVE for dance. You have to build upon this trembling idea, small and unreliable as it seems at first.

I now have 6  private students of various levels. I swore  I would never have more than two in a class because I am a hands-on teacher.  I can’t do my job with a cattle call…but I really care about what happens with my students.  I didn’t think I would be so invested in this, but just writing this down makes me weep.

Encouraging them to believe in their bodies, to develop their confidence and independence and individuality…that is what I go after.  I don’t give a fig if they can all do a movement in lock step: I care whether they are energized by what they are doing…or even what they THINK they are doing.

I want them MINDFUL. I want them to glory in their individual possibilities.  I’ve seen small miracles grow and astound both the dancer and the observer.

How do you develop the love of their bodies, this trust of themselves, the ability to call upon their muscle memory at will….to make these so  natural movements a part of their daily lives…to really transform how they see and feel about themselves?

That is what I am after.  I am looking for passion…and we all have it, in spades.  I am out to build confidence.

I encourage them to shimmy in the fish market.  I implore them to do infinity loops in the check out line.  Sure it looks like you have to go to the bathroom, or you are smuggling a tv set between your legs and don’t want to drop it, but anything can set off a dancer.  The clack of some rhythm…it doesn’t have to be musical ….it creates a music and motion inside and we bring it out into our bodies.

We bring it to the surface, expressed in the most individualistic ways.

At this luncheon, there was a dumbek  drummer who offered his drumming in my classes.  I never allow a man in a class, but this would be a special case:  he’s a competent drummer and I think it could be a freeing agent for these women who don’t yet feel this instinctual rhythm coursing in such natural ways through their bodies….impelling them to move, to shake, to find their bodies and creativity in dance.

This young woman is going to be a student of mine this summer.  She’s had some damage, but haven’t we all.  The role of a teacher is to heal as best we can.  We heal ourselves when we attend to our students.

I have to say, and it won’t come as a surprise to those who read this blog…but I LOVE belly dance.  But it wasn’t always like that.  I had to work through so much and claim what I now know is my  creativity….Over and over.

Blind dancing:  that’s what I call it.  It’s a technique to free the inhibitions of new dancers and even dancers that are ‘stuck’.  They are blindfolded and all other students sit on the floor, and the chosen dancer is asked to just move in the most uninhibited way she can imagine to music.  It doesn’t have to be belly dance music.  I use Melissa Etheridge…her angry angst!   It doesn’t have to be ‘belly dance’.  Only one thing is asked: that she reach way down into her core….and bring up something.  She make it ‘real’.

Show me the passion. Show me the dancer I know is inside.

I think confidence building is the key here…and I am going out on a limb.  I’m asking my students to do the same.

I think we can get pass the “I hate Belly Dance” to the glory.

Teela (who is Lady Nyo dancing)

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4 Responses to ““I was beginning to HATE belly dance.””

  1. Belly dance class Says:

    […] “I was beginning to HATE belly dance.” « Lady Nyo’s Weblog […]


  2. Davidunlap Says:

    Yeah, it’s good, very useful, thanks 🙂


  3. Malcolm Miller Says:

    I am impressed by your commitment to passion in the dance. I haven’t seen a belly dancer for years, but I will never forget the glow of delight from those I have seen.


  4. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Malcolm….

    It’s 92 here today…and high humidity….that glow might have been heat stroke you were seeing.


    Some dancers are able to transcend the nerves of dancing in public….but those who are doing a set choreography have a lot on their minds, and it’s always surprising IF they are even smiling!

    I’m committed to things I never realized would be in play: now as a teacher, and it’s a real kick…..seeing the strain and then delight on the faces of students makes me soar. It’s really the best reward when a student takes a movement and makes it their own. That is the payback for me!

    I get so excited I’m sometimes in tears and clapping! It quite overwhelms me, and it’s really such a small thing because dollar for donuts they go on to bigger miracles and achievements.

    I love noodling around on a dance floor…just letting the rhythm of the music and/or drums take me completely…..make something more of my movements that I could ever plan….throwing me into a trance or altered state (watch for those table edges!) where my body is moving without my plans….it’s this very, very wonderful ‘place’ that many dancers get to.

    Better than any drug…better than any drink.

    Lady Nyo..and thanks, Malcolm…always…for reading and commenting.


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