Zanbaka.com - Instruction

New Student Info, Policies, Class Etiquette and Frequently Asked Questions



 

     Like many forms of dance, Bellydance can be a tool for self-transformation and personal expression when integrated as a focused, lifetime practice. Dance just isn’t a physical activity, it requires brainpower, concentration, and mental preparation. It's a reconnection to our bodily selves that we've lost in the modern age. It is my hope that you’ll work hard to reach your full potential in my classes by attending regularly, practicing outside of class, and striving for your personal best. I foster a challenging, but encouraging classroom atmosphere, where students are welcome to work at their own pace and within their limits.

My methods of teaching the physical aspects of bellydance technique are based on the following principles:

1) Developing core muscle strength and core dexterity to primarily power isolations for:
    - Improved postural support

    - Less stress on joints/spine than movements originating with a shift of weight
    - Efficiency of movement and energy

2) Working both the right and left side of the body equally, promoting even-sided strength and capability.

3) Working from a basic postural alignment that is both natural and healthy:

    - Feet parallel which are close together or hip-width part. Weight is evenly distributed between the toes, heels, and sides of the feet.
    - A basic “soft” knee position, slightly bent, where knees are never “locked” back. Knee position may go into a bent position on some isolations, but knees should never bend out past the toes, with the exception of level changes.
    - A neutral pelvis position….this is a tough one to maintain. With our sedentary, modern lifestyle, we sit in chairs, couches, or cars a majority of the time, which can cause the muscles that run down the back of the legs to tighten and abdominals to weaken. This combination often produces a “sway back” or exaggerated curve in the low back accompanied by a pelvic tilt. Because this is so common, many bellydance formats insist on “tucking under” the pelvis or flattening the low back, however, I don’t feel that this method addresses individual alignment. Try to envision the fronts of the hip bones aligned with the front of the pubic bone. The triangular plane that these points make should be vertical and parallel to the mirror if you were standing in the studio. You may need to contract the abdominals and tilt the pelvis forward in relation to your everyday, relaxed posture or lengthen the abdominal and tilt the opposition direction to attain this position. Once in position, try to center the weight of the pelvis evenly over your ankles.
    - A neutral spine, maintaining the natural curves of the spine. No part of the spine should be flat and the upper back should not be arched. This shouldn’t be confused with visualizing space between the vertebrate, length in the spine, and standing tall.
    - Abdominals engaged, not contracted or relaxed. The abdominals consist of a complex group of various muscles, working together to provide support for your midsection. In addition to powering some isolations they aid in balance and also stabilize the relationship between the ribcage and the pelvis
    - The ribcage should be expanded (visualize space between the ribs) and slightly lifted evenly from the front, back, and sides as if taking a deep breath, then holding the lift created as one exhales. Chest should not be tilted or jutting forward, as this restricts possibilities for chest isolations. Weight of ribcage should be centered over pelvis and ankles.
    - Instead of arching the upper back and pinching the shoulder blades together to achieve openness in the front of the chest, think of rolling the shoulder back and pulling the shoulder blades down, while remembering to maintain the natural curve of the thoracic spin.
    - Think of lengthening the neck and lifting tall through the back of the head. From a side view, ear should be aligned with the shoulder, hip joint and ankle. Weight of head and neck are aligned over ribcage, pelvis, and ankles.

My methods of teaching the mental aspects of bellydance technique are based on the following principles:

1) The breakdown of movements into very basic components.

2) The use of a 'building blocks' approach to help students master the more challenging movements of belly dance while perfecting the basics.

3) The use of alternative explanations/visualizations to suit a variety of learning styles.

4) The use of concepts to address movement groups: points/positions/connecting-the-dots, percussive/shimmy concept, shape making concept, percussive vs. smooth concept, undulation concept, and layering concept.

5) The use of repetition to cultivate muscle memory.

6) Preparing students for a well-rounded journey in bellydance. Stressing the importance of studying and mastering a fundamental groundwork of bellydance technique, rather than pigeonholing oneself into a particular style at the beginning level.


Prices
Classes are structured as ongoing and may be joined at any time. 4-Week sessions with specific start and end dates are used to offer a discount to students who can commit to all classes in a session.
A 4-Week Session is $50.00 payable by Cash, Check or Paypal. A Drop-In Rate of $15/class is offered to those students whose cannot make every class in a 4-Week session.
Class Cards are no longer offered.

Missed Class Policy
Please, no refunds or make-ups on missed classes if you have paid for the full session.

Class Cancellations
In case of class cancellation due to inclement weather or instructor illness, current students will be notified via email or phone. Please make that your current email/phone number is on file.

Studio Location and Amenities
Belltown Ballet and Conditioning (BBC) Studio is located at 2306 4th Avenue between Bell and Battery, on the East side of the street.
Free Street Parking is Available in the Vicinity.
On your first night of class, take the long hallway on the right all the way back to the student lounge area and enter the studio through the west doorway.
BBC Studio features a sprung Marley floor, mirrors, & sound system. It’s also the home of Elaine Bonow’s Adult Ballet and Dance Conditioning Classes, which I highly recommend: http://www.belltownballet.com/bbcschedule.htm
Accessible by many buslines: http://transit.metrokc.gov/
Link to Google Maps
Directions from I-5 North: Take the Denny/Stewart Street Exit (#166), go straight off of off ramp and remain on Stewart Street until you get to 4th Avenue. Take a right on 4th and go four blocks, after you cross Bell, the studio will be on your right hand side.
Directions from I-5 South: Take the Seneca Street Exit (#165), follow Seneca until you get to 4th Avenue. Take a right on 4th and go four blocks, after you cross Bell, the studio will be on your right hand side

Water
Please stay hydrated before, during, and after class. I strongly encourage everyone to re-use their own plastic water containers for environmental considerations. If you forget water, bottled water is available at BBC Studio for 50 cents.

Class Attire
Special attire is not required for class. We dance barefoot, but if you have tender feet, feel free to wear ballet slippers, dance sandals, or socks (no street shoes). Please wear whatever you are comfortable and can move/stretch in.
The following items will help you to see your isolations more clearly in the mirror and will also help me to better assess your alignment and technique, but they’re by no means a requirement.
-Dance/exercise/yoga pants that are stretchy, but tight fitting around the legs.
-Stretchy, but tight fitting midriff baring tank-top, choli, or sports-bra.
- A scarf or shawl that you can tie around your hips.
If you eventually want to invest in some fun practice-wear, let me know and I’ll point you in the right direction!


Audible Hipscarves and Weightbelts
You’re more than welcome to wear “audible” hipscarves (hipscarves with metal coins, bells, or jingles), but please be hyper-aware of the timing distortion they may make. When you perform an upward hip accent, the jingles shake together, and there is a slight delay between the time that your hip reaches its full range and the time that the noise occurs on the hip scarf. When dancing with an audible hip scarf pay attention to the timing of your body, not the timing of the hip scarf noise. I do not recommend arm cuff weights, ankle cuff weights or hip weightbelts for a number of reasons: they add extra weight and stress on your joints, they constrict circulation if too tight, they can distort the timing of percussive movements, and can put pressure on your bones, joints, and spine in directions they weren’t meant to go. Using the same example of an upward hip isolation, there would be a slight delay between the time that your hip reached its full range and the time that the weightbelt caught up. For those of use who are more fleshy around the hips, it would take a few more seconds for the weightbelt to cease its ricochet. The lumbar spine is a very delicate region, being that this area of our bodies does not have the structural stability of the ribcage or pelvis. If our core muscles are weak, repetitive force by a weight belt in a side, forward, or backward direction could be disastrous.

Finger Cymbals
Finger Cymbals (also known as Zagat in Arabic or Zils in Turkish) are used in all classes. I have various sets available for students to borrow while in class. I also have nice quality Turquoise brand finger cymbals available for purchase in class for $18/set if you’d like to invest in your very own for personal practice or to irritate friends and loved ones with ;)

Illness, Injuries, Conditions, and Physical Limitations
If you are sick with a cold, flu, or anything contagious, please stay home. Let me know if you have any injuries, conditions, or physical limitations before class. Consult your physician if you have any concerns about your involvement with bellydance. If you are pregnant, as much as I’d love to have you in class, I’d prefer you take a less-intensive class specifically focusing on very gentle, pre-natal bellydance. Many women have bellydanced all through their pregnancy with no issues, but there really hasn’t been a lot of medical research done in regards to benefits or dangers.

Private/Semi-Private Instruction
Private instruction is an excellent way to receive some individual focus on technique, explore specialty/advanced topics, or refine a performance piece. Lessons can be catered from the basics to more complex. My home studio can accommodate 1-4 dancers for technique instruction. Instruction on more space intensive topics (skirt work, traveling step, for example) may require use of larger studio. Please contact me for fees and policies.

Class Etiquette
• Please arrive 5-10 minutes before class begins. Allow ample time for parking, restroom use, signing-in/payment, and getting changed.
• If you’re late for some reason, please warm-up with at least 5 minutes of quick foot patterns and arm movements before joining class. Skipping the warm-up can lead to a long list of potential injuries.
• Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s very possible that someone in class has the same one.
• Pay attention and keep chatting and giggling during class to a minimum.
• Please be aware of your and your classmates’ personal space in the studio
• Leave all your stress, worries, & negative self-talk outside the studio. Devote this one hour of the week to yourself, your body, and your well-being.
• Respect your classmates, your instructor, and yourself.
• If anything we do in class hurts, immediately stop and let me know so I can provide you with a modification.
• Please maintain a professional demeanor in class. Since you are paying me to teach you how to dance, I do offer constructive corrections and suggestions for improvements. Remember to keep a thick skin and use any feedback as motivation.

Weekly Class Emails
Weekly class emails are sent out with announcements, class agendas, notes, technique tips, interesting links, inspirational video clips, class playlists, and music recommendations.


Raising the Bar of Bellydance
Bellydance popularity has been growing exponentially in the west for decades, yet it is still vastly misunderstood by the general public and, appallingly, bellydancers – from beginners to “pros”. The potential exists for bellydance to be an artform of soaring excellence --- worthy to be performed on the same concert hall stages of ballet, modern dance, or flamenco in every city all over the world……yet it is an artform that is still regarded as a “novelty dance” by most. Since my first bellydance class in 1995, I have yet to see this conception change for the better. Mention the word bellydance to your average person and one may hear a number of responses based on their prior exposure: harem fantasy, stripper/burlesque references, seeing some amateurish dancer performing in a dive restaurant, encounters with dancers hired like a clownish singing telegram to embarrass or shock a friend, co-worker, or family member. From my own personal experience, the connotations that the word “bellydance” carries for your general public are rarely positive. The media is partly to blame for sustaining these stereotypes, but the majority of the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the bellydance community.
Unlike other popular dance forms, bellydance has no formal standardization. This lack of structure is a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it provides an arena for great artistic freedom, but on the other hand it perpetuates mediocrity in the areas of performance and instruction. You would never see someone study ballet, modern or flamenco for 1 year and then decide to strike out on their own as a professional performer or instructor, yet this kind of situation runs rampant with bellydance. So, how do we, as instructors, performers, students, and aficionados, go about changing the problematic issues facing bellydance? How do we change the bellydance community’s generally accepted conventions that have been in place for decades that are detrimental to our artform?
Students are initially drawn to this dance form for a plethora of reasons, but I ask that my students ultimately dedicate themselves as individuals accountable for raising the bar of bellydance as an artform. Students are asked to uphold high standards of presentation, performance venues (student appropriate only), costumes, knowledge of proper technique, background of traditional and contemporary bellydance styles, history, cultural issues, language, music, and dancer ethics.


 



Frequently Asked Questions

 

What is bellydance?
    The million dollar question! Called by many names (Oriental Dance, Danse du Ventre, Raks Sharki), English speakers are most familiar with the term Bellydance, which is the word I use when referring to all styles of the artform. The origins of bellydance are quite mysterious. No one really knows how this ancient dance came into existence. Some believe that the movements in bellydance were used in child birthing rituals to relieve pain and discomfort. Others believe that bellydance was used as a display to tantalize the male gender. Personally, I prefer the first theory and I don’t feel that bellydance should be used as a vessel to display one’s sexuality, but as an artform appropriate for women of all ages, young girls to senior citizens. The dance can be sensual and intimate, but always with grace and dignity.

    In the Middle East today, women dance for each other in the home and at female only gatherings. With the rise of Islamic Fundamentalism, a professional bellydancer who performs in public for mixed gender audiences is adored by most, but also met with great moral judgment and criticism. Most people enjoy seeing a famous bellydancer, but would rather disown their daughter, sister, cousin, mother, or aunt than have them perform publicly. It’s my personal opinion that the increasingly tight grip of an extremist religious atmosphere in the Middle East has caused a more overtly sexual portrayal by many professional dancers. Plastic surgery, botox, breast implants, collagen, mini-skirts, and barely-there dance tops have replaced the elegant costumes and natural bodies of the Golden Age of bellydance, when legends like Samia Gamal and Tahia Carioca graced the black and white movie screen.
    Over the last few decades bellydance has exploded into a truly global dance genre. In addition to the masters in the Middle East, significant artistic contributions to this artform have been made by dancers all over the world. As modern and removed from the Middle East as bellydance has become, it's still our responsibility as students, performers, instructors and torch-keepers to educate ourselves as much as we can in the aspects that molded this artform into what it is today. Music, language, history, culture, politics, social issues, and current events are all important ingredients necessary for understanding the full spectrum of bellydance in a global perspective, not just in our own area code.

How many bellydance styles are there?
A dance “style” should consist of 4 elements: a body of movements, music, a large following of practitioners, and costume. Mood, stage presence and emotive qualities can be so different from performer to performer that it’s not always easy to use that aspect as a defining element of a style. The costume element is the least important out of the four, but it’s often times the first thing that gets used to judge one’s dance style.
Keep in mind that these are generalized elements of each style and are by no means the “be all” list of dance styles associated with bellydance and the Middle East. There is always gray area, overlap, exceptions for each category, and some cross over into more than one. For example ATS could be considered a World Fusion dance form, but ATS has such huge following and has so many off-shoots that it deserves it’s own category.  Links to online video clips are included for your enjoyment!


Ethnic, Folkloric, Regional, Devotional, and Tribal Dances
Diverse array of celebratory, ritual, martial arts, or trance dances specific to a certain region, ethnic group, or tribe. Even though many of these may not be considered “bellydance”, they are often included in one’s dance education and repertoire. Examples: Debke from the Levant region, dances of the Arabian Peninsula, Egyptian Dance (Cane Dances, Zar, Zeffa, Saiidi, Ghawazee), Sufi Devotional dances from various regions, Turkish dances, Tunisian Dances, Algerian dances, Moroccan dances, Persian dances, Central Asian Dances, etc

Ballet Afsenah: Dances of Iran, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan

Reda Troupe: Egypt - Fellahin

Jawaahir: Egypt - Ghawazee

Jawaahir: Tunisia 

Unknown: Moroccan Wedding Dance

Rania: Saudi Arabian Gulf

Unknown: Palestinian Debke

Shabanna: Zeffa - Wedding Dance w/ Candelabra (Shemadan)

Reda Troupe: Egypt - Tahtib/Mens Stick Dance

Fifi Abdo: Egypt - Raqs Assaya

Y.T.U.: Turkish Folk Dance

Reyhan TuzSuz: Turkish Roman

Turkish Sufi

Morocco: Gnawa Music and Dance

Mali: Tuareg Dance

Nubian Dance


Classical & Modern Egyptian Bellydance: The style performed at casinos, hotel theatre shows, concerts, movies and TV in Egypt over the last several decades. Costumes usually consist of a Hollywood inspired beaded/bejeweled bra/belt with silk/chiffon/lame’ skirt or full form fitting dress. Blending native folksy isolations with European Balletic aesthetic, movements range from subtle to exaggerated to very lyrical, and done to Arabic popular music or classical compositions. Usually performed as an improvised solo, but can also be choreographed for solo or group presentation. Some of these performances last for more than 30 minutes and include fast pieces, slow taqsims, drum solos, and include some cross over with Egyptian Folkloric Dances.

Samia Gamal, Tahia Carioca, Nagwa Fouad, Soheir Zaki, Fifi AbdoRaqia Hassan, Dina, Aida Nour, Leila


Lebanese Bellydance: Similar to Egyptian Bellydance but with more focus on Lebanese folk styles, music, and cultural nuances.  Amani, Nadia Gamal.
 

Turkish Bellydance: Similar to Egyptian Bellydance but with more focus on Turkish folk styles, music, and cultural nuances.  Didem, Reyhan
 

Greek Bellydance: Similar to Egyptian Bellydance but with more focus on Greek folk styles, music, and cultural nuances. Sample
 

Westernized Nightclub Bellydance aka Cabaret: A very popular style during the past several decades in the West. Influenced by a melting pot of immigrant cultures and Western theatrics, this style uses music from all over the Middle East and outlying areas, building on the Egyptian dance routine with the addition of floorwork, veilwork, and the occasional prop (sword, urn, tray) balancing display. May also include folkstyles from various regions. Costumes usually emulate that of the Egyptian dancer with theatrical flair. Usually performed as an improvised solo, but can also be choreographed for solo or group presentation. Ansuya, Suzanna del Vecchio, Aziza, Shoshanna, Tamalyn Dallal, Sadie, Cassandra Shore, Jillina, Amar Gamal, Fahtiem, Suhaila Salimpour  

 

“Old Style” Tribal Bellydance: A style popularized by Jamila Salimpour during the past few decades in the West. Similar to Westernized Nightclub Bellydance with greater emphasis on fusing folkloric music/dance styles and a fusion of more organic, folkloric costuming. Performed as an improvised solo and can also be choreographed for solo or group presentation. Bal Anat, Hahbi-Ru, Bou-Saada, Banat Sahar
 

American Tribal Style (ATS): A codified format by Carolena Nericcio of FatChanceBellyDance, based on “Old Style” Tribal Bellydance (as taught by her teacher Masha Archer, who studied with Jamila Salimpour) with elements of Flamenco and East Indian Dance. Costuming is a fusion of these dance elements. The most important aspect of the style is the adherence to group improvisation. It is danced in a lead and follow manner, with every movement having a distinct arm embellishment which serves as a visual cue. Carolena respectfully requests that ATS only refer to the body of movements and rules of group improv that are specific to FatChanceBellyDance. One, Two
 

Group Improvisational Tribal Style: Employs the principles of American Tribal Style, world fusion, and group improvisation, but uses movements and cues outside of Carolena Nericcio’s format: Gypsy Caravan, Romani Urban Tribal, Tribalation
 

Tribal Fusion: A fusion of movements from the ATS format with world and contemporary dance styles. Can be performed as solo improv, or solo/group choreography. Rachel Brice, The Indigo, Ultra Gypsy 1, Ultra Gypsy 2, Frédérique, Unmata, Sharon Kihara, Zafira Dance Co
 

Modern Fusion: Drawing from contemporary dance styles such as modern, jazz, or hip hop: Urban Tribal Dance Co, Suhaila Salimpour Dance Co,
 

Various World Fusion Styles: Bellydance combined with another world dance style. I feel that this concept is regularly abused in the manner that dancers often get the music/ costume but fail to put time into studying the dance movements and researching the history of the style they’re drawing from. Some examples nicely executed fusion are below….
 

-Dunyavi: Formulated by Dalia Carella, this style fuses Turkish Roma, East Indian, and Flamenco. Nadira
 

-Flamenco-Bellydance Fusion: Dalia Carella’s El Mundo Style, BellyQueenLorinda (Clip is 15sec in)
 

-Bellydance with various East Indian Dance Styles: Classical (Kathak, Bharata Natyam, Orissi), Bhangra, Bollywood, etc.  Meera 1, Meera 2 , Boom Boom Bollywood, Elizabeth Dennis


-Polynesian-Bellydance Fusion: Sonia


-African-Bellydance Fusion: Domba


-Samba-Bellydance:
Nadine Fernández


Most of the performers above are proficient in more than just one style, but the links should give a better idea of the stylistic differences between each one. When you take away the music, costume, arm accompaniment, tools of dance composition (solo/group improv or solo/group choreography), and degree to which movements are executed; you’ll find that the basic isolations are all the same. In essence, most styles can be considered a fusion or at least influenced by a cross pollination of cultures. It’s all relative to the length of time they’ve been around. In the realm of dance evolution, Westernized Nightclub Style is popularly considered closer to Egyptian Style than any form of Tribal style. Even though it’s been around longer than Tribal, it's still a fusion and a fusion based on a style that was influenced by Hollywood and the Egyptian Film industry. Styles of Tribal have exploded in popularity over the past decade and 20 years from now, they will probably be viewed with just as much legitimacy as styles that have been around longer. It’s enough to make your head spin! Unlike paintings, film, or prose, dance is a dynamic, fleeting artform. Dance is only there for a short moment in time, and then it's gone. Dance is ambiguous and difficult to document, as film is never as good as the real thing. It’s truly an exciting contemporary artform, as it’s happening in the here and now, and never the same way twice.


What style will I learn in class?
I’m a firm believer in learning good movement technique and a strong foundation in bellydance isolations first and foremost, before adding stylistic elements. I incorporate a revolving array of styles in our weekly transition combinations, exposing various stylistic approaches. Students that want to pursue this artform on a more serious level should study technique only for at least a year (if not more) while learning as much as they can about the background of all bellydance styles. How can we dance an improvised solo in Egyptian style without having a good handle on basic movement, posture, technique, graceful turns, isolations done to a subtle degree, intricate shimmies, knowing standard musical compositions/rhythms, and knowing the meaning of songs? How can we dance a Westernized Nightclub Style group choreography if everyone can’t dance synchronously, execute the same isolation technique in regard to rhythm, draw from the same vocabulary of defined movement? How can we dance a Folkloric dance without getting all the input we can from native dancers and people who have studied with native dancers, translating portions of our basic isolation technique, studying the music, rhythms, song meaning, costumes, historical or current day context? How can we dance tribal improv if we can’t move with respect to rhythm, turn gracefully and with balance, and maintain strong arm positions while executing refined isolations and shimmies? How can we dance with a veil if our turns and body of arm movements isn’t isolated and polished? How can we dance with a sword balanced on our head if our body of movement vocabulary isn’t well practiced? How can we do floorwork if we can’t even execute the standing versions of isolations? How can we dance a world fusion style if we don’t even have a good handle on the bellydance half? In short, we can’t. We can’t do any of this without a broad study of bellydance technique and general dance movement. There’s this general attitude in the bellydance community that you have to immediately “pick a style” and restrict yourself to that style only. So not true! For more than a decade, I’ve immersed myself in as many styles of bellydance as possible. What I bring to my classes is the best of all aspects of bellydance technique, well-rounded, safe practices, unassuming, void of “style-dogma”, and with regard to a global perspective.

Do you teach gothic, fantasy, new age, or experimental bellydance?
There seems to be a new “style” or “genre” of bellydance being invented every minute. I don’t really consider any style legitimate unless it employs a body of dance movement in addition to bellydance (see above heading for “styles of bellydance”). Professional performers often dance to non-traditional music with non-traditional costumes, but it’s usually done as Modern Fusion with a firm foundation in technique and a solid concept.

What is the class structure like?
The Beginning Class is an hour long and includes:
1) A multitasking warm-up utilizing common foot-patterns and arm movements while raising heart-rate, lubricating joints, increasing blood flow/oxygen to all parts of the body, and sharpening our alertness. I do not start class with deep stretches, as muscles are more prone to tearing if not properly warmed up beforehand.
2) Slow finger cymbal rhythms combined with simple foot patterns/arm movements. Getting used to combining movement and cymbals on a very basic level. This is sometimes done at the end of class, before the cool-down to lower heart rate before going into floor stretches or stretches where the head is below heart.
3) Conditioning to “wake-up” and strengthen muscle groups used in bellydance and to improve alignment and control.
4) "Light" stretches to open up areas of the body that may have become stagnant or tight during the course of the day.
5) Technique exercises for postural alignment, beginning turns, and arm positions
6) Various isolation drills for the head, shoulders, arms, wrists, hands, ribcage, abdominals, and hips. In addition to developing muscle memory, our goal with the weekly drills is to build speed, clarity, and precision, since they are the basis for so many advanced movements in bellydance.
7) Combinations to strengthen transitions between movements and very basic layering concepts.
8) A cool-down with deeper stretches and relaxation


In addition to more advanced versions of the Beginning Class content, the Intermediate Class includes work with layering, traveling steps and combos/topics from a revolving array of bellydance styles: Folkloric, Orientale, Tribal Improv, Funky Modern, and World Fusion.

Am I too skinny, big, young, old, out of shape to take bellydance?
Absolutely not! Modifications on conditioning, drills, and cool-down stretches are offered for students who may be working with flexibility or strength limitations.

I’ve never danced before in my life – can I take the beginning class?
Yes! The beginning class is for people who have never taken a dance class in their life and for experienced bellydance students who want to perfect the basics, so please join us! Even people with experience in other dance forms have found beginning bellydance challenging and awkward. Leave your inhibitions outside the studio door because EVERYONE in class struggles, makes mistakes, and gets frustrated. You’re not alone in this and no one will be scrutinizing your every move. It’s part of the learning process and nothing to be worried about, but it’s how we move through this process with perseverance, a positive attitude, and tenacity that helps us to improve.

Will I learn everything I need to know about bellydance in a 4-week session?

No, but you will learn something new every week in detail, refine the basics, discover muscles you never knew you had, gain a strengthening and flexibility routine, and find that you can play an instrument…the finger cymbals. The class can be a little overwhelming at first, but give yourself time to master the warm-up and drills series, it’s the same every week and after several classes it will start to feel like instinct. Remember to be patient with yourselves when learning new movements. Bellydance is very opposite of most Western dance styles and it can feel very awkward and frustrating at first, utilizing muscle groups and patterns of movement that we're not normally accustomed to. Give it time, fortitude, and plenty of practice.

What is covered in 4-week session?
I use the same class structure every week. It usually takes about 4 weeks to get accustomed to the warm-up, conditioning, drills, finger cymbals and cool-down routine. In addition to the regular material, we focus on one movement or movement group in detail, employing tempo changes, variations, and transitioning in and out with a combination to develop muscle memory. The new material from the beginning class cycles through about every 10 weeks and mirrors the content of Vol. I of my self-published series: Bellydance for the Versatile Dancer: Foundations.

Where can I get your book?
Direct from me or via my website

Is bellydance a form of striptease?
No. If you intend to use the material I teach you for stripping, burlesque or non-family oriented performance art, please find another instructor to teach you. I’m a big proponent of artistic freedom, but bellydance is a profoundly misunderstood artform…and that’s the bottom line. Until bellydance is widely accepted on the same level as Ballet or Flamenco, taught in schools, implemented into higher education, and bellydance studios are as commonplace as yoga studios, there’s no room for “adult-rated” versions….period.

Where can I get music to practice to?
Stay tuned to the weekly class email for current class playlists and music recommendations. Most can be found on iTunes or Amazon.com

Will I gain confidence, self-esteem, and camaraderie/sisterhood with my classmates by studying bellydance?
You might, but it’s really up to you. As a very wise friend once said to me, “It’s not called “SELF-esteem” because someone else bestows it upon you. You’re ultimately responsible for how you feel about yourself”. Taking more control over your fitness and health by taking *any* dance class can be transformative. The body is getting a tune-up and through more strenuous activities, releasing endorphins, which can improve your overall mental outlook. Instead of zoning out on a cardio machine at the gym, bellydance allows you to include a mental workout that employs a balance of mathematics, problem solving, and artistry. I encourage an environment of self-acceptance as opposed to self-indulgence. …accepting our limits and working to improve what we can as opposed to making excuses about why we don’t want to do something we know we’re perfectly capable of doing. As for camaraderie/sisterhood, just like real life, I can’t guarantee that you’re going to like or connect with everyone in class. It’s very possible that like minds seeking a similar fitness practice, coming together to dance every week will hit it off. When I see advertising for bellydance classes preaching these concepts as absolutes, it makes me a little uneasy. Keep a realistic demeanor and if these benefits reveal themselves, consider yourself lucky!

Are your classes competitive?
My classes are non-competitive in the realm of unhealthy competition, ie, students comparing their progress to their classmates. I do support internal, healthy competition with oneself, where students are encouraged to set realistic, obtainable goals and strive to attain them.

Will it help me lose weight?
Bellydance, like most forms of dance is not a perfect exercise regimen in itself. You rarely get 40 minutes of straight cardio in a dance class, as moves need to be broken down and various aspects of the dance need to be addressed. I highly recommend cross-training in cardio and rehabilitative fitness forms like yoga and pilates for a well rounded regimen. If you attend class once a week, don’t do any other exercise and order in pizza every night, you probably won’t see any change in your body. If you go to class, practice often, eat right, work-out, and cross-train you could see a big change in your physique.

How long will it take to move up to the intermediate class?
There’s no real simple answer. Everyone learns at different paces and many people are content with the challenges of the beginning class. As a guideline, students should be able to demonstrate a mastery of the material in Vol. I of my self-published series: Bellydance for the Versatile Dancer: Foundations, before considering the intermediate class. I’m always available to discuss your aptitude, goals and offer solutions for overcoming obstacles.

I have taken bellydance before – should I start in the Beginning or Intermediate Class?
Quality of bellydance instruction varies greatly from teacher to teacher. It’s frustrating when new students come to me as an intermediate student, that don’t have a good foundation in the basics from their previous class. It’s always a good idea to take at least a few beginning classes with a new instructor to get a feel for their teaching style and class structure.

When do I get to perform?
There’s a term used in bellydance circles called “The Six Week Wonder”. Although humorous, it came about because of so many people taking a few classes, and then striking it out on their own as a “professional” instructor or performer. It’s one of the downfalls of bellydance having little formalization. Flamenco, Ballet, and Modern dance all take years to master, and bellydance is no different. Various organizations produce student recitals, haflas, and events where aficionados are encouraged to gain performance skills. I ask that my students approach the subject of performing with careful thought and preparation, choosing student appropriate venues and presenting polished, refined works. I’m always available for honest advice, feedback and coaching, so please ask!

What’s the deal with bellydance certifications?
Certifications are a fairly recent development in the world of bellydance. Not all are the same, and often times, a certification is a certificate of participation or demonstrates that you a have a beginning level understanding of a style or format. I have mixed feelings on bellydance teaching certifications. There are quite a few “teacher trainings“ offered in weeklong programs, however, I feel that a week is simply not enough time to prepare anyone for the huge responsibility of being a movement instructor. Ideally, those interesting in teaching bellydance should apprentice under a trusted mentor for at least a year (if not more) preceded by years of intense study and advanced ability.

Can you teach me how to do Backbends, Laybacks, and “Turkish Drops”?
Backbends, Laybacks, and Turkish Drops are extremely risky movements and I would question any instructor that teaches them in a beginning or even intermediate group class. They are advanced moves that require tremendous core/leg strength, balanced flexibility, and not necessarily suitable for everyone.

How can I find a good teacher in my area?
Beware “The Six Week Wonder No place is safe from this bellydance phenomenon, not even Seattle! In your search for a new teacher, call around and ask the following questions. Any first-rate instructor should be happy to answer specific questions about their experience and approach to teaching and be thrilled that you’re taking such care in your quest. Be very wary of anyone that can’t give you a straight answer, seems defensive or confused as to why you’re asking so many darn questions!
1) Can you tell me about your dance background? Do you continue to take classes?
As an instructor, I studied with a number of competent teachers 2-3 times a week in various dance disciplines and rehabilitative fitness regimens such as Yoga and Pilates. I continue to take weekly dance classes and workshops/intensives/private lessons whenever I can, soliciting honest feedback and critique from my instructors. Even professional Ballet dancers still take beginning ballet classes. No one is ever “too good” to stop taking classes and any great instructor should be able to admit that they don’t know everything. There’s always something new to learn and I think it's especially helpful for teachers to try out new genres of dance, if just for the experience of being back in the “beginner’s point-of-view”.
2) Can you tell me about your teaching experience and approach to belly dance instruction?
Have they been teaching for a long time? Do they have references readily available from instructors they’ve studied with? Do they have a course syllabus? How is the class structured? What is covered in the basic level? Do their teaching methods address various learning styles? Does their class include a proper warm-up and cool down? What kind of basic dance posture do they employ? Do they focus on both the right and left sides of the body? Can they recommend resources for learning about the history and background of bellydance?
3) What is the studio like?
Are there mirrors? Is the floor surface smooth, carpet-less, & appropriate for dancing? Are the floors “sprung” ie. Raised on a wooden frame away from a concrete foundation?
4) Does the class focus on anything else besides dance and movement?
I’ve found myself caught in the very uncomfortable situation of trying a new class where the focus isn’t quite on dance instruction. Something that is advertised as a “dance class” should be primarily dance, maybe a little bit a history, and taught in a clear, methodical way. I’ve taken bellydance classes where the instructor dances around, lost in her own world, while students struggle to follow along. I’ve taken classes where students were thrown into spirituality lectures or devotional dance participation. I’ve taken classes that were in-the-round therapy sessions ran by unlicensed counselors with a little dance thrown in. Bellydance is seen as an eccentric member of the dance world, and it attracts people from all walks of life. The lack of formalization opens up a huge window of opportunity for ego maniacs, cultish manipulators, and charismatic quacks to put themselves in positions of authority. If you find yourself in a dance class that emphasizes dogmatic dance philosophies, a mish-mash of spirituality practices, and outlandish claims of how bellydance will make you a perfect human being, run away!

I’m unable to make your Tuesday night class, but I really want to give bellydance a try, can you recommend any other classes in Seattle?
Of course! Email me and I’ll point you in the right direction.

 


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