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Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

Should a beginner student take a belly dance workshop?

As an instructor I've been asked several times by both beginner and intermediate students whether or not belly dance workshops being offered around town will be beyond their individual understanding or skill level.  So here is my answer:

First of all, there is absolutely nothing wrong in taking belly dance classes for fun, camaraderie and the odd bit of performance as a group.  However, if you are serious about continuing your personal belly dance journey - perhaps with the idea of performing regularly as a soloist, becoming an instructor or just because you are passionate about it - then learning from several reliable, experienced and skilled sources is a must.  Yes, it costs time and money.  Yes, you have to pick and choose in order to make the most of your time and money so that they are not wasted.

I can tell you from experience that, yes, some workshops are for advanced students but they are usually labelled so that you are warned that the instructor will be jumping right into the meat of the topic and not be teaching basic isolations or movements.  

On the other hand, most other workshops usually don't have a designation as to beginner, intermediate or advanced level.  This means that the workshop is open to everyone that is willing to attend and absorb whatever he or she is capable of.  

As a beginner I often came away with only one or two specific technical skills or combinations, a tidbit of cultural or historical knowledge or some tips/ideas re presentation and performance.  But I always came away with something and that is what has helped build my own level of experience over 13 years.  These days I am able to absorb a little more or remember some things better, precisely because I have previous experience under my belt or bedlah as the case may be.

So should you ever be afraid to take a workshop?  No!  If you aren't able to keep up with the movement aspect you can always watch, absorb and write down what you see.  Or watch, absorb and try it again for another run through.  Even now as a more advanced student I use many strategies to absorb the most that I can from any given workshop.  And I can assure you that I often feel like a brand new beginner in workshops!


-Watch and listen closely.

-Don't worry about the fabulous dancer who seems to be able to do everything like a star.  There are others struggling right along with you.  Just concentrate on yourself.

-Watch and try to do what the instructor is teaching or doing - not your own variation.  Variations and adaptations are for later when you've mastered the movement and on your own time and for your own creative process.

-Bring a notepad and pen to write things down that seem important to you.

-Sometimes the instructors allow you to videotape the combinations or choreography being taught.  

-When you go home go over your notes as soon as possible after the workshop.

-PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE the things you've learned - isolations, combinations or choreography.  You many never perform a particular choreography you've learned but you will find that the feeling for the music and way to interpret the music will stay with you, and/or the new isolations and combinations may be used or adapted for your own choreographies.  But this will only happen if you try to practice and apply what you've learned.

I hope that helps answer some of the questions you might have and give you the confidence to attend the next workshop that piques your interest!

Bobbie @ Bashirah Middle Eastern Dance Company

September 13, 2014