When I was a new student, I was absolutely rabid for any new information on bellydance. I was always digging around for new details about the styles I was studying, the classes I was taking, and the teachers I was studying with (or hoped to one day study with). I know a lot of you reading this blog are the same way–you just love reading about the dance, and learning all you can in your time both in and outside of class!
It was in this spirit that I started my FAQ section on my website. I knew other dancers are just like me, and are eager to read up on various topics having to do with the dance. There is a lot to cover, but I tried to focus my questions and answers on the same topics I wondered about when I was first learning. It makes for a long FAQ, though, and it can be hard to find time to dig through it all. So I am going to occasionally post a blog entry featuring one of the FAQ topics I think you may enjoy reading. I welcome any thoughts or feedback on these topics–I am still that same eager student who loves to study and discuss all the angles of this incredible dance form!
Performing is an exciting way to bring the joy you feel in dancing to an audience–I have been a performer all my life and can definitely vouch for what a rewarding experience it can be to take to the stage. However, it is by no means a requirement, nor is it even a “natural progression” that every dancer should one day perform. Many students are quite happy to confine their dancing to class and/or their living room, and never perform for the public, and that is absolutely fine.
Patience, Persistence and Practice!
For those who do want to perform, it is important to know that the skills one must develop to become a strong performer is a process that takes years. No matter how eager or well-intentioned, one cannot simply “take a few classes” and be adequately prepared to present this art form to an audience. Would you take a few ballet classes and do Swan Lake? Would you take a few painting classes and have a gallery opening? Would you take a few months of piano lessons and put on a concert? No, it takes years of thoughtful study and dedication to reach that point. Any art deserves time and guided development before it is ready to be presented to the public. And you deserve the time to enjoy being a pure student, enjoying the exploration of movement and community, free from the responsibilities that performing demands. Students should consider carefully before accepting an opportunity to perform without the guidance of a trusted mentor/instructor. It’s a responsibility that deserves preparation and respect. Please feel free to talk to me if you have any thoughts or questions about performance ethics and preparation.
Hafla Durga 2006
Student level performances, under the guidance of your teacher, are a good way to see if performing is for you, and to learn some basic and vital performance skills. For a student performance, careful choice of the appropriate venue, music, and costuming is something your instructor can guide you in, and are details that should not be taken lightly. A trusted mentor or teacher can help you sidestep common pitfalls, and make sure that you represent yourself beautifully and confidently on stage. Remember, when you perform, you represent not only yourself, but your fellow dancers, your teacher, and the art form in general. Don’t you think it’s important that you put your best foot forward by being adequately prepared and guided by someone who is experienced in performance of this art? Check out the next section about our student troupe, Nomaditude, to see if it’s something you’d like to try!
Bottom line, concentrating on your personal development, dedicating your energies to improving your dance skills and expanding your knowledge of tribal bellydance, may guide you down the road to performing one day. Don’t rush the process. Enjoy the work of being a student, and make regular study/classes your highest priority in pursuing a future in performance. Trust me–your dedication and commitment will be well worth it, wherever it leads you.
Note: This FAQ definitely reflects my philosophy on performing. Different teachers may guide you differently. Some encourage students to perform right away, after only a few weeks. Some will never provide performance opportunities for their students. I like to think that I encourage my students to perform at a time when they are best mentally and physically prepared (in the style we learn together in class), and I try to create various opportunities which introduce different level dancers at venues which showcase their talents, so no one ever goes out on stage without the basic tools needed to be a success. For many, that takes more time than they may realize, but I promise to always try and do my best to be an honest and thoughtful teacher in this regard.
I encourage every student to find a teacher and a style which resonate with you, whom you trust to help you be your best, and be guided by their advice.