Name: Arya Pretlow
Profession: Yoga Instructor, Doula, and midwifery student
Hobbies: knitting, sewing, cooking, reading, dancing, blogging
How long have you been studying bellydance? since Fall of 2009
When did you first see bellydance? What were your first impressions?
I first saw American Tribal Style bellydance when a friend invited me to a local hafla, maybe five years ago. I was enamored with the costuming, the camaraderie (both on-stage and in the audience), the pageantry and the talent that I saw. As a feminist I was particularly interested in the art form as an apparently “uniquely female” demonstration of strength, grace, and embodiment.
What motivated you to finally take your first bellydance class?
A couple of years ago I realized that I really missed dancing. I’d danced in one form or another my whole life until my late twenties. I filled my time with other activities, but I felt a sense of loss that I connected to the lack of dancing in my life. In spired by the hafla I remembered, and wanting to connect with other women, I started researching local classes. I feel it was serendipity that I chose classes with Shay to get me reconnected with dance.
What was your first class like?
My first class was so fun! I felt humbled trying to learn new verbal and physical vocabulary. As an anatomy & physiology nut, I knew I’d be happy learning from Shay when she carefully and explicitly told us how to use the lower belly to keep the lower back safe. She was clearly not a “monkey see, monkey do” kind of teacher, so I signed up for more classes.
In what ways do you think you have changed or benefited as a result of taking bellydance classes?
I have become part of a whole new-to-me community! I have found a wonderful outlet for my desire to express myself through dance. I have learned about the various cultures from which ATS draws its movement vocabulary. I have regained the sense of identity that I used to have, that sense that “I am a Dancer”, for which I am very grateful. One of the greatest benefits comes from being part of Nomatitude, because now I can share this wonderful art form through performances!
What is your favorite move or concept you have learned so far and why?
This is like asking which is my favorite child. Unfair! Let’s see…I really love the juiciness of slow movements, but if I had to pick one movement I’d probably go with the Arabic, which to me blends the fluidity of slow movements with the jauntiness of fast movements. I love how sinuous it is, how tall and proud (thanks to being on tip toes) it makes me feel. I love how much strength, balance, and flexibility it demonstrates. Also, I’m a bit of an ab isolations fanatic, so I really enjoy working the wave-like movement all the way down the length of my abdomen.
Any advice for other students who are just starting out?
Be patient with yourself and remember to resist the urge to compare yourself to other dancers in the room. In ATS we all get to demonstrate our unique beauty through the movements, we aren’t meant to be a bunch of look-alikes. It may take a little while until you feel like your movements show your inner beauty, but one day you will see yourself dancing in the mirror, and you smile at your reflection, thinking, “Wow! Look at that beautiful lady dance!”
Any other thoughts to share?
Yes! Take advantage of performance prep opportunities. Even if you never imagined yourself dancing publicly, consider setting the goal for yourself. This will give you more motivation to practice, to keep learning more, to be a better leader and follower. You may even realize that you might like to perform. Give yourself the chance to find out!
Arya, thanks for taking the time to chat with us!
If you have been a student of mine in the past (or in a workshop, even) and would like to be included in the student spotlight, please e-mail me for more information. Sharing our stories is a great way to inspire one another and deepen our connection as a community!