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Don’t Forget the Joy

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Lauren ZeharaLauren Zehara (at right) recently posted this note on her Facebook page, and I wanted to make sure that a wide audience would be able to read and appreciate her simple yet profound wisdom–in short, that there is room for all kinds of dancers in the bellydance community, from hobbyist to professional and everything in between.  With her permission, I have shared the entirety of her note below. To read more excellent articles from Lauren Zehara, visit her web page at www.bellydancestuff.com

“Once in a while I feel like it’s important to talk about the real reasons most of our students walk in the door, and the things they really want from us.

They signed up for a bellydance class because they thought it would be fun! They want to get some exercise and learn some dance moves. Leave behind their jobs, kids, responsibilities, maybe dress up in something sparkly or jingly and express themselves. Make friends, that’s a biggie — many of my students have confided in me that most of their circle of friends has come from the studio.

Those are incredibly lofty and important goals — perhaps more important, on a human level, than competing for restaurant gigs or trophies.

A few of my students become very serious about the dance and go on to join my pro troupe.

But 95% of them never will. They want to dance to the best of their own personal ability, of course. But some of them will never do a hip drop without bouncing, shimmy their hips without their arms moving, create a rounded, full maya with their heels on the ground, etc. They’re just not put together in that way, or they came to the dance too late in life. And that’s OK. That doesn’t mean they should be made to feel inadequate and shamed out of my class. My job is to offer instruction AND model acceptance of your body as it is (while training it to better, if possible).

These students are dancing for each other, and for friends & family, at student recitals, studio parties, and for other bellydance students like themselves at haflas. They know they don’t want to work hard enough to be professional dancers, or maybe they’d like to but it’s not achievable in the body they’ve been given. But they care about each other & are supportive. They are creating costumes, creating dances, clapping for each other. They’re enjoying the music, the expression, the comeraderie.

In Egypt and the Arab world, this is still a dance for non-professionals. They may not costume, choreograph or rehearse like we would for a hafla– they don’t need to, they’ve been dancing since childhood. But they certainly perform for each other, support each other, express themselves, and share joy and friendship by dancing together.

Let’s never get so serious about the dance that we start overlooking its purest expression. Of course, some teachers will focus on training professionals and that’s a whole different ballgame…. And even recreational students deserve to learn good technique, musicality, and cultural background. But they’re also deserving of our respect and celebration just as they are.”

Thanks for your excellent note, Lauren!

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Shay Moore is the director and primary instructor at Deep Roots Dance in Seattle, WA. She loves writing, movies, costuming, knitting, cooking, and bellydance to the moon and back again; and loves her amazing husband and doggies even more than that.

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