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Wednesday, August 08, 2012

How to Prepare for Your First Class in Belly Dance

Advance Preparation Makes All the Difference in Learning Oriental Dance (Belly Dance)

Darlings - I have a confession to make.

If you're tracking this blog at all, you'll know that we're having our first Open House in over two years. For all practical purposes, I had closed the Alay'nya Studio while doing the final rewrites, edits, proofs, and publication of my most recent book, Unveiling: The Inner Journey. And then, a first year of guiding it through public introduction. Think of it has having a baby, where the last three months of "gestation time" that we need for a human child transferred into 2-3 years to bring Unveiling from raw draft to finished product.

Now, of course, it is not only available (in both trade paper and Kindle download form), Unveiling is actually the first required reading for people who want to study with me.

Obviously, though, this is a dance class. And I'm having to get my "dance groove" back on, just as you will when you join me. (Mark your calendar NOW for our Open House on Sunday, Sept. 9th, and contact me for directions and details.)

So I'm practicing. And in addition to the yoga, core, and conditioning basics, I'm back to practicing dance (and developing lesson plans, reworking choreographies and practice pieces, and all sorts of things necessary to launch a great season).

One of my favorite training DVDs is Kathryn Ferguson's Mid-Eastern Dance: An Introduction to the Art of Belly Dance.

Years ago, this was my most significant instructional tape; then available only in VHS form. During a summer when my dance teachers took a break, I had just refinished my living room. This empty room beckoned as a new "dance studio." The big challenge was: could I get myself to practice all on my own, without the structure and security of a dance class to guide me?

My next big question was: could I ever look like Kathryn?

I was entranced and inspired by her tape. What was most mesmerizing about her presentation was that after each (well-explained and well-demonstrated) technique section, she'd have a little vignette in which she used those techniques in an improvisational dance.

I wanted desperately to look like her, to dance like her. Even after finding my "master teachers" (Anahid Sofian and Elena Lentini; read about them in Unveiling), Kathryn remained an icon. And her VHS tape was always my reference standard for introductory teaching.

Now, I'm using her material again. This time, she's (so thankfully!) released it as a two-volume DVD. You'll have to contact her to get a copy; it's not available through Amazon, and not even as a "store item" from her website. But contact her directly. (I may place a bulk order for the class, once everyone has registered for the first quarter.) The extra effort is worth it. This still remains, by far, one of the most fascinating, beautiful, and useful introductory DVDs to this beautiful and gracious art.

But my confession? Right now, I'm looking nowhere near the way that Kathryn does in her teaching DVD. Full circle. I'm back to being a student before I can be a teacher again.

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