What Egyptian Dance Students need to know -Part I

What Egyptian Dance students need to know about their Learning Journey.jpg

Dear dancers,

Here are some cool Tips I believe will be useful on your

Egyptian Dance Learning Journey:

  1. Learning Egyptian Dance is a never ending process. You don´t go from point A to point Z and you´re done. Once you reach what you consider point Z, or the end of the road, you´re thrown to another point A. It´s like starting all over again. That doesn´t mean you´ll go back to learning the things you´ve learnt when you started – it means there are levels of depth, understanding and execution of the dance that will keep pushing you towards unknown territory, one you´ll have to tackle with humbleness, openneness and stamina. You will, hopefully, never reach a comfort zone where everything you do feels, and looks, perfect. First, because perfection is a myth; it doesn´t exist. Second, because each learning phase, or upgrade, comes with a whole new set of challenges and horizons that will make you uncomfortable. In other, straight to the point, words: you´ll always have space for improvement and, YES, you´ll have to continuously work your derrière off in order to step up to the next level (there´s always a next level).

2. Self-discipline.

Don´t expect your teacher to knock on your door, to remind you of homework, or to poke you with a stick in a childish attempt to make you get into your dance studio. You have to do it yourself.

If dance is important for you, schedule it into your agenda. Make time for your classes, private training, choreography, whatever you use to move forward in your craft. YOU, and nobody else, has the power to create a consistent practice (if you want to see results, consistence is KEY- don´t do it once in a while; make it part of your routine).

3. Be curious and independent.

Receive as much as you can from well prepared, experienced teachers, but don´t rely on them for around the clock information. There´s a limited amount of material they can share in each class. You can power your learning process up by researching on your own terms, asking for advice at any given time.

Nowadays, there are loads of interesting sources – documentaries, books, classes & workshops, conferences; you name it – available. Use your curiosity and search for information in and outside of class time.

4. Manage your dance practice. 

4.1. First, schedule it into your agenda. Make it a part of your life.

4.2. Second, divide your practice into different areas: improvisation, choreography, exercises, homework given by your teacher; reading time; listening time; free research time.

5. Build a balance between self-confidence and humbleness.

Self-confidence, not arrogance, is essential to keep you going in the long run. Believing in yourself, your unique gifts and skills is a MUST. Combine it with the ability to look at yourself, and your dance, from a dettached point of view (what´s working and what´s not? what needs improvement and what´s rocking?).

6. Do NOT compare yourself to other dancers, colleagues or teachers. 

Each person is unique and so is her/his path. Everybody has a particular way and timing in their learning process. Focus on YOUR path and let others do the same. If you look to the side, let it be to learn from someone you admire. And remember:

Learning is not copying.

Learning is not envying.

Learning is not wishing you were that person, doing things the way she/he does them.

Learning is accepting what others can teach you while searching for/creating your own identity.

7. Everybody goes through the copy phase but they don´t have to get stuck there.

There´s a phase in the learning process where we learn through copying the movements our teacher shows us. There´s nothing wrong with it. It becomes a problem when you get stuck in that copycat phase forever, without developing your movement, identity, style. While many teachers encourage this Follower/Copycat craze, because it suits their marketing goals, that´s not what Egyptian Dance stands for.

The copycat phase gives you the standard movements, the base you can work from but the dance doesn´t end there. It starts there. There´s another phase called “searching/creating your own identity”, one that most dancers fail to go through. Don´t be one of them. You´re an ORIGINAL. So be(dance) it.

8. Bring pleasure/joy into your dance practice.

Discipline, consistent work and ambition are essential. Nonetheless, make sure you add PLEASURE & JOY to the mix. Nobody can handle a long term drag. If your dance practice becomes too serious/pushy/demanding, to the point that you forget what made you fall in love with the dance in the first place, something went wrong. TAKE YOUR PLEASURE SERIOUSLY. Enjoying your dance practice will assure that you´ll always be back into the dance studio instead of pushing so hard, and painfully, you get fed up with it and abandon the whole damn thing for good.

9. Expect changes. 

Nothing is static. Egyptian Dance, as life, is dynamic and unpredictable. You´ll observe shifts in yourself, as a person, and, consequently, in your dance.

Learning Egyptian Dance, as living, is not a straight line but a series of curves and counter curves with setbacks, lifts & falls, mountain peeks & deep valleys. Be flexible; adapt to circumstances, flow with what is.

If, one day, you wake up exhausted, dance that exhaustion.

If, one day, you wake up sad, dance that sadness.

If, one day, you wake up furious, dance that fury. And so forth.

Understand Egyptian Dance is an extension of Life and Life is an ever changing, surprising, Adventure.

10. Breathe consciously & deeply.

I know how obvious this one sounds. My students hear it all the time: BREATHE. It´s a classic, though. And it makes a huge difference, believe me. Before, during and after your dance practice: breathe as deeply and consciously as possible.

11. Work with and without the mirror.

There´s the visual side of Egyptian Dance, the one you need the mirror for, and there´s the emotional/energetic/spiritual side which has nothing to do with mirrors because it cannot be perceived by the human eye, only felt. Divide your practice into the things you should be doing in front of the mirror and the ones you shouldn´t.

12. Independently of your dance level, dare CREATING YOUR OWN STUFF.

This is a big one! Students are usually resistant when I propose they improvise or choreograph a dance piece or show me their idea of how a music should be interpreted. They believe they´ll be able to do it only when they “know more”, once they´re “prepared”. Fresh news: you´ll never feel prepared.

Start now. Do it now. If you only know 2 dance movements, use them, create variations, reinvent them; be resourceful. Education makes a better dancer, for sure. But you shouldn´t wait until you´re “ready” to start doing your things, mistakes and all.

Get used to working with your imagination, identity and perspective from the beginning. Take risks. Learn from exterior sources and from within. There´s great power in DOING it yourself, making your own mistakes, doing and redoing, falling and rising up.

13. Open yourself to mistakes.

The only ones who don´t do mistakes are the ones who don´t do it.

You´re not here to be perfect – we´ve covered that one: perfection is a myth – but to be your full self, flaws, magnificent stuff, trials and tribulations included. If you try to escape the dirt, you´ll escape the goodies. Once the Creativity Box is open, let yourself be surprised. If the result is not of your liking, you can always work on it, redo it, destroy it and start again.

14. Get involved with a POSITIVE dance community that empowers and inspires you.

If there´s none in your area, create it yourself. Invite dancers for a group practice at home with tea and cookies on the side; switch book and class recommendations; plan events together; dream about a collective show. Get involved, and involve, others in your passion for Egyptian Dance.

15. Be patient.

There´s much you can do to improve and then comes reality with its – often annoying – limitations. Your head has its own timing for learning; your body has another. Some times, you understand how a movement is done but you cannot do it.

Your body requires more time than you wish it would – accept it, work with it and not against it. Your mind will also develop in its own, possible, time – be compassionate towards it. Allow digestion to happen as it will. Do you best and then release it. Egyptian Dance takes time and understanding of life´s cycles and timings.

16. Egyptian Dance is a multi-dimensional ride.

In order to get into this art form, you must develop body, mind, heart and soul. If one of these dimensions is missing, your dance won´t be complete. A good, well prepared teacher, will help you develop these sides of your being during the learning process.

17. Value the gold more than you value the bling.

Who doesn´t love a beautiful “bedleh”, a coin scarf or a sparkling make-up?

And, yet, Egyptian Dance Gold is elsewhere. I don´t propose you quit the girlie stuff but know where your main investment should be located: inside; in your dance and personal improvement.

18. Embrace the hard times as much as the good times.

Although a glamorous image of Egyptian Dance, one covered with sequins and happy shimmies, is sold to the mainstream audience, the truth is the long road is bumpy and filled with rocks, mud and the occasional fall. I´m not even going into the world of professional Egyptian Dance, in Egypt and around the World; I´m only referring to the Learning Journey. There will be exciting, passionate times filled with fire and purpose and there will be what I call the party pooper times, the ones when you feel discouraged, in the dark, disoriented, or simply bored. It´s all part of the Adventure.

Take the pleasant and the unpleasant, like in a long term love relationship. The passion of the first years is amazing but who can tell about the depth, the beauty and the miracles that spring from the mature, real, face to face intimacy a long term relationship provides?

19. If you don´t know/understand, ask. 

Another apparent no brainer. And, yet, you´d be surprised at the amount of students who keep their questions for themselves. I cannot talk for other teachers but I can talk for myself: questions from students are always welcome, a way to improve the class for both sides, the student and the teacher.

Questions only become annoying, or unacceptable, when they come from lack of attention/respect (I´ve once had students talking to each other during a workshop, then asking me to repeat what I´d just done while they were busy chitchatting) or out of context questions (asking me about Nubian during a Baladi class; asking me about my private life during an Oriental Dance class; asking me to repeat what I´ve done in a workshop they took with me 3 years ago).

Don´t be afraid to speak up, ask, suggest anything you feel will be relevant for the class/workshop in question.

20. Take care of your Inner Garden. 

If Egyptian Dance reflects the person´s internal world – and it does -, make sure that person is well rounded and beautiful from the inside out. We cannot separate the dancer from the person in that dancer. What you are, as a human being, will come through in your dance. Investing in yourself – a healthy body, mind, heart and soul – is investing in your dance.

21. Focus on the Journey, more than on the results.

Many dancers are so obsessed with results, they forget to enjoy the journey that may take them to those results.

When I started learning, or remembering, Egyptian Dance, I was thrilled with the pleasure and discoveries it provided me. Results were pleasant consequences of the fascinating world(s) this art form provided. Without noticing, I was growing. Still am.

I hope you do the same.

School World Success 21 Promo

Tips provided by Joana Saahirah, founder of Joana Saahirah´s Online Dance School

Follow the link for more information: http://www.powhow.com/classes/joana-saahirahs-dance-studio

2 thoughts on “What Egyptian Dance Students need to know -Part I

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