Exploring the magic world of Middle Eastern Dance!

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ARTICLES:

 

The Prague Dance Symposium: SHRQ – December 4 – 7, 2014

Qualifying your teachers: Is Raqs Sharqi “in the blood?”

Developing Your Own Dance Style

Tips For Beginning Choreography

Raqs Sharqi Dance Presentation:  Responsibility for Context and Content

Dance Class Etiquette

Wenceslas Square at night, Prague

Wenceslas Square

 

 

The Prague Dance Symposium: SHRQ – December 4 – 7, 2014

PART 1

Why should we care about the culture the dance comes from? Isn’t it ok just to learn movements and use them to dance the way we like?

 

Of course if you are taking classes just for fun, exercise, and personal enjoyment, cultural information may not be of interest to you. And if you’re on the dance floor with other partygoers at a party, by all means, have fun. If, however, you are performing, chances are sooner or later you will be performing in front of people from the Eastern cultures where the dance comes from. In that case, your dancing just may be “lost in translation” – that is, incomprehensible to the audience. To them, your dance might be the equivalent of such mistranslations:

 

http://tinyurl.com/Mistranslations

 

Oriental Dance, like all dances, is a specific language, after all. So if you ignore the cultural component that contributes heavily to how the dance is executed, your crude “foreign accent” will be evident, or the addition of a lot of diverse Western elements may may make it totally unintelligible to them!   The audience may still be entertained by your “fusion”, though certainly not in the way you intended. They might even be offended by some part of it. So at some point you will want to decide whether you want to speak the language intelligibly.

 

Many dancers struggle with how best to gain such cultural knowledge, especially since most dance workshops, weeklongs, and festivals, have only a limited verbal cultural component. You may even learn the movements of culturally specific dances like Raqs al Nashaat or Saiidi or Kabeyle, but without context.   While many responsible teachers include cultural information in the classes, there is only so much you can impart and still have time to dance, so it often takes a back seat. Where, how, why are these dances performed in their own countries? How are the movements executed in a culturally recognizable way? Why do Western interpretations frequently fail to communicate the essence of the Eastern dances? What are, in fact, the defining characteristics of Oriental Dance?

 

Prague Municipal Library

Prague Municipal Library: This is where the SHRQ Symposium was held.

A new event, SHRQ Symposium on Middle Eastern Culture (http://www.shrq.eu/), organized by Czech dancer Katerina Shereen Safrova in Prague this past December, was noteworthy from the get-go, as an event specifically intended to present such cultural knowledge. The focus of SHRQ would be focused specifically on the cultural context of Raqs Sharqi and other Middle Eastern dances. Important lectures were presented by prominent authorities including Farida Fahmy, Sahra Saeeda, Karin Von Neukirk, and Morocco. Rounding out the offerings, Leila Molei explained the variety of extant dances in the Iraqi region, including interpretations in the diaspora; musicians Tarik Beshir, Martin Stokes, Farouk el Safi, and Ahmed al Saih delved into musical concepts like maqam and taksim; and Zora Hesova. Barbora Cerna, Zuzana Nizka, and Alena Kojanova provided historical and cinematic background.

 

Then there were the evening sessions! Each evening we were treated to additional short lectures or performances that enhanced our experience of the 4 day enterprise. In between, we got to know each other, interested students from many backgrounds and countries, all with a deep love of the dance.

 

Swans and Riverside Buildings, Prague

Swans and Riverside Buildings, Prague

Charles Bridge and Prague Castle

Charles Bridge at left; Prague Castle and Old City across the River.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the time this packed full with events, it was challenging to find time to enjoy the city. To that end, a walking tour of the “new” old city and a river cruise that highlighted the history and sights was included in the package early on. As Prague is an immensely pedestrian-friendly city, we were able to find our way around in no time! Since it was December, the Christmas markets were in full swing, so there was no shortage of places to grab a quick, delicious bite (and shop!). The architecture is amazing, the cobblestone streets charming, the adorned buildings eye catching. In short, the city reminded me of a sweet and delicious confection, with statuary and art everywhere, and a vibrant creative buzz to go with it!

Astronomical Clock

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Qualifying your teachers: Is Raqs Sharqi “in the blood?”

 

Of course when you are learning something, you hope to find the best teachers.   In the case of oriental dance/ Egyptian raqs sharqi, the default assumption might be that the best person to learn from is an Egyptian.

 

Learning from longtime practitioners of an art can be a wonderful and illuminating experience if approached without the expectation of a specific teaching style. Historically (as in, before the advent of TV, video, youtube, etc), dance and music in the Middle East were often the purview of entire families, where children grew up learning these arts from their parents and relatives – the same way children everywhere learn things (reading, drawing, fishing, hunting, boating, jitterbugging, biking – you get the idea) from their parents and relatives: by copying, practicing, copying, repeating, ad infinitum until it’s ingrained. This traditional type of immersion training successfully produced many highly skilled entertainers for centuries, and still does in some cases.

 

However, in the last 50 years or so, the explosion of information sources and sound and video media, together with the desire of people all over to learn things outside their own realm of experience or native educational system, created a huge demand for teachers. In response to this demand in the oriental dance world, early practitioners in Western countries began to offer classes, structured on the Western model of teaching, which is to say, including identifying key movements and giving them names, breaking down movement sequences, providing written and verbal explanations, and often introducing some form of cultural context.

 

Eventually perceiving the (economic) opportunity that the many new students represented, the native practitioners in the Middle East have taken on teaching their own arts, leading to the proliferation in recent years of dance teaching festivals, particularly in Cairo. In fact, to attract students, the Egyptians themselves have been known to declare that to do true Raqs Sharqi, it must be “in the blood,” so you must come to the source to learn it!

 

So let me say at the outset that there are some outstanding Egyptian teachers that deserve accolades and are well worth the trip to Egypt, although the traditional copy and repeat training persists. However, there are also many teaching who do not have the credentials to teach or have only trained in one of the theater “folklore” troupes without direct experience with Raqs Sharqi.   And of course, Egyptian teachers run the gamut of technical expertise and knowledge of the dance, from zero to expert, just like teachers anywhere.

 

The reality is that place of birth does not automatically confer knowledge of a culture’s music, dance, and other traditions. While these things are usually learned from family, friends, and community, they can often differ from community to community within the same country. There is no reason why someone from a different place can’t learn the same things, with appropriate practice and study. In fact, there are excellent teachers of raqs sharqi outside the Middle East, many of whom have devoted large chunks of their lives to studying the dance in a way that Egyptians have not been able or motivated to.

 

The finest example of this is our own Morocco!* She is so esteemed by Raqia Hassan herself that she has been included as a teacher and lecturer from the inception of Ahlan Wa Sahlan. I have personally witnessed Raqia referring technique questions by students to Morocco as the expert who can answer them. And Raqia has said on more than one occasion that Morocco is more qualified to teach sagat than any Egyptian.

 

What this all boils down to is that whatever it is that you want to study, whatever path you choose, do take time to check your teacher’s background and credentials. Just remember that the birth certificate alone does not qualify someone in any field. The “in the blood” claim is advertising hype at its best! We all can develop our talents as we make our journey in life, and it certainly helps to have good teachers!

 

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* We are fortunate that Morocco has finally put lots of the excellent cultural context information into a book that everyone can now access from Amazon, or from Morocco directly. (Now also available in German, and soon to be in Chinese too!)

 

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Developing Your Own Dance Style

By Karima Nadira, February 2013

(a version of this article was originally published March 2006 in my then monthly newsletter)

One thing you will notice when you watch other dancers is that some dancers just plain stand out, not only because they are good dancers, but because there seems to be some unique and special quality to their dancing that no one else has.  The dancer has taken the same “alphabet” of dance moves that you are familiar with and personalized them in such a way that she has her own distinct style!  Getting to such a level is a bit like building a house:

1) Build a strong foundation

2) Put the structural supports in place

3) Add the walls, ceilings, and floors:

4) Add the finish decorations

5) Add the flourishes: Let your personality out of hiding!

1) Build a strong foundation:  First and foremost, in oriental, as in other dance forms (ballet, jazz, modern, ballroom, flamenco), the dance needs a solid foundation.  Just as a house needs a strong footing in the earth, a dancer needs a thorough grounding in solid technique*.  This means working the dance vocabulary into your DNA so you don’t have to think about it, by repeating it at the start of every dance workout.  Each time you work through the vocabulary, check everything about your technique:  your posture, the quality of your movement, the relationship of the movement to the music.  Practice this dance vocabulary, good posture, and good technique until your body can do it without thinking.

It is highly important, when developing your foundation, to pick one primary teacher or studio technique, and stick with her/him/it for a long enough time to be fully grounded in the technique.  Just as when building a house, you would not be likely choose different contractors to build different sections of your foundation,  when you are learning a dance technique it makes no sense to use part of studio A’s technique with a little of B’s & C’s.  A studio’s technique is usually designed with interdependent elements, so mixing techniques could produce at best, ineffective, and at worst, harmful technique.  Therefore, you should pick a primary studio and learn that studio’s technique thoroughly.   NOW you will have a solid foundation onto which you can build your second, third, and higher stories!

This does not mean you can not learn more than one technique at once – just keep them separate when you practice them.  For example, if you are studying oriental and flamenco at the same time, you would need to practice the techniques separately.  Or you could be studying some ballet in order to enhance arm carriage, turning techniques, and good posture; but aside from these benefits, ballet technique (such as the turned out stance) generally interferes with Oriental technique, so it is not good to bring your ballet technique into the oriental dance.  While fusion dance does consist of mixing techniques, fusion rarely succeeds unless the dancer knows BOTH techniques being fused very well,  so he/ she would be able to make the fused elements work.

2) Put the structural supports in place:  Once you have your dance technique and vocabulary down, and  you find yourself easily turning your alphabet into words, phrases, and paragraphs, you need to develop the structural basis for telling stories, writing poems, and generally expressing yourself.  To accomplish this in dance, a study of the culture where the dance vocabulary comes from is essential to understanding how the dance vocabulary is expressed in the countries of its origins.  Studying the dance in the context of the people who grow up dancing it can answer many questions that come up for the dancer as well as help in the understanding of how the dance vocabulary is used to interact with the music.  Study how hands and arms are used, body language, attitudes, and musical interpretation. Tease out what movements are originating movements, and which are embellishments, or natural oppositional movements.  (This is important!)    Find out what is considered culturally appropriate, and what might be considered rude or inappropriate. ( This can vary from one country to another.)   Your teacher should include cultural information in classes, as well as suggest opportunities for expanding that knowledge.  Our studio teaches much of this along with our combination exercises, choreographies, and movement breakdowns, as well as additional explanations of many do’s and don’ts.   Those of you in my class should also feel free to ask questions before or after class, if we don’t always cover what you are wondering about in class.]

Other sources of such study are:  when possible, travel to the countries of origin to observe the dance in its native culture; read and research the dance and culture; get to know people from the various countries of the Middle East to learn about their own experiences with the culture. (Caveat: Learning about the culture does inform the dance, but just because someone is from one of the Middle Eastern cultures does not mean they have any expert knowledge of the dance by dint of birth!  None of us was born automatically knowledgeable in the dances of our own cultures, though we may have learned some things quite young.  Keep that in mind when interacting with folks from “over there.”)  Excellent resources are workshops and seminars of teachers of specific regional styles, like Egyptian, Turkish, Gulf, or Lebanese, and of actual folk dances, like Macedonian Romani, Tunisian, Kabeyle, Libyan, etc,  many of which can provide additional in-depth knowledge of a particular aspect of the culture and dance technique. Such exposure also helps you know what you are looking at when you see other dancers perform and can significantly help you decide which direction you eventually would like to take your own dancing in.  Our studio often sponsors such knowledgeable teachers for seminars that can broaden our knowledge, like our recent visit from Ozgen, teacher of his own inimitable style of Tukish raqs & romani dance.

3) Add the walls, ceilings, and floors. Now that your structure is up, you need to flesh out the skeleton of your technique with the substance of your knowledge!  That’s called interpretation!  The music itself will be your most important guide: listen to the music for interpretation clues: basic rhythm & rhythm changes, instrumentation, etc.   A slow taqsim?  Smooth flowing movements.  A vibrato instrument?  Shimmies.   Now you will begin to build whole phrases and sentences using combinations, transitions, and accents that you create; using your technique to work within the vocabulary to express the music.  And you can add elements of regional interpretive style, if the music, the rhythm, or your creative energy dictates.  (See my article of Choreography Tips for more ideas.)

4) Add the finish decorations.  Now that you have mastered the technique so that it supports you in the interpretation of the music so you don’t have to think about that anymore, you can concentrate on the details that create a pleasing aesthetic.  Are your arms enhancing your dance by framing the movements?   Are your hands relaxed and graceful?  You will know that you have mastered your technique if you find yourself relaxing into your dance, letting go of any residual tension.  You know how often I talk about relaxing in class!  A relaxed dancer is so much more pleasant to watch than one who looks tense & like she’s working hard.

5) Let your personality out of hiding!  This is the icing on the cake!  Especially if you are shy, this part may be the most difficult, but it is essential to achieving your own standout style.  Are there gestures you like to use?  Make sure they make sense in the context of the dance, and make sure you “own” the gesture and if feels natural to you.  Much as you may admire a particular teacher or dancer, adopting all that person’s gestures, facial expressions, flirtatious tics, etc., may look like affectation and come across insincere. Who are you?  What has drawn you to this dance?  What motivates you?  Express that!  Lose yourself in the music, and all that time building a solid foundation of technique will free you to be yourself.  And when you are yourself, your audience will get that sincere joy that will emanate from you!

Maintaining good oriental technique: Remember, once learned, good technique needs constant maintenance.  Just like the barre in ballet, you need to practice good technique workouts regularly to maintain your technique in top form.  That way you are free to lose yourself in the music and concentrate on your expression while your body automatically does the rest.   Include a full body warm-up, a thorough review of the movement vocabulary, symmetrical use of body parts to prevent one-sidedness or overuse, and basic hip patterns on a regular basis, if not daily.  Your acquired vocabulary should be a broad enough set of fundamentals to allow you access, through further study, to other dances indigenous to the Middle East.

*Technique:  n 1. the manner in which technical details are treated (as by a writer) or basic physical movements are used (as by a dancer); also : ability to treat such details or use such movements.

Yours in dance,

Karima Nadira

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Tips for beginning choreography:  

By Karima Nadira 

  • Pick music that moves you, that your audience will find pleasing, and that has a rhythm you can handle.
  • Listen to the music over & over (I usually listen to a song at least 100 times before choreographing to it); this allows you to become intimate with the music and identify musical accents, variations, nuances, and cues that you will use to structure your dance.
  • Begin to try out movements and combinations to the music; often the music will suggest the appropriate movement.  Start with 2 or 3 foundation movements that fit the rhythm, and then add variations, layers, spice.
  • If you get stuck, review one or more choreos that you know to music that has the same rhythm and feeling to see if there are any useful movements/ combinations/ layers, etc.
  • Keep things simple:  you don’t have to put every move you ever learned, saw, or imagined in ANY one dance you do.  In fact, some movements may not fit the particular music, or the particular interpretation you have chosen to do.   A well performed simple choreography can look much more fluid and than even a well-performed everything-including-the-kitchen-sink type dance that an audience may find distracting or frenetic.  More is not necessarily better.
  • Focus on transitions:  are you moving smoothly from one sequence/ combination/ step to another?  Or do you find yourself having to do a “fix-it” move to get into position for what you want to do next?  If you said “yes” to the second question,  correct where necessary (the step before or after, or a direction) to allow for a smooth transition.
  • If you have access to a video recorder, video your dance.  OK, here you really have to try to be objective.  My own early dancing was marred by posture issues and floppy arms, which were clearly visible on the videos, and gave me a focus for my practice sessions.
  • If you can, use a coach:  ask an experienced dancer or teacher to view your dance to make suggestions for improvement.  Note that you have to be willing to listen to criticism and correction if you do this. but it always helps to have a trained eye look for obvious trouble spots.
  • Last but certainly not least, practice, practice, practice.  It is in this phase that the choreography becomes a dance;  you will work on expression, fluidity, nuances of musical interpretation, and presence.
  • Pick a costume appropriate to your dance.  If you’re doing a folk dance, don’t do it in a 2 piece bedlah.  Wearing a super glitzy elegant gown is not complimented by dancing barefoot.  Looking fabulous in that new costume will not help you dance better if you did not practice.
  • Don’t forget to have FUN!  This dance form is mostly about the expression of joy, so don’t leave the smile at home!

 

A word about props:  First of all, zills (finger cymbals) are not props- they are musical instruments.  If you can’t learn to play them right, leave them home.  As regards veils, swords, snakes (if you’re so inclined), fans, feather boas, candles, tea trays, etc etc:  A prop will NOT improve your dance technique.  In fact, “prop dances” are often only about the prop, not much about dance, and what little dance there usually is, all too often is lacking in technique.  My suggestion is, work on learning good dance technique first, and later on, you can worry about expanding your horizons to include props if you wish.

 

Yours in dance,

Karima Nadira

 

Many thanks to Morocco (http://casbahdance.org/), without whose guidance I could not be doing this, and whose wealth of knowledge has informed my knowledge of this dance to a major degree!

 

 

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Raqs Sharqi Dance Presentation:  Responsibility for Context and Content

By Karima Nadira

(A version of this article originally appeared in my monthly newsletter in 2005)

Oriental dance (the direct translation from Arabic raqs sharqi is “oriental dance”) is deeply steeped in folk roots.  Though its stage version has been widely embellished (sometimes to its detriment) with ballroom traveling styles and ballet affectations, the primary movement vocabulary is directly from the home dancing of the folk of North Africa and the Levant.

When you get to the point where you have mastered basic vocabulary and you are ready to start dancing on your own, sooner or later a song will grab you, and you will want to create a dance to it.  And what may come to mind as inspiration are lots of examples of dance you have seen, lots of stories you’ve read or heard, lots of scenarios that the song lyrics (if you know them) or the passion of the music will conjure in your head.   Where do these ideas come from? Is it safe to be inspired by/ draw upon/ imitate dance performances/ theatrical presentations we have seen others do?

Your rapidly improving ability to move easily with the music may make you feel you can do anything as long as it is rhythm appropriate.  But are there any boundaries as to what you should or shouldn’t do, dance-wise?  Should you worry about being culturally correct? Who will you  be dancing for?  What will you be telling them you are doing if you get the opportunity?  What will your audience walk away thinking after they have seen your dance?

Let me give you an example:

Yep, I was curious when the Bolshoi came to town and were doing a revival (after over 100 years) of a ballet called “The Pharoah’s Daughter,” so I went to see it.  It is true that I did not expect anything resembling Oriental Dance- this is a ballet company, after all.  But I was interested to see how they would handle the context and content of a ballet that is set in historic Egypt.  Well, it quickly became apparent that neither the librettist nor the choreographer even attempted any accuracy with either.  The first clue was in an opening scene with several native men in typical gallabeyas of the region, but  several women appeared bizarrely costumed in Western Hollywood-style 2 piece “bellydance” costumes:  a scene a European traveler to Egypt in the late 1800s’ was certainly not likely to encounter!  From there the ballet devolved into total contrived fantasy, which, other than some sets which evoked actual temple ruins, had little or nothing to do with actual life as it may have been in 17th century or Pharonic times, which is when the purported scenes took place.

In addition to the lack of any real connection with a real Egypt, there were some obviously racist things going on that, for a New York audience in any case, were palpably uncomfortable and distracting, especially the 2 scenes involving children in blackface doing movements that could hardly be described as anything but “shuck & jive.”  On top of that, the Nubian king (“Nubian” means “black” in Arabic) was white;  and a key villain was black, and was also the only character to die.

Even in a revival of an old ballet, minor changes could have re-imagined the blatant blackface scenes in modern terms.  However, the incomprehensible part is that it was, in fact, not a simple revival: there were insufficient notes and records of the original, so all that was preserved was an approximate story line, except for the fantasy concept.  So the ballet itself was completely rechoreographed in 2000 – just a few short years ago-  by a French choreographer!  It is hard to believe in this day and age that this choreographer was so ignorant of modern sensibilities that he would use racist stereotype material in his choreography, and that the ballet company would make poor casting and costuming choices.  This is a world class ballet company failing to be responsible for what they are presenting on a world stage.  It could only have enhanced their reputation had they edited their fantasy content for appropriateness, and devised a more relevant context.  Indulging in tired stereotypes is something we actually associate with second & third rate talent, not world class artists.

Yet this is the same challenge that we as artists have every time we choreograph and stage our own dances.  For example:  most of us have seen the stereotypical “Gypsy dance” with dancers in revealing costumes, flinging their colorful skirts about in a carefree & suggestive manner,  and dancing with tambourines.  Gee, it looks like fun.  But only if we take the time to delve into the real Roma (“gypsy” is pejorative) culture do we discover that this is a racist stereotype and not how they dance at all.  In fact there are excellent local teachers that can teach the real thing.

We make conscious choices every time we present dance to others.  We can choose NOT to be ignorant; NOT to rely on old, unreliable stereotypes for our visions and fantasies.  We can do at least minimal research on a culture we purport to represent – we can ask someone who knows more, check things out in the library, go to Google.  There is really no longer an excuse for being voluntarily ignorant in the information age.

The Bolshoi performance underscored even more the importance of being aware of how we present our art.  Are we so locked into the idea of creative freedom that anything goes, even old racist stereotypes?  And anyway, what the heck is so creative about repeating old stereotypes when instead one could go to real sources and generate something totally new from the real thing?  Or hey, what’s wrong with the real thing?

So here are a few caveats:

1) Just because you’ve seen someone else do it (or you’ve seen it in a music video), does not make it the material appropriate, no matter how well-known or good the artist is.  BE RESPONSIBLE and do some research about the REAL culture and style of an ethnic group/ country before you assume that what others are presenting is real.

2)  Just because someone is from the Middle East does not mean they know anything about dance.  While many of them learned dancing within their family community as they grew up, many did not.  Just being born there is not sufficient qualification to be an authority in the dance.  Being born in the US doesn’t mean you automatically can play jazz or dance to it.

3)  Be conscious what you are calling your performance/show. How are you communicating what it is you are doing to your audience?  Are you referencing another culture?  If so, would someone from that culture watching you feel it is truly representative of that culture?  What measures are you taking to make sure the content matches the context?

4)  Be aware of how your costuming affects your audience’s perception.  If you are dressed in a 2 piece beads & sequins costume that is generally associated with Oriental dance, people will assume that association no matter what you say your dance is.

5)  If you’re not sure if a move/ a song/a costume is appropriate, don’t use it.  Err on the side of caution. (Religious music, for example, would be offensive to dance to.)

6)  Mixing random elements from other dance forms into your dance is not fusion and may be inappropriate depending on your audience and costuming.

In short, fantasy, fusion, and theatricalized Oriental dances abound these days, and it may take time to learn how to sort out what’s what  In the meantime, practice your movements, and ask lots of questions of your teachers.  And remember the roots of this dance are  in the folk dances of the people of the Middle East:   relaxed but exuberant expression, devoid of the posturing, sexualization, affectation, and athleticism that dancers today typically throw into their routines in the West.

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Dance Class Etiquette

By Karima Nadira

Not only have a few recent incidents sparked me to think that some people may not have an idea of what might be appropriate behavior in the classroom, but also in Cairo, at Raqia Hassan’s Ahlan Wa Sahlan, I witnessed plenty of behavior that certainly suggests a need for discussing this issue.  Many of the classes in Cairo were with popular teachers who easily had over 100 participants!  OK, so they did put the teacher on a stage, but still, not everyone could be in the front row.  In addition, students needed space to dance along with the teacher, and people pressing forward to see better were cramping those in the front rows.  Chaos could (and sometimes did) ensue when students threw courtesy to the winds. This unfortunately led to a lot of jostling and raw nerves, neither of which is conducive to learning.

The good news is that most students are mostly courteous in class.  The bad news is that it only takes one self-absorbed and distracted individual to disrupt the learning process for everyone.

Based on the kinds of issues I’ve seen in the classroom, I’ve compiled the following suggestions for appropriate behavior in class.  Many are standard rules in a lot of dance studios and most are simply common courtesy: respecting others who have also paid for the same class you are taking, and treating them the way you yourself would wish to be treated (and treating the studio the way you wish guests would treat your house).  Some of the following may be obvious to you, and some not, but following these guidelines can go a long way towards contributing to everyone getting the most out of coming to class, whether it’s a large one or small one.  As you will see, it’s mostly common courtesy.

Classroom Guidelines

Please BE ON TIME!  Not only is it disruptive to show up late, but you will miss part of the warmup, which is an essential part of class.

Please turn off and refrain from using cellphones during class.

No food or drinks in the classroom; only water.  (Sticky soda spills, crumbs, or oil do not improve our dancing surface.)

No gum chewing or eating during class.  (We don’t want anyone to choke.)

First come first served:  If you want your choice of a spot in the classroom, get there early. When you choose your spot initially, make sure you are not taking a spot directly in front of another dancer and therefore blocking her/his sight lines to the teacher or to their reflection in the mirror.  If you arrive late, please position yourself behind others who were there before you.

Leaving your hip scarf or other item on the floor to mark your spot is ok only until class starts.  Once class starts, if you are not in your spot, you forfeit your spot. (Your marking item will  be removed from the floor.)

Once class starts, please do not park water bottles (or notebooks, or anything else for that matter) anywhere on the dance floor where other dancers may trip over them.  You may leave these items along with any other personal belongings at the side or back of the room.  If you need to write notes, go to the side or back of the room to do so, then rejoin the class in your spot.  Don’t stand in the middle of the dance floor writing notes & forcing others to dance around you.  This is not only discourteous, it can cause an accident.

Maintain your position.  Once you establish your spot in the class, it is your job to maintain that position:  in other words, your spatial relationship to the teacher and the other dancers.  Spatial awareness is an important skill for any dancer, and the best practice you will ever have is during classes.

It is not acceptable to float around the room during class looking for a better spot. This forces others to move to accommodate your new position.   If you are unhappy with your spot during class, you can find a new spot behind all others.  It is not polite to step in front of others, even if you think you can dance there without getting in their way (you can’t).  And next time get to class earlier so you can have your spot of choice.

If you need to leave your spot during class for any reason, you may return to your same spot;  however, it would be polite to wait to return to your spot at a logical break in the action (like the end of a song or exercise) rather than dodging dancers to get to your spot.  You will notice the polite dancers will rejoin the class at the back of the room until a logical break presents itself to return to their spot.

If you wear beaded/ coined hip scarves, please make sure they are not shedding beads or coins that you or others may step or slip on during the course of class.  If your hip scarf starts shedding during class, please remove it.

Please don’t talk during class, especially while the teacher is explaining something, even if you think you already know what she/he is talking about, or even if a different student is being addressed.  Your talking may prevent someone who needs the information from hearing it, and in any case, you may learn something new yourself if you listen.

Noisy hip scarves are fun, but not all classes permit them.  If they are permitted, please be considerate & keep the hip jangling to a minimum especially during the quiet moments when the teacher is explaining something or someone is asking a question, so everyone can hear.

Please do not offer your help & instruction to another student during a class.  While you may believe that you know how to help the other student, your engaging with that student can be disruptive to the class, and can, in fact, change that student’s focus from what the teacher actually wants the student to concentrate on.  If the other student has a question, she/he should ask the teacher for assistance.

If you have suggestions or requests regarding how the class is conducted, please discuss them with the teacher after class.

Please try to keep the dressing rooms, bathrooms, and the studio orderly and make sure you take all your belongings with you when you leave, including empty water bottles.

Above all, it doesn’t hurt to smile and be pleasant to your fellow dancers.  Maybe you’ve had a horrible day, but when you step into class, your fellow dancers will all thank you for leaving your private issues at the door.

 

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