Wednesday, April 04, 2007

RANT: I'm just too good...

"none of us is better than anyone else... there's always something that someone is better at than you are. so appreciate each other" -me

I'm about to teach a class called Intro To Improv Tribal Bellydance... it is, in essence, a beginner's class. However, I want the students to already have a firm base in bellydance, as I have no desire to teach them basics (you should know how to do basic hipwork, bellyrolls, snake arms, etc) because... well I just don't wanna! Also, I feel that the very basics should be taught to you by a master teacher, to ensure that you're getting the most solid foundation in your fledgling bellydance experience. So, I'm teaching the beginner's portion of ATS/Improv Tribal Style to non-beginner bellydancers.

This is leading somewhere, I swear...

So, I got an email from a prospective student that basically said, in not so many words, that she's worried about being "too good" for my class. She basically stated that she's been dancing for six months and, though she has seen our troupe dance and likes us, she thinks she might be too advanced for a beginner's class.

This stirs up all sorts of ire in me. Why? For the answer, we have to go back to when I was a baby dancer..

(does Wayne's Word "biddly-doop biddly-doop!")

Okay... so, let's say that six months into bellydancing, I was one arrogant cookie. Maybe I didn't act it, but in my mind I was. I had been taking Improv Tribal classes with my teacher for a while and, after the first Level I session, she asked me to join the Level II/Performance group. This sent my mind reeling in a "uh-huh! uh-huh! I rock, I roll!" kind of manner... not that I shouldn't of felt good about it... anyways, at that point I believed that I had surpassed the beginner's level. Oh, it was so nice the view from my tribal pedestal, looking down on the newbies with their bizarre floundering steps and scared faces! When classes that touted titles like "Intro to Tribal Fusion" or "Bellydance Basics" wandered onto the scene, I would look at them and sigh, thinking, "oh I'm probably too advanced for THAT!"

Then, I went to sign up for Piper's Winter Workshop... I asked my teacher about what level to take, expressing that I might be too advanced for Level I... She responded that I shouldn't jump to that conclusion yet- Piper was a master teacher and her level one might be really challenging to me. So, I listened to her, though, I must admit, I expected to be bored.

Note to self: prepare to eat your words, you arrogant little lass! The class was TOUGH... but in an awesome way. I learned so much from those sessions about how far I had to go. She corrected me on all sorts of bad posture, poorly learned basics and also supported me in the good things I did. I was put in my place! I learned then that, no matter how good I thought I was, there was always something to be learned from going to a beginner's class- if you ignore the roots to develop pretty leaves, you're still gonna end up with a rotten, ugly bellydance tree!

(back to present day.. biddly-doop biddly-doop!)

So, when people respond to me in the way that the aforementioned student did about how they may be "too good for a beginner's class" I find myself rolling my eyes and thinking, "ugh! baby dancers!" Because that really is the red flag for me. The difference between a serious dancer and a baby dancer is that a serious dancer knows that they are always learning and that, no matter how much fame they may acquire, they can always learn by revisiting the basics of the dance. We all have our "gift moves"- the moves that we learn like second nature, and we all have "easy" moves that challenge us (for me, it's the Taxim and the walking 3/4 shimmy/choo choo). The baby dancer usually errs by thinking they're really good when, in honesty, they have a long way to go.

I responded to this prospective student in the most honest and tactful way I could. I told her that even though she may feel she is an intermediate student, I and many of my semi-pro and pro colleagues still take beginner level classes to hone and fine tune ourselves as dancers. I also pointed out to her that, if she'd like, I can approach her as a more advanced student and more closely scrutinize her movements and give her a bit more tailored criticism, driving in the point that, "just because YOU think you're too good for the basics doesn't mean that you've really got them down as well as you think you do."

Though, I must admit, in my head I wanted to say, "OK. How about you come to my class and let me judge whether you're really that good?"

Don't get me wrong- I'm not a master teacher. I consider myself an intermediate level student, no matter what praise I receive as a performer. I believe I have many many years to go before I gain my advanced/master level props and, honestly, that's great for me! I want to have somewhere to go, I want to be able to learn and learn and I want bellydance to always be something that offers me growth.

This student's email just reminded me of how I used to think when I was a baby dancer... and man, am I ever glad I got over it!


At 11:11 AM, Blogger Amy said...

Hah! I think the email I forwarded to you probably overlaps with this scenerio.

Yeah, Piper's class kicks my butt in new ways every week. Her style may not be my style, but I can definitely value what she's teaching me!

At 1:32 PM, Blogger the ineffable b said...

Well and there's a lot to be said for straying from your style as well. Sometimes, venturing into a new form of belly dance brings makes you look at moves in a different light...

Also, it's a great way to learn to appreciate the technique behind styles of BD that maybe you didn't like so much before. Kind of like how Latifa really made me like Saidi!


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