If you watch what I do on facebook, you’ll have seen me post a few things about my ‘summer camp’ for this year, Technique for Teachers, an upper-level training for American Tribal Style®
bellydance teachers. I haven’t posted much about it, because I am still working through the experience; I expect to be digesting it for some time to come. My friends Melissa Decker and Jeana Jorgensen have written wonderful summaries of their takes on it, which have made me smile to read through, because, for once, I was there.
I never quite ‘got’ the idea of what these events were for. I can be a little slow on the uptake sometimes, and this was one of them. We found out when introducing ourselves in the group that I had taken Teacher Training previous to anyone else, and yet, I’d never attended any national-level events. The major reason is that I am not well-off, and find travel hard to manage often. With that being the case, I had not been persuaded that this was something I needed to sacrifice to save for. I know it’s not that much of a sacrifice for some, but for me, it decidedly is. I’d decided already that it was not for me, even though this one was almost in my backyard, due to the cost of the training and accommodations, quite pricey in themselves. Imagine my shock when a benefactor turned up out of nowhere to offer me the package; all I had to do was to get myself there. This caused me to think hard about where I found myself in my dance practice, and where I wanted to go with it. More than once in the last year, I had wondered if I wanted to continue to perform and teach, as classes are smaller these days, and the turnover in dance students is a constant. I have been through numerous iterations with my dance troupes, with accompanying triumphs and sadness, as people ‘graduated’ and moved on, or just stopped taking with me. I’ve been invested in every one of the people who stayed with me for multiple classes; watching them go was cumulatively disheartening; if you don’t find ways to recharge your artist’s heart, there is always that temptation to give up.
The cycle of change meant that I often had difficulty finding anyone at my own level to dance with, and that meant I was always holding back my own abilities in order to foster the confidence of my students. I never got the chance to dance full-out with anybody! And that, right there, is one of the greatest benefits of Technique for Teachers, that, and getting critique from the people most highly qualified to give it. We were honored to have the founder of the style, Carolena Nericcio-Bohlman, and her second-in-command Megha Gavin, there to oversee this, and to break down technique and answer questions.
I went there nursing an injury, wearing a support brace for a strained tendon on one ankle. I paid attention to how it was doing daily, hourly even. As I was not the only dancer among the eighteen of us to be working with physical problems, we worked out who might do their evaluation demonstration at the best time to get the maximum performance under the circumstances. For practical reasons, I ended up going third-to-last, on the last day. I was SO nervous, even though the environment couldn’t have been more loving and supportive. It was not the most brilliant performance I ever gave! It was sufficient to get me what I needed to hear, though, my strengths and my deficits. I have work ahead of me.
I have performance amnesia around that demonstration. I know the two songs I danced to, and how they felt, and I recall a burst of sweet exultation at finally getting to let it fly. I suspect that showed on my face, from what I was told by my supporting crew.
That fellowship, eating with everyone and talking with everyone, watching and learning together, actually dancing together, was invaluable. The whole event reached deep into my doubts and holding back, my fear of not being good enough, my desire to be seen and understood, and gave all of that a little turn, enough to true the compass. I came back ready to do the work, re-committed, with a burning desire to pass along what I’ve learned.
I have answers to many of my questions. I’ll be better at handling the questions that come to me from my students. I have to say, this is the time to get in on a beginner level with me, if ever there was one!
Huge thanks to all the lovely teacher-dancers who inspired me with their beauty and dedication. Huge thanks to Carolena and Megha for their patient and excellent work with us. Hugest thanks to my benefactor. It might be the best gift anyone ever gave me, and I intend to pay it forward.
By the way, if you are ever at an event using the Loyola University Retreat and Ecology Campus, near Woodstock, Illinois, I hope you enjoy the place as much as I did. It’s serene, quiet, and wonderful.