I asked my students a series of questions hoping to get some insight about why people come to bellydance class vs. why they stay in class. I have noticed that when people commit to pushing through the initial hurdle of understanding the basic moves, they become hungry for more. Others say it’s “too hard” and don’t go beyond a class or two. The idea of committing to an art form or a hobby for several years seems to be increasingly rare. It requires an intrinsic motivation, humility (to accept that there is always more to learn) and, in today’s world, there are a lot of demands on our time. While many may be drawn to the latest fitness craze or need the thrill of variety, I’m thankful there are some who understand that “bellydance” has enough challenges to keep us all eternal students.
Jennifer has been my port in the storm during my biannual events. Her project management and stage manager experience have been exceptionally valuable. She’s even volunteered to be a gig roadie on a few occasions (including a marathon gig night in NYC for New Year’s Eve…whew)!
Susan brings her artistic mind to the dance and she is a very dedicated learner. She is often in class 3x per week and the first to request private lessons to work on specific concepts or combos. In addition, she designed the layout and cover for my book, for which I am eternally grateful.
How long have you taken bellydance classes?
Jennifer: I started in 2000 with another teacher in Fairfeld, but took time off for a few years before finding Tava.
Susan: Almost 6 years with Tava.
Why were you first inclined to take a bellydance class?
Jennifer: I took my first bellydance class through continuing ed as a way to meet others in a new town. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for that.
Susan: It was a complete whim, but I was def attracted to the Workit studio look, and I was feeling starved for something exotic, something way out of my comfort range. I also missed dancing like I did when I was a small child. I did it in defiance of my age in other words.
How long did it take for you to feel like you grasped the basic movements?
Jennifer: I don’t recall exactly how long it took to feel like I had a clue about this new-to-me form of dance. Truthfully, there are still times I question my abilities! Strong supportive teaching, provided by both my primary teachers, helped my confidence to keep going.
Susan: 3 years of weekly instruction but my body felt marvelous all over, and my mind started to feel more confident.
If you stopped attending classes at any point, what did you (or what would you) miss about it the most? What keeps you coming back now that you’re past the initial hurdles?
Jennifer: I have taken breaks of various amounts of time (from a few months to a few years) over the course of my study and I always miss the fluidity in my joints that comes from practicing bellydance on a regular basis. I also tend to feel less sure of myself and body image when not dancing regularly. Since finding Tava’s classes, I find I miss the camaraderie of the other students and Tava when I’ve taken time off. The support of smart, funny women is inherent in this community that I don’t find elsewhere.
Susan: I would miss two things, the people and the fact that I feel I have made some progress. I keep coming back because I’m curious how far I can go.
What particular benefits does this dance, or dance class(es) offer you that you cannot get from other exercise, community events or dance form?
Jennifer: As I mentioned earlier, the support of smart, funny and caring women does not translate into other aspects of society as much as it does in Tava’s bellydance classes. I love the music and watching the wide variety of dance genres that fall under the umbrella of bellydance. It’s wonderful and inspiring to watch women from all backgrounds, faiths, educational levels and countries perform, and that includes the seasoned pros and the novices! I think that because bellydance is difficult to “master,” the feeling of accomplishment after a performance is palpable.
Susan: An all in one body-mind-spirit integration and super fun. Yoga has mindbodyspirit but is not fun for me like this dance is
What would you say to someone who is curious to try bellydance but is hesitant?
Jennifer: Just try it. Bring a friend or don’t; purchase some bling or use scarves you have; maybe visit a few teachers to find one who makes you feel comfortable and JUMP IN. As someone who could never figure out an aerobics class and feels out of place lifting weights in a gym, I love the exercise and confidence this dance brings me. It’s fun to have that little shimmy secret your co-workers or friends don’t know!
Susan: You will grow in ways that you cannot possibly imagine until you try it for at least a year. Plus, you’ll get some non-judgmental buddies you can’t get anywhere else!
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