Archive for May, 2010

Well, this week saw my fond fairwell to my LA Fitness class. I’ve been teaching a weekly class there since last September (so 9 months) and I was finding it hard to keep my numbers up. Apparently classes when hitting capacity has 20 people in them, and anything under about 8 people is considered dangerously low. So, although having had a few instances when 17 ladies turned up for class, it was most unusual than common for my little “unusual” activity in the timetable of Body Attack, Kickboxing and Legs Bums and Tums.
So unfortunately, after consistently getting classes of between 6 and 8 people, which is actually a class size that I enjoy, since I am able to keep an eye on everyone, I was “bumped” for Alesha Dixon’s new funky dance fusion class, which I believe is taking the world by storm!

To be fair to LA, I was offered the opportunity to train to teach Alesha’s new dance class, so when the bellydancing had to go I would be able to continue drawing an income from them. However, I explained that for me it goes deeper than just teaching a dance fitness class, and unfortunately I’d rather take my bellydance class elsewhere.

I’ve learned some really important things from my stint at LA, being a gym class and so having the challenge of providing a non-progressive class – since there’ll be drop ins every week. I managed to build a fitness class, with bellydance drills and small sections of choreographies, delivered in an energetic little package each week. The facilities are excellent, with a great sound system and wonderful floor to ceiling mirrors. The drawbacks being that all and sundry are able to gawp from the treadmills in through the windows (what is it with gyms and the posing/peeking mentality) and occasionally having a brutish man wander in to pick up some free weights “umm, hello, will you be joining us?…” only to get a grunt back.
I’ll definately miss those classes though, they really got the adrenalin flowing with the compactness of them, packing in as much as I can as I may not get another chance to impart a little bit of what I love onto the passers through of gym-culture. I did manage to get a hardcore of about 4-5 ladies, who really seemed to enjoy the classes and seemed sad when I said farewell (hoping they will come along to my other classes). Maybe it’s the demographic, maybe it’s the age old fear that you must get your belly out in order to join in, or maybe it’s the lack of advertising within the club, but for now it’s just not meant to be.

I’m trying to get an early morning class set u p as this really is a great way to start your day and I think I can count on my old faithful gals showing up, but I’m still watching this space to hear back from them. For now, Alesha will take the dance reigns, I really hope her class does well, as it’s sad to see the low numbers of dance classes available within gyms these days, and I really thought I was onto a trick. I’ll keep you posted on news about the early morning class, but for now, I have my Weds evenings free again (well, not exactly, as there is an Egyptian dance class that I used to go to that I can now head back to!! Yipppeee 🙂 ).


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During my Jwaad foundation weekend, I had a technique assessment, which is something I have been desperate to have for years now. I found that as I started to learn Egyptian dancing (with my first couple of teachers, over 10 years ago now), I was learning a lot about technique and working on corrections all the time. As I progressed in my dancing, and moved further into intermediate and advanced classes, there seemed to be less emphasis on breaking down technique and making corrections to any postural or bad habits that creep in over time.

The classes that I attend now, and workshops as well, tend to either be peer led, with little time for conversation about corrections, or with a class size too big for the teacher to focus on correcting technique (and perhaps lack of confidence about correction, or fear of upsetting egos) and I REALLY WANT AND NEED THIS!!! As I teach more and want to take it on to big and better things, I fear that lazy habits that I’ve picked up along the way may creep into what I am passing onto others and this worries me greatly.

SO, I was thrilled (seriously) and also scared about having a technique assessment during my Jwaad Foundation Course and I seriously believe that as bellydancers and bellydance teachers we should have a Bellydance technique MOT every year to make sure that we are oiling our moves and tightening our technique so we continue to operate at optimum levels and pass that onto those around us.

SO, a big thanks to Chris Gould for my assessment this weekend, she circled me with a clipboard as I went through my inventory of moves (the nerves making them a little less natural and fluid as usual!!) and she gave me some really important feedback on my moves. Here are my personal notes to work on:

1. Hagala/Egyptian Walk – more emphasis on the down movement during the fast version of this move
2. Flat hip circles – keep the hips flat, especially at the back – place the knot of my scarf in the centre of my body and try to keep it at the same level all the way around the circle.
3. Try to get my snake arms more from the centre of the back and less shoulder led
4. Relax more on the shimmy and practise practise practise!
5. Twists (swerves), keep flat, don’t bring the hip up, and less jerky at the front (smooth all through the move)

So I’m really going to focus on these now in my classes to try to gradually rid myself of these lazy habits. I think it’s so important to continually look at how we are executing our moves and propose to any advanced teachers out there to develop a Bellydance MOT that we can come to once a year to get our moves checked out and checked off, so that we can be confident that we are passing on good examples and good practise. Ego may always be an issue, as bellydancers develop and don’t want to hear criticism, but we must strive not to pass on our over tilted hips and shoulder heavy snake arms onto the next flush of enthusiastic newcomers!

To perfection and beyond! (well… almost!)

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What a weekend! Of course, it had to be the hottest weekend on record (well, for this year), with the parks buzzing with activity and everyone rolling up their trousers to catch the sun, and I get to spend the majority of both Saturday and Sunday in a small village hall in Barnes, SW London!!
It was the second weekend of my JWAAD Foundation Course and I was so excited to get back and get stuck into the final stretch of brain and body activity before officially becoming a “JWAAD Foundation Girl” 🙂

The first weekend, which took place back in March, was the real Meat and Potatoes of the theory. With 2 hour sessions on Anatomy and Physiology (well, more like 4 hours), Health and Safety in the Studio and Teaching Safe Warm Ups, with a dance class and choreography thrown in to keep us all limber! It was brilliant for me, who have always felt a little unsure of the whole theory side of things. Found out some really useful things about synovial fluid, ATP and the importance of raising the heart rate, that I never knew. I also discovered that my standard warm up exercise for the knee (circling the lower leg creating the impression of circles in the knee joint) is also largely un-useful, much better to have a hinge action (gently swinging back and forth), since the knee is a hinge joint. AHA! Now I am a joint – geek, the Knee being one of the most complicated (and therefore interesting) joints in the body…

Anyway, I digress. It was brilliant to catch up with the girls again – who had travelled from all over the south and a couple from further afield – all at various stages in their bellydance teaching careers – perfect for getting insider tips and tricks and some ideas for promotion and perseverance!

This time we had modules in Safe Cool Downs – very important and often ignored, Administration and Professionalism – dry but important! and of course, the all important “teaching assessments” duh duh duuuuuh.
It was pretty scarey stuff, reminded me of dreaded ballet exams when I was about 7 and my mum used to have to battle with my out of control curls as she pinned my bun into my scalp. **shiver**. Anyway, we all had to prepare a 10 minute warm up and give it to the class. 12 warm ups later, we were all very warm and the adrenalin was just about dispersing around our bodies!!
The final assessment was a one on one with one of the JWAAD teachers – this was the real ballet exam moment. We were asked to dance specific moves whilst our assessor circled us with a clip board – yikes, ACT NATURAL, be cool, yet relaxed, yet in control of your body, yet natural. Eeeeeeee! Then freestyle for a few minutes to give a flavour of your style and expression.
Phew! It was actually a lot of fun, pretty scary at the time, but afterwards it felt brilliant, and I got some great tips on improving some of those dodgy habits or bad postural positions that gravity and old age have thrust upon me 😉

Oh and we got our 3 assignments back from the first weekend – on anatomy, health & safety, and lesson planning, which I was very pleased to find out I passed :D, so I think I’m nearly there, nearly an official JWAAD Foundation Course Gal. Next step the Diploma, which comes up in 2012. Unless I spend the deposit on a trip to Egypt, that is… hmmmm

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I seem to be faced with the ever present question of “when will I get some time off?” The simple answer is probably when I give up one of my bellydance lessons, which of course, I don’t seem to ever want to do. I’ve now been running my bellydance classes for a year – going from one a week, pretty quickly up to 3 a week and then fluctuating somewhere in between that at various stages over the year. Next week, in fact, I’ll be doing 4 classes. And also working a full time job (which has, in the last month, become even more full time) and trying to be present at home enough for my partner to believe that I also live in the same place as him.. for most of the time!
Oh, and of course when I am at home, I’m usually twirling around in our living room with a veil flying out of one hand (tonight when the other half got in he stated “do you ever not dance?” hmmph… or I’m playing the same track over and over trying to figure out the next move in my latest choreography. Getting stuck on a move must drive all residents in my flat block completely mad…
It’s hard to deny this game can become a tad of an obsession, even if you don’t mean it to be. For years I thought I was very constrained, smirking silently at my bellydance friends who couldn’t not buy a new costume, or spent every hour practicing the latest Jilina CD, but it turns out I seem to have trumped them all (if we are counting time consumed each week, that is). Well, I’m going to be graceful about it, and attempt to claw back some “me” time, outside of the big B, that is. I’ve always dreamt of my fantasy life where I get home from work, curl up on a big pouffy cushion and pour some mint tea…
Anyway, gotta dash, class in 20 minutes!

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I thought I should write a little bit about the newly named “Shimmy Shimmy Bang Bang” and the wonderful enthusiasm and dedication the members put into nailing our recent “premiere” performance on the bellydance scene (aka OMEDS hafla).

I’ve been running a bellydance group on and off for a couple of years on a Thursday evening in East Oxford and my style has seemed to settle on a bellydance fusion – leaning towards taking my traditional Egyptian (Raqs Sharqi) routes and building them into choreographies from different types of music (from East to West). I know this can be perceived as diluting the tradition, but I always get a lot of satisfaction and fun out of taking our bellydance skills and relating them to non-traditional audiences. Usually this manifests itself in carnival performances, cabaret shows and impromptu performances at parties, arts events and bars in Oxford! For me, a bit part of the joy is in developing the story within the performance, so building the characters of the performers, putting together the outfits and then taking that to the audience to enjoy.

It’s all about the buzz – the buzz from teaching others to dance, the buzz when they break through tricky points in their learning, the buzz from gaining confidence, developing the performance character and then finally taking it to a stage, or floor space, big or small, and then getting a fab reaction from the crowd, as (hopefully) they get as much from it as we put into it!

Working 9 to 5 at the OMEDS Hafla

So on Friday we performed with our new name Shimmy Shimmy Bang Bang (formerly know as Skelebobs from a one off Halloween performance, and not thinking that name would work, year round…). We performed a line-dance inspired bellydance dressed up with our checked shirts, bright red lippy and big blonde wigs and it was a blast! We also got a massive whoop and holler from the audience – which is ALL we wanted!! I hope it provided a little injection of humour, fun, and, of course, bellydancing talent, and to show that there are many ways in which you can enjoy and learn bellydancing and express yourself.

Next, we are working on a drum solo, so bringing it back to the more traditional approach, as it is important to remember your roots (and, of course mix it up, should we ever get enough “numbers” to take this show to Vegas!!! 😉 )

Shimmy Shimmy Bang Bang practices every Thursday from 8-9pm and you are welcome to come along to join us, if you want to get involved with performing – there are always opportunities lurking around every corner!!

Skelebobs perform at the Halloween Cabaret

Snake arms at the Halloween Cabaret

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Friday night saw the much anticipated OMEDS Hafla and what a fantastic lineup – with OMEDS dance groups and friends of OMEDS from all over Oxfordshire, it really was a night to remember. I had the unique opportunity to be the MC for the night, so with the best seat in the house, I got to watch, live and up-close, nearly 20 acts on the lineup. The audience we in for a real treat and diversity was high on the menu as the styles varied from the cinematic style of the early 20th century dancers, through to lively cane dancing, mesmerizing veil dances, whirling like dervishes, bellydance-line dance fusion, tribal, Greek chiftetelli, indian folk dancing and dancing to the Tomb Raider soundtrack!

I also was lucky enough to perform with my new group, Shimmy Shimmy Bang Bang, opening the 2nd half, for more on that, I’ll blog later 😉

So a big thank you and congratulations to all the performers, organisers and helpers behind the scenes for another fun Hafla – see you all again soon!

First half…

1. Aimée opened the show with a dramatic, cinematic choreography inspired by the legendary early C20th dancers Samia Gamal and Tahia Carioca. The music was “Dimashq” by Ahmad Fouad Hasan. This was Aimée’s first solo choreography. She also designed and made her own costume from scratch, including all the beadwork – amazing!
2. OMEDS Improvers Class performed a fusion of oriental and Turkish Roman (gypsy) dance, choreographed by their teacher Caitlyn, to “Şukar Şukar” by Kardeş Türküler, a Turkish song in 9/8.
3. The Tall Poppies performed a contemplative folk fusion piece, telling a story of hope after lost love. The dance is set to the lilting “Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us” by Robert Plant & Alison Krauss.
4. Layali Masrea are based in Newbury and are Judi Linley’s student group. They performed a lively stick dance to “El Leilah” by Diaa, an upbeat song that tells everyone to get up and party.
5. Natalie performed a variation of a dance performed by the whirling dervishes, who spin in intense spiritual concentration with one hand outstretched towards the heavens to receive blessings and the other turned towards the earth to transmit them. This dance has a strong religious and meditative quality.
6. Ashnah Performance Group are bellydance troupe based in Abingdon. They performed an upbeat improvised tribal piece.
7. Jo performeds her first ever solo, a cheerful pop choreography to “Abdel Kader” by 1, 2, 3 Soleil. Jo is a member of the OMEDS troupe, which performs at numerous local events including bops and balls in Oxford.
8. Rachael, Sarah & Sophie are all members of the OMEDS troupe. Here they performed a slow, sensual piece choreographed by former OMEDS teacher, Lauren.
9. Xenia finished the first half with a joyful dance to a traditional Greek chiftetelli, sung by the successful contemporary artist Glykeria. The song is called “Gyftopoula” (“Gypsy Girl”) and is all about the love of a man for a gypsy dancer! Choreography is by Xenia, whose motto is “smile always”! She is a certified fitness professional, yoga, Zumba and bellydance instructor and performer, currently based in Bicester.

Second half…
10. Shimmy Shimmy Bang Bang – East meets Wild West with this cheeky little number, which opened the second half. Watch out for our talented MC, Annabel (that’s me!), who choreographed this entertaining fusion piece!
11. Judi Linley performed a slow, lyrical veil dance. Judi teaches in Newbury and also dances with and choreographs for her student group Layali Masrea. The music is “I Vava I Nova” by Idir and K Madtheson.
12. Wolfson Middle Eastern Troupe performed an upbeat pop choreography to “Habibi Tal Alyea” by Madonna (the Lebanese Madonna, of course!) Choreography by their teacher, Caitlyn.
13. Cassandra Moran & Julie Robins perform an energetic fusion piece to Western pop with a folk edge. Cassandra and Julie say: “The choreography is belly dance fusion incorporating our favourite moves from different styles including Egyptian and Tribal styles. It is extremely fun and enjoyable for us to perform, and we hope that the audience will enjoy watching it as much as we enjoy performing it!”
14. Rachael, OMEDS’ secretary, performed her first solo, a mysterious, sensual and playful dance to “Bahlam” by Natacha Atlas. Rachael choreographed this piece herself.
15. Zanoba is a local dance group who host their own Haflas in Faringdon. Zanoba means “valued female”, and tonight two members of the group perform a graceful, slow-paced and exotic dance… to the soundtrack from a popular video game! [It’s Tomb Raider!] Choreography by Ann Clarke.
16. Lehar – next we travelled further East to India. Lehar performed a traditional Indian folk dance to “Aaja Nachale” (“Come Dance With Me”) by Bally Sagoo. The song describes the journey of a girl as she becomes a young woman and encourages all to forget their worries, woes and sorrows. Choreography by Arpita Desai.
17. Hamoyela – means “Smiles” in Greek and are Xenia’s performance group! They danced a sentimental and graceful veil routine, choreographed by Xenia, to an updated and soulful version of bellydance classic “Cleopatra”, arranged by Pangia.
18. OMEDS Tribal Group. American Tribal Style bellydance is a fusion dance form, incorporating elements from khatak, flamenco and Romany tradition. The group performed a tribal piece choreographed by their teacher Esme.
19. Rebellyon – were “in the pink” with this cheerful modern oriental piece, to “Drama Queen” by Sahar. Rebellyon are Karen Bullen’s performance group, and Karen choreographed this piece. Karen is a very experienced dancer, has studied numerous styles and is known for her innovative choreographies and her fun and informative workshops.

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Bellydance class flyerManaged to make the most of the on off rain today by designing a new flyer for my Thursday evening bellydance class. I need to start promoting it again as we are coming to the end of the “performance sessions”. Also have to start getting a buzz about my new Monday night class – another performance opportunity in our work Summer Show. Decided to go with the same flyer, but different text – to save a bit of time. Hope it works!

Also spent some of the afternoon rehearsing with one of the members of Shimmy Shimmy Bang Bang – we were using a studio with a mirror, which provided some interesting insights, not usually having a mirror in our Thurs night class. Whilst the mirror does help you to check the shape of your moves and make corrections, it’s extremely off-puting and takes the “feeling” of the movement out of your body, which could be disasterous if you were to try and learn that way. Made me realise that when I teach my performance classes in mirrored studios, to spend an equal amount of time facing away from the mirror when rehearsing…

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