I have gathered the best bits of teaching tools I could learn from all my teachers (official and unofficial teachers) from different areas (dance, theatre, singing, etc).
Teaching Oriental Dance is not just a passing of movements, steps and combinations one expects students to learn, repeat and copy till exhaustion. I know that may sound comfortable and commercially appealing because it´s the easier thing to do but it´s just not who I am as a teacher and it´s a clear underestimation of the qualities Oriental Dance possesses as an ART FORM, as a CREATIVE and EMPOWERING tool and as a HEALING-THERAPEUTIC treasure.
My method focuses on the BODY, the MIND, the HEART and the SOUL (just like Oriental Dance itself):
*There´s the BODY expression and CREATIVITY preparation that precedes all technique (and I openly use a lot of what I´ve learnt as an Actress in this part of the training). This ground preparation is what will define the future of a dancer. There is no rush, no pressure to memorize things one does not fully understand: there is a self-exploration that is much like returning to one´s childhood and re-learning about who we are and how much we can discover and communicate with our bodies.
Remembering FREEDOM is the base for this teaching phase;
*There´s the technical side of the dance (movements, steps, combinations, isolations and coordinations, etc) which I teach from INSIDE to the OUTSIDE and not by mimicking what I do. Loads of inner search and imagination exercises happen in this section of the teaching program;
*There´s what I call the Invisible technique (too wide and complex to explain through words). To understand and profit from this particular side of my method you should experience it first hand.
*There´s the cultural side of the dance (understanding the cultural context of each dance style inside of the broad spectrum of Oriental Dance);
*There´s the intelligent use of your own human resources (when to think and when to stop thinking; when to listen to music and when to listen to the silence; when to move and when to pause; when to use your instinct and when to use your head and many other secret and wonderful etcs).
*There´s the Interpretation of each song and the introduction of more subtle and sophisticated approaches to movement combined with musicality work and creative “reading of the music”;
*There is the – not so – sudden understanding that Oriental Dance is a language which requires the learning of the ABC followed by the writing of simple words-movements and then moving into phrases that also grow in depth, complexity, layers and artistic ambitions;
*There´s the Self-Knowledge side of the method as students are required to use their own personal resources (personality, energy, creativity, life´s experiences) in order to expand their dance expression;
*There´s the study of the rules and then the BREAKING of the rules. It´s of great importance to instil a rebellious spirit in every student by giving them the tools to break the rules they have so seriously learnt. This is where ART arises.
*Self-esteem and personal growth.
If someone presumes it is possible to separate Dance from Life that person is – definitely – not me. It is my duty – as a teacher – to instil and develop courage, self-esteem, fierce determination and a healthy ambition for growth in every single dancer that studies with me.
A combination of discipline, kindness and generosity towards oneself and other colleagues/dancers (with whom you should be aiming to learn from and not compete) is an essential part of teaching method and goals.
The competition – what I call the “self-destructive factor” – has no place in my classes, workshops, courses.
Growing as a dancer is also growing as a person (and they mutually feed each other).
Art Versus Healing:
People start to learn Oriental Dance for many reasons and not everybody wants to push themselves at the level of a professional dancer. I get that.
It is my belief that not everybody is a natural born PROFESSIONAL Oriental Dancer but that everybody can learn how to dance with QUALITY, AUTHENTICITY and CREATIVITY. Each person - according to her/his goals, interests, preparation, particular talents will benefit on different levels from Oriental Dance. NOT every body can or has to be a professional in order to dance beautifully and rip the fruits of an extremely healthy activity (healthy for the body, mind, heart and soul - the four pillars of the Being).
Teaching great quality dance WHILE allowing students to enjoy the healing benefits of this magical-alchemical-ancient art form is my duty and immense pleasure.
The 3 Big L´s:
We can call it levels, stages or dimensions: they´ve always been clear to me and mostly ignored by audiences, students, even Oriental Dance Teachers.
Everybody has a unique reason (often unconscious) to start learning Oriental Dance. Some people just do it for fun, others for healing internal wounds, others for the physical benefits (losing weight, toning, etc), others to de-stress and so on.
I place these students on the first stage of Oriental Dance learning: the THERAPEUTIC-FUN ORIENTED level/stage.
Not much - technically or artistically - is required from these students and they would not want to be pushed that way. Although you achieve great personal growth and well being on this stage there is not much more to it than that: feeling great.
This is the stage MOST students prefer to stick to all around the world - specially in gyms and not dance specialized schools - and it´s perfectly fine.
Then you have the TECHNICAL level/stage - mostly for dancers who want to go further in the craft´s knowledge, context and technique.
Just feeling great and expressing their own creativity without a strong and developed technical base is not accepted in this stage anymore. These students want MORE than just intuitive, unconscious movement. They wish to KNOW how to do it properly, the master the pillars of the dance, the movements, steps, combinations, all technical possibilities.
You find this stage on most of the Advanced and Professional dancers all around the world. They gather the "feeling great" factor to the "KNOLEDGE" and TECHNICAL SIDE of the dance.
Finally you have the ARTISTIC level/stage: the most sophisticated, challenging and rare of all paths.
These students go all the way ABOVE the "just fun-therapeutical" or the technical sides of the dance - which are understood as TOOLS of COMUNICATION and not GOALS or final results - and jump into the rarest realm of all: the ARTISTIC.
Here Oriental Dance takes on a higher level of understanding, search, commitment and ATTITUDE: the intuition is there, the technic is there and all of that merges into ONE SINGLE GOAL: to SPEAK from your SOUL in a clear, creative, knowledgeable, revolutionary and heart touching way.
This is the rarest stage you will find and yet it´s the PEARL we all chase - consciously or unconciously.
The 3 L´s are transversal stages because Oriental Dance is multi-dimensional and it fits in its pocket all 3 of them: healing-fun-therapeutic PLUS technique PLUS ARTISTIC CREATION. Once you separate these three levels you are weakening the Dance and the Dancer. They work together in order to bring out the BEST of HUMAN CREATION and HUMANITY.
Attitude towards students:
Not putting any specific student on the spotlight - for positive or negative reasons - is also a CONVICTION I´ve been practicing since I started teaching this dance. Any praising, observation, critic or correction should be - in my opinion - directed to the group and not to specific individuals. Students should be treated equally and preference for "talented ones" should not be exposed by the teacher. Doing so creates a negative competition oriented environment that goes totally against the spirit of the dance.
Besides that, everybody has unique gifts and their own personal time of digestion and growth. I´ve seen students who seemed extremely gifted - at the beginning- and then totally blocked and stopped developing; others who seemed to have a harder time at the dance once they started and, suddenly, their gifts would surprise everyone and they would give a huge jump in their technical and creative abilities. You never know...
Not judging a book by the cover and not creating a competition environment will help EVERYONE to enjoy the classes, themselves, their colleagues company and the DANCE spirit. Learning in a LOVING, SUPPORTIVE context is ten thousand times more effective than learning in a "diva oriented" box of "let´s check who´s better than whom".
It´s the TEACHER´s responsability to create that HEALTHY, INTELLIGENT, EGO-VANITY FREE, LOVING environment.