Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dance and my life balance

I think it is fair to say that all of us have self-doubt at one time or another. We think we aren't good enough or a similar negative thought.
One of my common negative thoughts is about my age. I am relatively young. I am only 30 and began bellydancing when I was 23. Now I came into this with little to no dance experience, and to be honest quite a klutz. Sometimes I see amazing dancers and I hear that one of the reasons they are so good is that they started young and have already danced a long time. Now I don't mean Ansuya or Suhaila young, just 23 young like me.
That makes me panic. At only 30, with 7 years dance experience I should be on my way to the big time.
The thing I have to step back and realize is that I don't want to be in the big time. Yes, I want to continue to grow and push myself to limit but my limit is not that of some others. Part of why dance makes me so happy is that it is a part of my balanced life. I have a full time day job. I keep a clean house. I like to cook and bake from scratch. I have a nice lawn and flower beds. I visit my elderly grandparents twice a week because I want to spend what little time they have left with them. At the end of the every day, I watch about 1-2 hours of tv with my husband. We chat during commercials and it is the time that we are together and not really distracted. This balance in my life is what makes me happy. Yes, I could dance 2 hours everyday and push myself to advance faster than I am but then what? Do I think it would still make me happy? I am not sure. I love dance and I spend a lot of time practicing, choreographing, attending workshops, and reading. I could spend more time doing those things and even though I love it more that many of my other activities, I am not willing to give any of them up to make more time for dance. In the short term, for a special performance I will but that is different.
My husband came up with this analogy for how I feel about progressing my dance:
There are people who play golf. There are people who play golf really well. Those people may never go into the PGA. They may not want to. They may just be the Country Club Golf Pro. They give lessons, know about all the latest equipment, and almost everything there is to know. They may give lessons to someone who ends up in the PGA. This is me. This is who I want to be in the dance world. I do not want to be a Bellydance Superstar, have an instructional DVD or be a master instructor like my mentor. I want to be always learning and getting better and sharing my knowledge but never pushing so hard that I have to give up any other aspects of my life for dance. The balance is part of what keeps me happy, grounded and moving forward.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Jen answers your questions with wine

I am doing a fun video blog post on my other blog where I answer people's questions and give advice while I am drinking. Pop on over to Say Something Funny if you want to participate.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

'Azraa's Dance Space

A fellow member of GypsyNet asked to see everyone personal dance sanctuary. I decided to share mine here.
When my husband and I moved back to my hometown from the place we had lived for 8 years, one of my requirements for our new home was my own dance space. Ideally, I wanted a finished basement. We systematically looked at every house in our price range with a finished basement and none of them fit our bill (mostly lacking in other important features). We then started looking at house with an extra bedroom, den or any spare space that I could turn into my own. We finally decided on a house with an extra small bedroom. It only holds about two dancers but is perfect for my practice or private lessons.

Our whole house has laminate floors (installed by my crafty husband) so the floors are great. It had mirrored closet doors which helped and we removed the fan and replaced it with a plastic light since it will most likely get beat with a stick.
Pink and turquoise are my dance colors so the decor was a no brainer. I bought a large mirror to finish out the mirrored wall at a consignment store. You can also see my giant goals/to-do list posted on the wall.

The fan veils are part decoration, part I have to iron them less this way. The mirrored doors made less work in setting up the room.

I found this great screen at a flea market. I feel so lucky every time I see it.

 My corner shelf is filled with photos, nick-knacks, autographs and memories of my dance time. I use my little PA for sound and the small drawers hold my Cd's and things I need while practicing.

 In our old house, my dance stuff shared the closet in our office with our less worn formal clothes and all my craft supplies. They finally get there own space which make me feel better since I am an organizational freak.

The other side of the closet holds my TV and DVD which I can roll out if I want to work with a video. I tacked up shirts and bags that have meaning to me.
I wanted to paint the whole room pink but my husband asked me not to, so the closet is pink instead. "Sexy Pink" if you need the exact color.

I hope you enjoyed this little peek into my dance space. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

On being challenged

So a remarkable thing happened to me this past week-end. I became a 1st rate dancer. Now let's not argue the semantics of what that means because that is not important to this post. What is important is that we talk about how that happened and why it is important.

I arrived at the workshop and saw that MY NAME was listed as the last performer before the headliner. Now whether or not the organizer considered it such, I consider that an amazing and incredible honor. Not to mention I was proceeded in the show by some dancers who already intimidated me with their poise. A show has to flow and you need the preceding dance to really be incredible and set the stage. - again, my opinion. The organizer of the show may have drawn names out of a hat but that doesn't matter. What does matter is when I saw my name there, I freaked out. And then you know what I did? I brought the heat.

I can say without a doubt that I danced this week-end like I have never danced before. To make matters better and worse, my music cut out. It cut out several times in the first half of the song. I didn't let it phase me. I just kept dancing like that music was loud and clear. I think the audience heard it in my head. Only once did I get off track and the music cut back in and I was not with it. I just winged it and let the music catch up with me.

Typically, when I am done dancing I hate everything that just happened. I want to see the video and nitpick every little thing even though friends and family swear that it was awesome. When I left the stage out Saturday, I felt unstoppable. I danced my heart out. I took it and I handed it to that audience, even with the music skipping.

Why? Why was this time different. Why did I dance with everything I had and leave nothing left? Because I had to. I was the last act before the headliner. I was first rate.

I wrote this post earlier and published it but I have decided to come back and add another anecdote about being challenged.

When I was a beginner, I worked really hard at becoming a better dancer. My self-esteem issues that come from physical appearance made me push even harder because I thought I needed to be that much better than the "pretty" girls. The thing that was holding me back was my own self-doubt. Self-doubt that was perpetuated by my lack of an encouraging mentor or teacher. Maybe that isn't the right word. I was encouraged to get the moves within my level. I was also challenged with more difficult things. I was not however, encouraged to take on tough challenges, or pushed to try something on the next level. I needed the kind of encouragement that resonates with your whole being. When I decided that I was not getting what I needed and started looking elsewhere, I was still a beginner. I had been a beginner for almost 4 years because no one had ever told me I was anything more.
I found what I needed in teachers and mentors that when I was faced with a difficult challenge said to me, you can do this, you are a really good dancer. For them I became a really good dancer.

I take this lesson with me when I work with my own students now. You have to find that line between challenging them at the next level and making it so difficult that they get discouraged and give up. I think it is important for instructors to try to not only understand their students learning styles but to understand what sort of challenge they need to be presented with.