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Tips for Better, More Fulfilling Belly Dance Practice

So many of the dancers and teachers I speak with around the world are feeling the effects of an out of balance Bellydance experience... in the last two weeks alone I have spoken with dancers/teachers in Kenya, Abu Dhabi, Canada, USA, Australia, Turkey, & Greece ... the feeling is global; many report a disenchantment on a deep personal level, a loss of direction and meaning, or even burnout. I've been there, I know how it feels; to fall in love with the dance, grow, create and serve it and the women it calls, and not notice the red flags along the way. My body tells me when I'm out of balance, I've just learned to disregard it. I need to keep remembering to listen to my wise, beautiful, love-ful and joyful body. I took myself to the studio tonight and reconnected... I find that what I do in the practice session is not as important as my intention; when I'm not paying attention and I'm in a habitual state, I practice from a space of trying to achieve, trying to learn the new, trying to get better (driven by "I'm not good enough"), trying hard, and there in lies the problem. I leave such practice sessions always depleted. Tonight I decided to switch the script around; I went into the studio to connect with my body, to reconnect with the dance (as I haven't indulged in it for months), to create space for joy, to feel energy flow through me. I removed all mentally driven pressure. The muse is a sensitive being; she doesn't respond very well to judgment & pushiness... I need to learn to stop pushing her around. When she has fun, my dancing practice is inspired... when she's ordered to perform perfectly, she contracts, and again, my body tells me, as I feel that in my chest and belly.... Listening, listening... I really hope I get better at listening! To all my dancing friends, if you've been at a loss with practice, I hope this helps... sending love  


Giving & Receiving Balance for Teachers


Teaching, when done correctly, is first an act of giving. Passing precious knowledge, experience, guidance and inspiration on, so that others can grow, evolve and benefit from what you have learnt. It is, and should be, a selfless act. I can emphatically say near all of the Belly Dance teachers who study my method and sit Certification, have the very special trait of having a giving nature ingrained in their very make up as people. They are hard-wired to give, to think about the other's needs first.

This trait, although not only useful but imperative in a great teacher, can also become her undoing. If it features in an out-of-balance fashion, or to the extreme, the teacher is on her way to burn out. It will show up in many ways:

She will overextend in class - digging deep to keep everyone happy and even entertained, even if she is feeling empty. 

She will teach even if her numbers are too low to continue - just for the students. 

She may engage in events for her students, even if her own gut feeling is saying 'no', or it stretches her too far. 

She very often will have weak boundaries - allowing negative students to have their way in the classroom, or even be less than respectful towards her. She will not put an end to it, so as to 'not rock the boat'. 

She, over time, will run out of energy, but will keep pushing through, not heeding her needs on many levels; physical, emotional, energetic. 

There are many ways over-giving manifests. And this teacher will often have the same patterns going on at home/in her private life. 

You cannot fill your studetns' cup, if yours is empty. 

You need to learn to receive, just as much (if not more than) you give! 

This can be confronting to people who are used to giving, and identify with that as a big part of their personality - like so many teachers. If you are such a teacher; one who's wonderful and lovely giving nature has been taken for granted, or has been over used - it's time to listen to the warning bells and turn this around. Striking a giving/receiving balance is a must if you are to continue to enjoy your teaching, and serve your students. Here are a few ways to do this.

Start to commit to self-care rituals in your day to day. Such as:

1/2 hour of doing something you love, just for you, in the a.m. and the p.m. is essential for people who give a lot to others.

Spend time alone, every day or as often as you can. This is so important especially to sensitive people, who have to spend a lot of time with others. Take out some 'sacred time' to be with your authentic self, and listen to her needs. 

Run a bath, light some candles, massage your feet with some fragrant oil. Do nice rituals to your body that serves you so well as a Belly Dance teacher. 

Get lots of sleep, that's when your body heals and repairs. Don't push your body into chronic injury or pain. 

Weed out negative students. Speak to them in private. Request a change in attitude, or they can leave. To prevent this from happening again, get every new student to sign, yes sign, a "Code of Conduct" agreement on their first class. Type up some basic boundary building codes of conduct on a standard sheet that you give out to every student. On there lay down the law - of fairness, mutual respect, and confidentiality. Power and control people (the ones who later become the trouble students) will dislike this clear show of boundaries so much that they will most probably not enrol - saving you precious peace of mind and energy in the long run. I have known excellent, gorgeous teachers close shop because of ongoing negative students! Don't let this happen to your dream - creating safe boundaries for yourself first, and the rest of your students as well is central for your teaching business. 

Lastly, take breaks! No one can give ad infinitum. Stop when you feel like you are empty. Fill up with a holiday, time off, diving into other hobbies, and becoming a student again. Learn with the best. 

These are just some ways to fill your cup as a Belly Dance teacher, and maintain your light to burn brightly for the long run, giving you a more enjoyable ride, and keeping your school running for years to come. 



Fear in Teaching Belly Dance; Its Necessity & How to Handle It

One of my favourite educators for the craft of teaching, Parker J Palmer says: "After thirty years of teaching, my own fear remains close at hand. It is there when I enter the classroom and feel the undertow into which I have jumped". 

If after thirty years of teaching experience, one of the world's leading luminaries on teaching still feels fear - what hope do we have to avoid the pain of feeling this way in class!

I would like to say that it is not only natural, but appropriate, to feel fear when teaching.  For the very simple reason that we hold our students' self esteem in our hands. 

When I was a young teacher developing the Belly Dancing from the Heart Method, a lady came to my Wednesday night class. After class she came to me rather emotional and said something to the effect of "Thank you so much for the way you teach. I never felt judged by you once (and she was right - I never judge my students in my head, ever)... you know, I tried Belly Dancing classes years ago. One day my teacher said in front of the class that my arms were too long to look beautiful dancing. I never went back, I was so devastated. I had grown up my entire childhood ashamed of my long out-of-proportion arms. I'm so glad I had the guts to try again, I loved this today with you."

I am flabbergasted as to why anyone in their right mind would do something like that. But it's not the right mind that is needed here, it's the right heart. 

This is why we need to have some degree of fear, or in the very least a caring, concerned presence in class. 

The next level from there is to not become our fear. Whatever went through that teacher's head that day, it had to have been fear based. It could be that the student wasn't doing what the teacher had repeated five times already, so that triggered her insecurity as a teacher, and that then fired off a belittling comment to the student.... such things happen in classes all the time. It is human nature. 

If you pass the words that are about to come out of your mouth, via your heart first, edit them, then release them, you won't inflict any pain on your students, you will infuse your class with that undeniable and oh so tangible essence of love, and you will keep your integrity and protect your students in the long run.