Belly Dance Culture Shock
November 21, 2010 § Leave a comment
One of the roughest times for me in my belly dance journey was leaving my first teacher. I danced with her for about 3 1/2 years. Her dancing style, her teaching style, and my time in her student troupe was my entire gateway to belly dance. I stopped dancing at her studio because I moved with my family to Portland, OR. My sister (who was in the troupe with me) and I looked up dance studios as soon as we got to Portland. We attended open houses, we tried various classes, and what I found was Belly Dance Culture Shock.
I wanted to keep dancing, but I wanted to keep dancing how I had been dancing. I liked my first teacher’s American Tribal Style (quite consistent with the Fat Chance Style). I liked my teacher’s West Coast Cabaret Oriental Style. Everything in Oregon was…different.
The Tribal Styles in Portland were strange, grunge fusion-hybrids. The first cabaret dancers I saw seemed akin to drill teams–peppy smiling princesses. Or they were too Modern. Or too Egyptian. Or too–NOT WHAT I WAS USED TO! There were new techniques, new explanations, new step-combos, new tribal combos, new costuming styles!, new people, new payment systems!
Okay, okay. Maybe I was unprepared. A lovely dancer who came from the same studio in Santa Fe also moved to Portland (and would later become our roommate and troupe mate). She told me she came to the new belly dance scene with the idea that she would just forget everything she knew. (Not literally, but you know, she was ready to embrace the new). I was horrified! I didn’t want to forget anything! I was going to remember it all and dance like that forever! Ofcourse, I did eventually warm up to the new styles and found many that I liked.
It was strange going from a small belly dance scene to a massive one. There are definite benefits with large scenes…more workshops, more classes, more styles, more shows, more performance venues, more costume shops…but a small dance scene is intimate and comfortable and can feel close and supportive because everyone knows everyone else. Now that I’ve experienced both, I don’t have a particular preference. Huntsville has a small dance scene. At the same time, there is a sense of connection and participation within the larger south east belly dance scene, so we get to really embrace the small scene within a bigger scene.
Once I got over my initial culture shock, I was able to really grow as a dancer, and I haven’t experienced the same kind of shock since. It was tough at first, but it has been beneficial in many ways to step outside of my comfort zone and explore. I have been able to play different roles in different groups and try a lot of new things.
I love that there are so many belly dancers in the world! It seems that no matter where you go, there will be belly dancing there. That’s comforting.