April 2010


We’re in our last week of classes; next week is finals.

It’s hard to believe that we’re almost finished. In some ways, this is scary, since I kind of have a summer job. I haven’t accepted it, but without any prospects, it looks like I will be. The pay isn’t great, but some income is better than none. I’m still looking at ways to supplement my income, so hopefully I find something soon. On one hand, I’ll have somewhat financial security come August/September, but I still have to weather May, June, July.

While I did have an overall enjoyable semester, I look forward to summer break. Partially because getting up at 6 AM to ensure I arrive at school by 8 AM to teach is draining. I’m not a morning person, and waking up so early on dark, dreary days is difficult. I look forward to a bit of a later start.

In terms of next semester and teaching, because my classes are night classes, I will try to teach one or maybe two classes here. Besides the extra income and keeping a strong connection, I genuinely enjoy my job. The pay isn’t the greatest (this is adjunct work), but I’m lucky to wake up (even if it’s dead early) and work with people I genuinely like and respect. My coworkers are really interesting people that I like to socialize with on the office level. My students are challenging, but there are moments when teaching does feel worthwhile.

If I don’t post much this week, you’ll know why. I’m up to my nose in grading. Final grades are due about 2 days after I give my last final!

On the Belly Dance New England website, an editorial was written on bullying in the New England community. Unfortunately, this is not unique to New England. While I think Middle Eastern dance is an amazing activity and encourage others to be involve, like any group, people behave as bullies. Being on the fringes of any dance community, I’ve kept myself out of the drama. However, my friends/teachers haven’t always been so lucky.

Bullying comes in many forms beyond events. Anything from wanting to split off and teach on one’s own to even taking classes or workshops from another teacher- it happens.

The editorial has great tips on how to deal with bullying. Beyond the fact it’s always good to be respectful and treat people with kindness, intimidating people and starting unnecessary drama is really unprofessional and reflects poorly on people.

I’ve always been at a weird spot with dance. I don’t lie about it being a part of my life, but I also don’t share it. The reasons are simply people are judgmental and often will say offensive/ignorant things that indicate that they aren’t willing to learn about the styles I dance.

Because everyone is on Facebook nowadays and it’s slowly becoming the best way to be in the know, my personal Facebook profile is containing more and more information on my dance life. I don’t know how in depth people read Facebook profiles on my list, but the whole thing has me thinking on a grander scale. Rather than be vague about how I spend my non-work time, I decided that I will share what I do. I have nothing to be ashamed of. Classical Indian dance and Middle Eastern dance are 100% family friendly. The Middle Eastern dance community often talks about how we have nothing to be ashamed of and how it makes no sense that people perceive the dance as family-unfriendly. I feel like by not letting friends and close acquaintances know about a huge part of my life, I am behaving like I have something to hide when I do not.

In terms of jobs and my non-dance/personal life, I’ll still handle things in a more discreet way. I tend not to share most of my life at work anyway, so I don’t feel that my behavior is contradictory there.

I’ve seen that question bringing people to my blog. Well, it really depends on how you do it.

If you enter the conversation condescending and belligerent, it honestly annoys me. I don’t care for arrogance in general or people who are hostile. While I maintain professionalism, they aren’t pleasant conversations for either side. I think generally that it’s incredibly disrespectful to tell someone who has more experience/knowledge in the subject how things should be graded. I really recommend entering a grade dispute conversation calmly and respectfully.

If you enter the conversation with respect, I hope you also enter with a valid point. People who are petty really do bother me, because the issue appears to be based not on merit. Merit goes a long way with me, because it means you actually thought about why you’re arguing what you’re arguing and that it’s beyond wanting a better grade.

Timeliness also plays a huge role for how I feel about grade discussions. The responsibility is on the student to know his/her grade (if the professor isn’t returning work regularly, that’s a different issue). You should have a relative idea of how you’re doing in a class by that work. If you’re failing everything, you shouldn’t expect or demand to pass.  If you start talking about the unfairness of your overall grade at the end of the semester, I generally find that desperate and without merit. I hand out a syllabus, which is my contract/grading policy for students. Every last point is calculated and a general discussion of how the class is formatted is included. An argument about the overall grade being unfair seems even more invalid to me when people in the class do receive good grades.

So there you have it. There are obviously exceptions, but pretty much all grade disputes that I’ve had to deal with have been people who really do not have a leg to stand on. Again, as a final piece of advice, I really emphasize the idea of being respectful. Even if you have perfectly valid reasons for not respecting someone, you still have to demonstrate some kind of respect; you’re more likely to at least be heard and maintain a positive standing in that person’s eyes.

By sort of, I mean I’m going to try to maintain a constant practice. Keeping myself motivated to practice that much daily was difficult. I skirted it a few times (practicing mudras instead of really dancing), but I think I overall did a good job of maintaining a practice.

I discovered that I can’t be terribly structured with my practice, like plan it out weeks in advance. I do best when I make decisions that day.

My body is physically stronger and a bit more flexible. I feel less stress after practicing, despite having to find a summer job, and I have managed to stave off some illnesses with exercise. All good things.

What would be most helpful in maintaining my practice would be having something to work towards, like a performance. While I don’t believe performance is the end all, be all purpose for dancing, I realize I was practicing diligently before the Halfi for Haiti or that I practice the choreography for Bharatanatyam because there will be a performance.

Dedicating myself to dance definitely helped improve my dance and gain further insight into where I am and what I need to work on.

My current job has no need for additional adjuncts during the summer, so I’m off to find another job. While I’m not surprised (I’m the lowest ranked person in the office, I believe), I am disappointed. I like teaching, and I hate searching for employment. The economy is still rough, which means that jobs are scarce. In some ways, this job search is more difficult than my previous one, because I don’t want anything permanent and won’t take a permanent job knowing that I’ll quit in a few months. In my opinion, you shouldn’t burn bridges with any company. You never know who knows whom.

I have some applications out, but I haven’t heard anything back. I haven’t been waiting that long, but waiting is difficult. While I’m only going to be temporarily unemployed, it is bothersome, because I can always use the money and more importantly, I can start planning on excursions and/or dance stuff. I’d like to finally treat myself to a good, decent length vacation, but without a job, I’d rather not spend the money.

Najmat (my current teacher) hosted Diana Tarkan of Egypt this past Saturday for a workshop. I attended merely out of recommendation and trusting Najmat’s taste; I’ve only heard of Diana Tarkan in passing.

Diana Tarkan is really amazing. She’s very sunny and smiley (I think she smiled during the entire workshop). Her explanations were very good, even if what she wanted us to do was difficult. One of the issues with taking lessons with dancers from Egypt is that they have the “follow the bouncing butt” method, eg. they don’t have names for moves, their English skills vary, and you have to follow along. The other, general dancer issue (or really, anyone who is excellent at anything) is that some people are fabulous dancers but not so great at teaching. None of these things were issues with Diana Tarkan. She is a true professional.

I really like how she did a theme of “in and out” with the movements. Some of these were new, some of these I’ve seen before (not saying I mastered the ones I’ve seen before). She explained the essence of the moves, really driving home the point of how to execute each move. I like that she talked about using footwork; for me, that is ironically one my weakest points. I don’t feel that my teachers have emphasized it as much as the torso articulations. However, the feet can drive the rest of the body, which is what Diana was demonstrating. The workshop all in all was challenging; most people were sweating like crazy at the end.

Everyone had a great time, despite the difficult material (or maybe because of). I hope Diana Tarkan comes back to Boston; I have the feeling she could teach here for a year and still have loads more to teach.

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