Part of my new dance cross-training is to do some ballet. Rather than wait for 2011 to roll in, I’ve decided to start changing or adding patterns, behaviors, whatever whenever I see fit and can afford to do so.

Monday I attend beginner ballet at an adult-only studio. I hadn’t been there in about year, due to time. It is amazing how much my body has changed in a year. Most notably is the muscle memory I’ve acquired from Bharatanatyam. If you are not familiar with Bharatanatyam, one of the basic postures is called aramundi. It is where the heels touch and the toes and knees are bent and turned out from hip rotation. The ballet first postion foot position is identical to aramundi, as well as the turn out. The only difference is that in first position in ballet, you stand up.

All last night, I ended every exercise in the deep bent aramundi, vs. the straight-legged first position. I didn’t realize why until I was thinking about it later that this is an artifact from Bharatanatyam; you are expected to end every adavu or short combination in aramundi. Students are scolded for leaving the posture at the end. I didn’t realize how much muscle memory I’ve obtained with Bharatanatyam already. I’m curious how cross-training will change my dance skills in Bharatanatyam now. While I cannot afford, time-wise, to dedicate myself to ballet the way I have with Bharatanatyam and Middle Eastern dance, I do want to gain some proficiency. However, I don’t want to lose my Bhartanatyam skills, even though the adavus are really about training your body and mind to perform complex pieces, so the dancer may leave the aramundi position for something straighter-legged.

What are other people’s experiences in cross-training?


When Meiver was traveling, I started YouTube account for the Middle Eastern dance intensive class for us to use as a group to watch the choreography and have reference. I got the idea from my Bharatanatyam class; the director of the school has beautiful video of her performing some of the pieces, while telling us what she’s doing. The video is unbelievably helpful for that class; while I try to take notes after it, sometimes they’re wrong and I end up practicing the wrong thing. Sometimes I simply forget if we’ve been given a lot of information. Like most of us, I haven’t attended every single intensive class, so I have missed some pieces of information. The account is helpful, because we can get caught up for the parts we missed and hopefully spend more time in class refining rather than trying to remember. Although we initially started the account without Meiver’s direction, I figured having 6-7 of us hashing it out would probably give a clear idea of what we’re doing.

What’s particularly nice about using YouTube for the Middle Eastern dance choreographies is we can see how we look as a group and how everyone fits in. Three out of four of the pieces are really formation dependent; we switch places frequently in the Modern Oriental, the fan veil piece has partners, and the Khaleegi we all have specific roles in the piece. The beauty behind the fan veil and Khaleegi pieces are really the formations of the dancers (and in the fan veil, the fan veils), so it’s nice to see the reasoning behind everything.  Even with a mirror, I can’t see the whole visual effect.

These accounts are setup such that you have to login and the videos are private, so I don’t have to worry about having bad video of me for the entire world to see. I wish we would’ve started the account earlier for the Middle Eastern dance class. Not only would having the reference been nice earlier, but also it would be nice to see our practice.

Yesterday, I took the plunge and committed myself to Meiver of Boston’s intensive repertory class. She has been advertising it for a bit, but I had let time slip and then thought I wouldn’t have the time or money. Thanks to Facebook and friends’ participation (gotta love indirect peer pressure), as well as admiring Meiver’s dancing, I contacted her, got the info, and decided to go for it.

If you are not participating, this class is going to cover a lot of material. Khaleegi, Saidi, fan veil, and an Oriental piece. This is a lot of material as is, but she’s also running this only for 3 weeks in May. Students are expected to show up to 6/8 classes or 2 classes/week. Everything is very reasonably priced (she wants people to be able to participate).

Last night was my first night there. Meiver is a great instructor; I plan on taking more classes from her in the future. She’s very warm and friendly, which is vital to any good instructor, especially if you’re dancing in the heat and humidity. I immensely respect that although this is dance intensive and we’re primarily there to learn these choreographies, that she makes a point of sharing the background information on each of the regional dances and throwing in tidbits.

Her choreographies are creative and beautiful, too. I love Saidi, so there was no worry that would enjoy that. I love the playfulness and am in general, a big folkloric fan. Although my head/neck are feeling it this morning, I had fun doing Khaleegi, which surprised me. I am not a fan of Khaleegi in general; I’m not big on hair tosses and didn’t favor what I learned or have seen of it. Granted, it hasn’t been much, but I’ve seen a fair handful. We didn’t get to the fan veil stuff but the Oriental choreography is very pretty, albeit fast.

What I like most about her choreographies is that they utilize the group. The hallmark of a good group choreography is that it isn’t a bunch of people doing the same thing together all the time. That looks good at times, but I rally appreciate when one group does something to the left while another group does something to the right or they play off of each other. From working with others on choreography and then learning the choreography, creating a dynamic choreography that uses the group isn’t easy but is visually worthwhile.

I look forward to the rest of the classes and seeing the end product. This is going to take a lot of time, but I think I’m going to immensely grow as a dancer.

Melina, who is a local dancer in the Boston-area, is hosting her sister for some work in celebration of the opening of Melina’s new studio in Waltham (a Boston suburb). The topics look good. I plan on going to the Sunday ones- is anyone else planning on going?

I began ballet recently, as I mentioned. I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I believe that I’ve mentioned in the past that ballet is incorporated in Middle Eastern dance in some sense; a lot of dancers are trained in ballet from their childhood or some similar time, so they often use balletic terms (releve`, for instance) to describe what we’re doing. Ballet has also been recommended as a way to increase gracefulness and carriage.

I’m not a huge ballet fance, truth be told. However, I am game for trying new things and improving my dance on a whole. That’s why I’m taking ballet. I found ballet isn’t completely foreign. Some of the exercises we’ve done (plies in difference positions) remind me of strength exercises I’ve done in Bharatanatyam and Odissi. The armwork is similar to that of the Middle Eastern classes.

I enjoyed my ballet class; as of today, this isn’t something that I’m passionate about. Since I immediately clicked with other dance forms, I don’t expect to have that happen with ballet. However, I’m going to continue. While ballet may not be a love of mine, I did like it and I can see how it’s going to be useful. My ankles are weaker than they had been, and the exercises we did will definitely strengthen them. I like that the exercises are simple enough (at least now) I can refine my arms and hands. The exercises were also relaxing but challenging, if only because I lack the strength.

I returned to Najmat’s dance class tonight. First time back in about 2 years. Some things never change, like a few of the same students are still there. Returning is strange, because there were definitely familiar faces but also new ones. It’s like a weird memory.

The class was enjoyable. I was pleasantly surprised that my technique is still fairly decent, that I didn’t entirely lose it while not doing much. I think I may feel the dance a little tomorrow.

Getting myself motivated to return was difficult (my money fears, procrastination, etc.). I find it easy to keep something up, for better or worse, if that thing is habitual. Unfortunately, not attending dance class had become habitual. I’m hoping now that attending and practicing will be my new habit.

I have been looking at what search terms bring people here. One of the searches is “don’t like my dance studio.” I’m not sure what the person who was searching for it hopes to find, but I suspect maybe advice on what to do.

My first question is why s/he doesn’t like the dance studio. Is it the environment (catty students)? The teacher (incompetent, ineffective, just don’t jive)? The classes (switching times, offerings)? The physical space (too small, cold, far from home)? Once you know why you don’t like something, a solution is easier to find.

If you don’t like the students, how much do they affect you? I’ve been non-dance situations where I don’t like the people but I have to take a class. I’m polite and civil, but I’m not best friends with them. I learned to make the best out of it that way, because I like other things about the class.

If it’s the teacher you don’t like, I would be more inclined to leave the studio, depending on the situation. Students come and go all the time, teachers often stay at a studio for awhile (or forever). Figure out what you don’t like, though. If she lacks skill or you can’t learn from her for whatever reason, I’d leave. If she isn’t the warmest person, I’d reconsider. I’ve had good teachers who I don’t love and I’m not close to, but I’ve learned a lot from. If the teacher is just plain mean or abusive (insults students), I’d definitely leave without a second though. A former dance teacher of mine once said “I’m not paying money to be insulted and feel bad about myself.” I think that is excellent advice. You do want a teacher who’ll correct you, but there is a difference between correcting you and making you feel awful.

If you’ve talked to me in the last few weeks, flakiness annoys the heck out of me. I can empathize with people who have issues with unreliability, especially with classes. In that case, I’d suggest talking to the teacher/director about that matter in a polite way. Ask why it is and is there any way to ensure that the classes always run. If what you’re after isn’t being offered, you have two options. Find a new teacher or see if your current one is game for starting a new topic. I know both of my teachers were always interested in suggestions; I think some of mine have even helped start classes. Sometimes, teachers don’t know if their students want to learn new stuff. I know Sonya has honored requests, if there are a lot, for class time changes.

If you don’t like the physical space, I’d step back and figure how bad it really is. If it’s cold, you can always layer on clothes. Working in a small space may or may not be an issue; in Middle Eastern dance, there isn’t always a lot of traveling or moving about the stage. The stage sometimes is only 4 feet by 4 feet! Sometimes people carpool if the class is far; you save gas and you have a friend along for the ride.

The last thing, before you call it quits at a studio, is figure out if it isn’t them but you. I’ve been there about getting discouraged by my lack of progress at times. I know sometimes people feel like the teacher is “jus jellus”, but perhaps you really aren’t ready for the next level or to perform. If you have a good teacher (knows his/her stuff, is honest and helpful, etc.), you should trust and respect their opinion.

Ultimately, you have to weigh out the pros and cons and figure out what’s most important to you. Your money and time are important, so why waste it if you are unhappy somewhere? Shira’s site has an amazing directory of teachers; it is the largest one on the internet. If you want more of a recommendation for a new teacher, ask around on Bhuz, tribe, Livejournal, or the many other communities; people are always willing to recommend others. Good luck!

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