Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Back to Basics

Back to Basics

So, a dear friend and mentor has finally (hallelujah!) secured a space to teach regular, on-going beginner dance classes.

On a night that I am available!

Kind of. With school and stuff, it’s a sacrifice of homework time. But who cares about homework when you can dance!!!

So. I’ve been dancing in this particular form for about 10 years now.

During that time, I’ve taken classes throughout, with one year off.

After M passed, I literally spent the first year going to work 5 days a week, bikram yoga 3 days a week and the rest of the time in bed.

I’m not kidding.

I did spend probably about 6 hours up on the weekend. That’s about it

But this is not a blog post about that, it’s a blog post about dance.

I’m blessed in my family and friends. While my family struggled to find ways to help me (and they did, more than I can probably tell them) my friends, separately and together looked for lifelines.

One of them, Najmat, threw me one, and insisted that I take it. If you’ve ever experienced being one of Najmat’s targets, you’ll understand what this means.

You grab that lifeline, and you don’t let go, because she’ll swim back to you, tie it around you, start dragging you, then it’ll leave a mark and where will you be?

Gasping for breath, laying on a dock, with a great big mark on your tummy, that’s where. With her yelling at you.

No, better to just meekly grab your line and go where you’re told.




This, is the power of Najmat.

So I started taking her beginner classes again. It got me out of bed, up and dancing. Until her series ended, it made me move, I felt better, life improved.


Very, very slowly.

But it did.

So now, this powerhouse is teaching a beginner series again, in the same place. On a night that I’m free. In a place I can get to.

So, guess where I’m going to be?


Now, why would I do another beginner series?

Because taking a beginner class when you have already, presumably, mastered the basics does nothing but improve those basics.

As a dancer, you have to constantly evaluate yourself. You must review what you do well, and more importantly, review what you do… not so well.

I want to work on my posture (a never ending battle, drove Amira Jamal batty, but she fixed me!).

I need to work on my arms, both strength and grace.

I need to work on my traveling steps.

Can I do this in intermediate or advanced classes? Yes. But I get sidetracked by that awesome new combination and in my quest to achieve that, I forget to keep an eye on my posture, arms, etc.

So, it’s a discipline thing.

When I’m practicing on my own, I try. But it’s not the same as having someone re-directing you.

I’m struggling to find the words here…

A good dancer will always take classes. The day that you stop taking classes is the day that you stop progressing as a dancer.

Going to basics does nothing to diminish you as a dancer, and does everything to improve you.

Take a moment, go watch a dvd or youtube of a dancer that you admire.

I’ll wait.

What did you notice? Did you watch her amazing combinations? How about her fabulous shimmies?

Did you see her slouch? Did the lines of her arms break at the wrist? Did she watch the floor? How about her feet? Was she planted into the ground, or did she seem to glide?

The marks of a good dancer are not found in advanced classes.

They’re in the basics.


  1. I literally laughed out loud at the image of Najmat and the rope and the marks on your belly! I totally understand that! AND she'd tell you to put a shimmy on it :)

    I totally agree about going back to basics! The other day, I told my mom I was still going to classes, and she said, "Why? Don't you know how to dance already?" I struggled to explain the situation to her. But perhaps I'll just send her your post as an explanation :)

  2. I love this!
    You are an inspiration missus!

  3. Love this -- I'm also always going back to basics, both with live classes and with DVDs. Sometimes it gets me down how many of the basics I still have to work with (posture, omigod, layering slow arms with fast hipwork, all kinds of things). But there's also something zen about it, like making a pasta sauce you've made before, but still tasting it half a dozen times to get it just perfect and delicious.