Lizeth, Suhaila, Danitzia
Photos courtesy of Lizeth
Experience in a
Suhaila Salimpour Weekend Workshop
February 17 &
It’s a good
kind of tired, one that makes you want to sleep, dream and then
wake up and do it all over again. That’s the way I felt
after a weekend in Austin, Texas, with Suhaila Salimpour,
one of northern California’s most renowned dancers.
disclaimers. I am one of those “hobbyist” bellydancers. I suppose
you could say “amateur,” referring to the true root of this
word as one who loves the art, but may not be perfect or professional
at it. After about four years studying bellydance in California,
I returned to my home state of Louisiana. With no regular
teacher within reasonable driving distance, I rely on the “big
name” workshops in large cities nearby to keep me educated.
I can usually afford to attend one every year. Also, I
am one of those people who decided to teach even though I had
(and have) limited experience. Why? I live in a
small city in Louisiana, with few cultural opportunities.
I think of it as “mission work” for bellydance!
my opinion, the greatest thing about Suhaila’s workshop in Austin
was probably the clear explanations of which muscles were doing
the work, and how.
there is debate about codifying the movements of bellydance.
How can the terminology be universal? I agree that universality
is perhaps impossible or even dangerous. However, when
you dig into your muscles, you can find a universal language.
Everyone has the same set of muscles. Our sets may be
in different shape and shapes, but their function is relatively
similar! My advice to my students will be to continue
to dig their fingers into their abs, their back, and their thighs
to find out what’s going on with their bodies. This hands-on
approach beats the hell out of just staring into the dance mirror.
good point of the workshop was the openness of the instructor
to varying levels of ability. Guess what, this is an important
part of teaching, too!
gig” is teaching high school students. As a teacher myself,
it has taken me a long time to realize that if I stop being
a “hard-ass” for a little bit, I give the student some room
to breathe and succeed. For example, Suhaila would ask
us to change a drill for the “purpose of success.” What
she had requested was too difficult for the majority, so she
changed it. Both Suhaila and her assistant circulated
during warm-ups and drills in order to monitor posture and give
feedback on form. Although the class size was about 30 people,
I observed that most people received individual attention. They
showed us how to check if our glute squeezes were truly isolated
from our legs by digging into our outer thigh and showing us
where we were tightening up. This was truly a “hands-on” workshop.
Compared to other workshops that I have attended in the past
few years, I felt that this one was more personal, but by no
means less demanding. To be honest, I was surprised that
Suhaila was so accessbile as a teacher, despite having a “celebrity”
status in the bellydance community. She spoke frankly
about our progress or lack of it without being a fake cheerleader
or a cruel dictator.
I did feel
admonished when Suhaila criticized teachers with little experience,
but her statements did not sound vindictive. Instead, I felt
that she was truly concerned for students who might be injured
or misinformed about bellydance. This criticism actually served
to renew my dedication to my students.
I want to continue to provide this unique form of exercise,
but perhaps in a more professional and organized way. I have
always cautioned students to protect their bodies with good
posture and form, but now I have a few more tools in my belt
to actually make this happen.
Kendra (Suhaila's assistant teacher),
workshop aimed to introduce the material in both Level I and
II of Suhaila’s certification program, I often felt rushed.
During the group drills, which involved walking around the room
with feet stepping at half the speed of our glute squeezes (and
other combinations of tempos which create the layering effect),
I frequently stepped to the middle of the room for additional
instruction. In my notes, I sketched out where feet and
hips would coincide on a beat, and where they would be opposed.
I would have preferred more of a breakdown from the instructor,
before we simply put two tempos together. Another thing
that surprised me about the workshop was the amount of casual
conversation that Suhaila shared. This gave you a certain
feeling of intimacy with the instructor, but also felt a little
too personal. The saving grace: Suhaila’s self-awareness.
She knows that people want all the juicy details about her life,
but she was very clear that the longer we pressed her for information,
the longer we would have to work in the morning. On Sunday,
I don’t think we broke for lunch until 1:15. Unfortunately,
I ran out of steam around 12:45, and sat out the last few group
this workshop inspired me to be a better teacher, be a better
learner, and be a more consistent dancer. Yes, I am a
little put off by the whole “Suhaila” merchandising thing (clothing
line, DVD’s, the certification program), but someone has
to finance the next show and maintain the dance studio.
asked us to do this homework assignment: draw two columns on
a piece of paper. In one column, write down everything
that you spend on costuming. In the other column, write
down everything that you spend on training. No, training
does not include jazz pants and cute hip scarves and dance slippers.
In Suhaila’s opinion, training costs should be 5 times the amount
of costuming costs. Yes, the room was completely quiet
after she said this.
with Suhaila’s statement, because when we spend money on training,
we are supporting dance teachers who are extremely hard-working.
Unfortunately, the person who makes money from your costume
dollars is usually not the original craftsperson. Let’s do stay
faithful to businesses which support dancers. Don’t boycott
beads and bedlah, but do support the dancers who are
working hard to explain the technique behind all of the magic.
My husband is an amateur magician, and he would laugh his head
off that I’m even using the word “magic”. He knows that
any magic trick is all technique, all hard work, and all practice.
his audience may feel a rush when they see a trick, and the
magician may even feel a rush at their reaction, but there is
no “rushing” involved in preparing for a perfect illusion. The
illusions that we create with our bellydancing bodies are no
effortless, but, of course, they are not. Commit to constant
learning with some teacher. It does not have to be Suhaila
(and I bet she would even tell you that it does not have to
be her), but commit to something more than just a costume.
Commit to yourself.
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
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circle is a perfect, democratic & unending shape, the shape
of an energized community, the shape of this lovely round planet.
Morgana's Animal Magnetism, Interview
with Morgana of Madrid by Surreyya
seeing Morgana’s Serpent Dance, where she embodies the personality
of the serpent, I was hooked. Any snake lovers or snake dancers
will have a special appreciation for this piece.
by Michel Harris
wealth, along with social and political change, has threatened
Islamic culture and traditions. Therefore, many Muslim planners
and architects are reacting to this invasion of Western culture
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Belly Dance Workshops: Realistic
Expectations by Eleyda Negrón
difference between a Christmas gift and a workshop though, is
that in the worse case scenario, you can always return your gift
and change it for something else, but… What do you do with
a workshop that didn’t suit you? It can become a waste of
time and money for both ends.