Zills & Drills has become one of my bigger classes (which means 5-6 students) with a range of student levels On Thursday night we have the ever-loyal E who was my one constant student last year in Tokyo (who also lives near me, so she was commuting the hour-long trains as well) alongside students who have JUST bought their first set of zills ever.
Last night, after stretches, I did a short improvisational performance with zills, because some students have never seen me dance and other students need to be reminded of what is beyond stepping and combinations...and how far someone who once feared zills can come.
E broke into tears as I danced. She and her husband reserved a table to see me perform at Ala Turca in Aoyama tomorrow night AND she sent me a thank-you email.
It was a good night.
Last night's halfa (minus my health) was lovely. Hannah (who Monica knows) traveled 2HOURS to see a student recital for a studio she doesn't attend. THAT is kindness and a healthy curiousity about other scenes.
It was a a dance/karaokee "hall", not general public at all (except Hannah and she counts as friend because she knows me and Hiromi and one of my students)...all friends and family and other dancers.
There was a wide range of very studen-y costumes and very student-y performances of class choreographies and it was wonderful for just how studenty and supportive it was. No super-fancy outfits folks couldn't afford, no diva attitudes, a few handmades (But...IRONED VEILS THANK YOU!) hoodies used as cover-ups, a decent range of body types (for Japan)...all in a very safe place.
Before I arrived and before the doors were opened, HIromi translated the studio-blog message I'd posted that day and read it to everyone:
1. This is a safe place to dance. You are dancing for friends, family, and other dancers . Everyone wants you to do well. Everyone will be happy for you … even if you make mistakes. Everyone wants you to have fun today.
2. Mistakes are part of learning and performing. Don't worry about them too much.
3. JUST GETTING ON STAGE is a huge accomplishment. HUGE!
4. Before you do on stage, stand tall and confident.
5. Before you go on stage: Tell yourself you are going to do great. You are going to be AWESOME. You don't have to believe it…but you do need to say it to yourself.
6. Have fun. We dance for the joy it brings ourselves and others.
My students did a kick-ass job, from what I could see. Before we took the stage I kept telling them "You're gonna be AWESOME!", and we struck strong poses. They also did a smashing job in the non-choreographed section. The person I am most aware of flubbing our choreography was...me.
Here is a shot Hannah took of all of us teachers after our solo-demonstrations of our skill sets. I regret missing the performance of the new teacher on the far right...but I was changing costumes. My hair is pretty flat from sweating. I think it looked better in person.
For the month of January I will also be teaching my two Tuesday classes in Tokyo, but this will be the final month for that due to the long commute and low student numbers. I am leaving with the Tokyo studio owner's best wishes..and that same owner will also start teaching in Matsudo so we'll get to see each other more.
I broke the news to my one loyal Tokyo-location student and she got teary eyed…but I reminded her that I am not leaving Japan in March, so she gets to keep me as a teacher, that she lives near me and makes the same commute I've been making, that I will be available to do privates, and I may add Zills and Drills to the Thursday night line-up once my Tokyo obligations are up.
So, now to finish planning for tonight's classes. I'm a little behind because I forgot I had a hair appointment last night when I was planning to dance prep and my day job has been busy. Wish me luck. I'm excited to see how different my teaching energy is without the one hour commute and I look forward to getting home at 8:45/9:00 instead of 11:30.
Hiromi agrees that the next time she plans workshops and a show for me (including duets) that we probably shouldn't layer them on top of three already existing classes.
Yesterday I survived teaching my usual Zills & Drills, Turkish Roma (Ha ha! we have reached the end of Rompi ROMPI!!), and Basics...then I rehearsed duets with HIromi...then ate...then taught an hour long zill basics and hour and a half zill choreo workshop. Luckily the six students were the same for both workshops so I could fold some choreo combos and rhythm/number wankery into the first part.
Here we are with one of my teaching assistants, the Rerakkuma Whiteboard.
Khalida you'll know Mari from Aziza camp. Eshe may remember Hiromi on the left. Mad props go to my student in lilac who travels an hour to study with me and takes all three classses AND came back for the workshops!
They survived a 3 minute zill choreography based on Karim Nagi's Everybody Yalla with a focus on showing the idea of 3 same one different and a variety of ways to accent Masmoodi Sagir and a 4 count beat.
Today I'm teaching beginners some veil skills. I think I know what I'm doing. A large theme of the class is based around elementary school moral-education classes I have watched. I've spent enough time asking children if "that's a nice thing to say to a friend" that I plan to do the same for students and their veils. Explaining that the veil is your friend...and no one likes a selfish bossy friend. You can't just command your friend to "go there!" "Come here!" "Do this and that!!" because you'll ruin the friendship. You have to learn to say "Would you like to come here?" Let's go there, together." "Why don't we try this, just once?" and to be prepared for the fact that sometimes the veil WON'T want to do what you want and you'll just have to compromise.
(ETA: I'll also explain that your veil is your friend...but that your veil isn't the most physically strong friend in the world...they need you to be strong for them. Strong...but not bossy. If you don't have good upperbody and arm strength, people will feel sorry for you and your friend.)
Roma Workshops with Ozma, October 23rd in the Yokohama area at Studio Borboleta.
① Introduction to Turkish Roma 9/8 and Movement. (90 minutes)16:00-17:30 3,500 yen
This workshop is focused on teaching the foundations you need to enjoy 9/8 rhythms and the unique movements of Turkish Roma dance. We will start with an explanation of the basic structure of a 9/8 rhythm. Once we’ve grasped the rhythm we will learn some of the footwork, abdominal movement, and gestures that make up this lively social dance.
② 9/8 with Zills. (90 minutes)18:00-19:30, 3,500 yen.
There is no denying that when played well, zills are instant crowd pleasers. Learning to work with zills can give dancers a richer understanding of the Middle Eastern and Turkish music needed for improvisational dance and creating choreographies. We will review the structure of 9/8 rhythms and learn a few zill patterns to play with the 9/8 rhythm culminating in a basic combination or two to practice your new patterns at home.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org (workshop number, your name, phone number, and how many are attending) 080-4203-88877
10/23(日) ターキッシュロマWS by Ozma
①ターキッシュ・ロマ 9/8拍子入門 16：00 - 17：30 (90分) 3,500円
②9/8拍子でジルを使おう 18：00 - 19：30（90分） 3,500円
お申し込み email@example.com (WS番号、お名前、連絡先、人数をお知らせください。)080-4203-8877
The Zills & Drills and Roma & More classes had 3 students including Hiromi (the studio owner) and one other instructor. I know the time spent helping and correcting will increase when the majority of my students are not instructors. I also am sure that my numbers will increase as the studio students and area gets to know me.
In Zills & Drills we drilled changing between open and click sounds in alternating sets of four gallops while trying to maintain graceful arm paths…then I added feet (just softly stepping in place while performing the arms and zills.) We also drilled the same zills with basic movements traveling from head to toe and then foot patterns…then we moved to open 3-3-7 and 3-5-5 with combos linking all three.
I’ll stick with number patterns that fit within four downbeats until they’ve got a feel for walking/moving on beat. No rhythms yet. I know class sizes will fluctuate for the next few months. No use in multiple part lessons until I know I have regulars.
In Roma class it was all about that tricky stomach throwing. After drilling a 9/8 with standard oriental moves to hear the accents we worked on the stomach until we could do basic steps with it…sorta. I know that the pelvis and the footwork can be daunting, start early and often. I need to find a good exercise for isolating the “lower abs” (so students can identify them) and strengthening them at home.
I had no students for the beginner class, but I think that will change….and it gave me time to get to Cirque de Soliel! Sunday, was the student halfa and teacher demonstration. Now students know who I am and what I can do. I performed Turkish oriental with zills (and a veil intro) and then some Roma, which covers Zills, Roma and Basics. I think it will help with my class numbers. Hiromi, the owner (who I’ve known since my baby dancer days, we started at the same studio) is moving to Osaka in a few weeks and running things long distance and sometimes traveling back here. She’s encouraging her students to study with me, so I may inherit some people. It looks like I’ll have a few teachers in my classes as well.
Hiromi and I also have planned some mini workshops (really, one-time classes because they are 1 hour and 1.5 hours) in December. I’ll be teaching a 1 hour intro to zills, a zill choreography in an hour and a half on December 10 and one hour of veil combinations on the 11th.
The hafla was adorable, if not waaaaay too hot.
The students wore every sort of student costumes, many of which would catch flack on bellydance boards: the butterfly costumes, the sparse too-long fringed discount costumes, Chinese costumes that never quite fit around the waist. I didn’t flinch because every costume I saw had skirts I couldn’t see through, no visable panties or lack of panties, no nipples showing. It was all student appropriate and there had been obvious attention to not being poorly clothed.
There were crazy moments (panda hats…magic wand/Assaya) and some very strong teacher demonstrations.
I headed home around 9pm and fell sound asleep. I'm trying to pace myself so the new classes and everything don't burn me out. I've eased up on workouts while I get acclimated
I woke up and got cracking on smoothing out my three lesson plans. Not working a full day and spending an hour on the train to Tokyo before I teach makes an understandable world of difference in my energy levels.
I've had three studnets in my Zills&Drills and Roma&More and really felt totally in control of my lesson, no hesitation. I'm getting a better sense of how to mentally pre-plan a lesson. In the break Eva and I planned for me to teach three short workshops in December: Intro to Zills. Zill choreography, and veil combinations. I had no beginners show up for the beginner class, but that should change after I do the student halfa tomorrow.
It was a good thing I got out early, as I had to scurry to Maihama (home to Disney land, Disney Sea, Ikspiari shopping and Cirque Du Soliel) because Ara had left me a ticket for Cirque. Ara is a bellydancer who moved to Japan 3 years ago when her husband got a job as a musician in the Cirque show Zed. They've let me see the show before, with my mom, up in teh sound booth. This time they left me a ticket to sit in the actual theater. Great show! Unfortunately, Cirque is a earthquake tourist/economy casualty and will close at the end of the year.
On the way out I caught an approved Ikspiari street performer....juggling/magic/comedy/
Now I'm at home, ready to fall asleep early. No nausea today with the meds, but my head has started to hurt and the increased urination continues and annoys me.
I have many comments to reply to, please give me a day or two.
Tomorrow the Eva's studio is having a student and studio show, very small and informal, and I'll be dancing there as an instructor.
I thought I was meeting Eva and Mona, tonight (Weds) but I realized, two nights ago, that I had actually double-booked things on Thursday. Eva is seeing if Mona can push back the meeting time until after my doctor's appointment.
I have to give Eva props. She is the most organized studio owner I have personally been exposed to here. Contracts, written agreements, time tables and such. She's also very intense about wanting to get me more exposure and recognition. I will be teaching workshops at her studio in December. Early next year she and I will also be performing a duet together and also doing solos when Mona brings up Olga from Osaka.
Mona runs her own studio and is bringing Mohammed Shahin (whose workshops I am looking forward to) over in November. Mona befriended me on Facebook when we both made similar, tactful, comments about what it is like to be a dancer living in a foreign country when Mohamed was having foreign-dancer-in-Egypt issues. Then, on looking through my photos, she realized that she's seen me perform in shows twice and really enjoyed it. Tomorrow we meet INRL
Yeah. For all my stress at networking in Japan, it has gotten better and I have been very blessed with how my performances have begat more performances at a range of studio shows I am not officially affiliated with.
Konya restaurant called. I haven't danced there since late last year but they are calling me for once-a-month slots again. and I'm back in rotation in October. I missed a call from them last new-year, because I was in America, and hadn't done a lot of follow up since then because I'd been so booked with Istanbul….before the quake.
Soon I shall hit the bed for early sleep tonight. Tomorrow I will probably get a workout in using the private room at city hall…and then head into Tokyo to look into medication/counciling and then get dinner with Mona and Eva.
Yes, it’s been too long. My plans for tonight are to work-out, munch much, and hopefully get back to some sewing.
(ETA: worked out...tired)
What have I been doing while not sewing?
( it is long and dance related. )
So, that…on top of the day job and the humidity, is where I have been.
This week and last week I brought in my laptop to share some DVD clips of dancers working in the styles we’re focusing on. We watched clips in the 15 minute break between lessons. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is that the “Performance in mirror” clips of Reyhan from her Raw Roman DVD elicit such “Wow! She is so cool! HOW DOES SHE DO THAT?!?!” reactions. The new student asked questions about how to get the DVD and learn more about Reyhan. While I was preparing some stuff, the students talked amongst themselves about how wonderful Reyhan is.
I first decided to bring the laptop in when Elizabeth Strong’s DVD arrived in the mail just as I was heading to teach last week. I threw both DVDs in my bag with the laptop and watched bits on the train into Tokyo. When I took a private at Elizabeth’s house…what…4 years ago? The first thing she did was sit me down and make sure I saw much of her You Tube collection of cool social Turkish Roman dance to make sure I understood the way you’d normally encounter it away from a stage…which had also been what Mishaal did a year earlier.
I do talk a bit about the roots of Turkish Roman, but when dealing with a second language…and with the complexity of the topic, I figured visuals would serve me better and have more impact…and give my subsequent words more form.
I also know that one of my students doesn’t have a personal computer at home, so just recommending You Tube clips doesn’t help her. I wanted to show them the clips because I didn’t know if my students had ever seen Turkish Roman off a stage or would even know it if they saw it.
Their reaction validated the way I’ve been trying to strip down the Turkish Roman to the basics this month and next. With the amount of transformation, fusion, and showmanship that goes on with the many ways Turkish Roman dance gets brought to the stage, it can be a little intimidating to present it without the frills.
I’m trying. I’m trying to teach “This is the base….it doesn’t need to be all dressed up to be complex and enjoyable. You can build from here. This form of social dance has influenced Turkish Oriental style, but you don’t start with it fused and fancy and larger…you start here.”
By the end of class I got them to start ignoring the mirror, get in a circle with me, and just try to enjoy the music socially and follow along a bit. They were really happy and they didn’t have those “worried about how I look” faces. Now to get them to be able to face a mirror/practice but bring that enjoyment face with them.
The new student had a good (but hard to understand in Japanese) question about the phrasing behind using gestures and how to show the “intent” I was stressing (as I stress that in Turkish Roman you have to commit to your steps with your full weight and that gestures have to have a certain clarity…they don’t have to mean something to the audience but they do have to look like you feel you have a reason to use them) and we had a short but delightful (crazy in my Japanese) talk about how the phrasing and attitude has to come from your heart. If you’re like me, the hits and gestures are gonna be a bit cocky, strong, swagger-laden…because that is in my heart. That IS me. But if you’re more playful or flirty or lighthearted then I am then THAT is how you present the gestures. You don’t have to act strong and swaggering to do this dance. I don’t want people pretending to be “Gypsy Characters” they are not. Presenting your movements with the flavor of “This is fun, I love doing this” and a slight giggle is 100% ok if that is who you are…which appears to have answered her question.
I feel good about what I teach. I am looking forward to teaching workshops later this year and think I ‘ll be soon ready to start teaching privates on the subject.
My mood has improved over the last few days and the sun is back. I am such a girl in need of sun and yet I am covered in skin that is not suited for daylight at all. In nature my skin-color would suggest that I swim in a subterranean pool and have never been exposed to the sky.
I continue to work-out 6 days a week and practice dance. I’ve seen a change in my shape. Yesterday in the studio, preparing to teach, I was surprised by myself in the mirror. “Awesome. I’m starting to look STRONG!” but I assure you there has been no change in my sweets intake. My sweet of choice right now is homemade popscicles…not out of any desire to lose weight via Hagendaaz withdrawl but because I know my stomach is iffy on dairy.
This month my students (all two!) are learning about Turkish Roman dance from me. I got the new DVD by Elizabeth Strong yesterday. I highly recommend it for those interested in Roman dance, and I brought it to class with me. Between lessons we watched clips of Reyhan performing (from her Raw Roman DVD, also highly recommended) and then two clips of Elizabeth so that they could see a sense of how the dance gets fused and changed in the journey from social dance to staged dance.
I’ve been working with the Reyhan this week and am excited to start working through Elizabeth’s DVD after sundown.
My less experienced student, the one who started my lessons after she saw me dancing in the restaurant, perked up last night when she heard the version of “Rompi Rompi” we’re working with this month…because she recognized it from my restaurant set.
With the song I’ve trying to provide them with some idea of how to improvise. We’re learning some footwork each week to plug into the instrumental parts, some accents and combinations for verses, and ideas for the chorus (shimmy on the vibrato, strong percussive moves, softer transition moves, softest move…repeat) and gestures.
Sometimes I take for granted how hard I fell in love with Turkish Roman music. Times like this, I remember.
If I teach, they will come…eventually.
I have written about the delightful catch 22 where it is hard for me to promote my classes when I feel like I am still finding myself as a teacher but that I won’t find myself as a teacher until I have more experience teaching and thus I need to promote more so I have regular students.
I have a loyal student. She showed up on the first day and stayed for both classes that night..and the next week and the next… When she can’t make it and I am alone, I practice. She doesn’t understand why she is my only student but she does love the private lessons at class prices. She tells her friends who are afraid of zills they should come. Maybe they will.
I just attended a workshop where a fan of mine rushed up and asked about my classes. She asked me if I have daytime classes that would fit in her schedule. She expressed shock that I don’t have full classes yet or plans to teach at other times to deal
I laugh a lot. Then I try to post something on Mixi or Twitter or here.
I can’t tell you the pep talks I’ve had.
It is frustrating. I find great comfort in finding the words to express the frustration, knowing I am not alone in this experience and so many others know how this feels. It is frustrating, but I am not sad and I am not taking it as a personal slight. My student numbers don’t reflect my skill or lack of skill...it reflects how many good dance studios are here, how saturated the market is, and the time it takes for your voice to become audible as a teacher in that cacophony of choices. It takes time and effort...and even then many variables are beyond control.
I was in no rush to teach. A couple years ago I came to a point in my weekly studies where I hit a level wall with the classes available. I would have had support to transition to teaching…but I chose to focus on my needs as a dancer at that point, choosing to get more involved with paid performances and swapping the weekly classes (schedules at a time I was often performing) for self-structured practice, weekly gigs, taking workshops regularly, and my first trip to Turkey. I did this with the blessing of my teacher. I knew I still wanted to find myself more as a dancer and to have more faith in my ability to structure my dance life before I would be ready to be the special sort of selfless that is needed for teachers.
I’m glad I did. I would not trade the knowledge that forcing myself to be more structured and responsible in my pursuit of dance practice, knowledge, teachers, and experience brought me for anything. Had I started earlier I may have been in a better position to be mentored and promoted as a teacher, but I don’t think the knowledge and skills I would have had to draw from would compare favorably with what I have now. I am still a very young dancer in regards to how long I have been studying (7 years? 8?) and I still have to be feeding my own dance needs, even as I do teach.
I waited until I had a sense of what I could teach and what I wanted to teach. I waited until I knew myself better. I waited until I felt there was a demand for my specific skill set that I could meet. I waited until people stopped being polite about when I would teach and started getting amusingly demanding.
And, indeed, there has been something absurdly anti-climatic in starting to teach. No one exhibits poorly concealed surprised when I say I am teaching now. People are more surprised that I haven’t been teaching prior to this…as they’d sort of assumed I already was.
It can be disheartening to get off work, grab a snack, and take the 50 minute train ride to the studio…knowing there might not be anyone in that studio when classes start. It can feel like defeat when 7:30 comes and I am alone in that room and have to wait an hour and 15 minutes to see if anyone shows up for the second class…but I can’t moan and say that I feel any of the energy I have spent preparing for that untaught class has been wasted.
The simple process of questioning what I have to teach, breaking down music I think I know well, exploring the structure of my improvisation and reactions to music, taking the time to deconstruct things I grasp but haven’t tried to understand so that I can share with others…it is helping my mind, body, and musicality. It is helping me better use my diminishing practice time. It is already helping me as a dancer.
True, I feel better when that stuff I’ve been working on can be shared, when I can give and watch, and see what makes sense and what doesn’t and what excites…I love that my student bought a metronome, waded through English language sites to find the music I used, gets excited about things I bring her…but even when I am alone in that room the preparation is helping things come together for me.
Perhaps the restaurant gigs have prepared me for the empty room. So much of dancing for the GP is trying to give/share/entertain and being able to SUSTAIN that output, that professionalism, that joy of expressing the music even when your audience isn’t giving you that energy back, or when you can’t feel it. You have to keep giving and hoping even when you have zombie crowd. When the audience is with you it’s a huge rush, but you can’t count on it. You have to be giving, selfless, and ON each time, even if you might not be repaid in kind. Before you start you have to put aside the doubts, the second guessing of yourself and the audience, and be fully there and ready.
You learn how not to be lonely when you are alone up there.
Each weekend as I work on upcoming lesson plans I have to give it my all in the same way. I need to put aside my doubts. I have to assume I have students, with questions, with needs, with desire to learn/enjoy/explore/escape/feel…and prepare to give them a full experience as I share what I have the best ways I can. I practice in front of my invisible posse and I plan lessons for students who might not exist.
To all of you who continue to encourage me, locally and internationally, thank you. It helps. It really does. Still, I’d like to reassure you that I am far from giving up, taking it personally, or getting depressed. My pre-teen years were awkward…but they passed. I don’t always feel like I am beyond them, but sometimes I do feel beautiful and understood. I know, deep down, that my awkward teaching days will similarly be behind me someday.
My chest and arms ache a little this morning. This is the result of working on veil combos on Sunday. This month’s class focus is veils…and doing veil combos that can be taken home to drill certain skills/moves.
Combos. I’m not working on month-long song-specific choreographies again until I know I have regular students. I prefer song specific choreographies for talking about musicality and why I make the choices I do…but there is something to be said for alternating those months with combos that can be used in at-home practice to add moves to muscle memories. I will also be trying to get students, if I have them, to start freestyling with limited moves.
These are thoughts I cling to knowing that I really am going on theory here…as my teaching experience is tiny thus far. I also know that having a full choreography to Rakkas that I didn’t get to finish last month due to two weeks of no students means that I have a choreography/rhythm notes/ and lyric info that I can later tweek for a WS when I reach that point.
Working on combos has shown me that I know a hell of a lot more veil moves than I realized and that my veils and I get along. I plan to be drilling these combos at home WITH MAH ZILLS ON.
Tonight is a workshop with Ahmet Luleci…the man who made me love the 9/8. Woot! Woot!
Either I gave the massage faeries the week off or I’ve never actually had any such indentured servants. I’m suspecting the later and it makes me sad. I have the night free from classes of any kind (No class to take this week as Zizi was supposed to be at the Nile Festival. I hope to God she stayed in Japan. I have heard nothing about classes being back on for the week. I suspect if she is in Japan that she might be more concerned about friends in Egypt than about teaching us.)
I will sloth. I am knackered.
Well, welcome to month two of teaching dance.
To recap: (Work computer blocking ability to do cuts...THANKS!)
( Recap fixed! )
There is no longer any clause preventing me from having a second/other jobs. I have sent Natsu-chan (my neighbor and former Zumba buddy) saying that the cost is clear, sure, why not see if I'd be a good fit for the tiny health club she works at as it is in need of a belly dance teacher starting in October?
I figure I have a lot of free time right now. If I get a once or twice a week class of super beginners I can take this free time to plan things, ask people questions, and on my trip to America I will have TONS OF YOU people to get feedback from. This would not preclude me from structuring a more dancer-oriented beginners class in Turkish styles when Jo is more prepared to open a studio.