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Bellydance Workshops for the Uninitiated

You don't have to take classes in bellydance very long before someone asks you, "Going to the workshop next month?" Workshops can be a valuable part of education in Middle Eastern Dance.

What is a workshop?

A workshop is a situation in which a local group or teacher has sponsored a teacher from a different area to visit and teach a particular topic for one or more sessions. For example, many workshops take the format of a Saturday morning class, a Saturday afternoon class, and an evening show. Some are simpler than this; some are much more extravagant, with multiple teachers and tracks of classes ranging over an entire weekend and multiple shows. In any case, workshops provide students the chance to learn from teachers to whom they would not normally have access.

How do I know if I can keep up?

Some workshop organizers print "Intermediate Level Required" or "Master Class" on their materials. If nothing is mentioned on the brochure or web site, beginners are probably expected to attend. Sometimes the workshop specifics will give you more clues. If you aren't sure whether you have the experience to attend a particular workshop, discuss it with your instructor.

What if I don't understand the teacher's terminology?

There is no standard terminology for Middle Eastern dance. You won't understand all the teacher's terms, and neither will anyone else.

What's the format?

Many workshops are simply held in large rooms with the instructor at the front and chairs surrounding the dance area as a repository for coats, shoes, and bags. Depending on the venue, the instructor might have a microphone and/or stand on a stage or risers; there might be a live drummer or recorded music. The details vary. Simply keep in mind that you will essentially be attending a long dance class that might have a hundred attendees.

What about the workshop's evening show?

The idea of the workshop show is to allow those who were students at the day's class to perform for each other. Therefore, it's generally expected that only workshop participants can get performance slots. Some workshop performances are run on an invitation-only system. If you wish to perform at a workshop show, contact the organizer as early as possible, and be prepared with an audition video if you aren't already acquainted.

How do I know a workshop is right for me?

Aside from the level of the teaching, you might want to attend workshops that address a specialty you are interested in, like veils or tray balancing; a subgenre you'd like to try, like Flamenco Fusion or Romany rhythms; or a technique you are weak in, like slow taxim moves or floorwork. Some dancers always attend workshops by teachers they personally admire. Some dancers make it a point to attend any workshop given in their area because they want to experience the styles of every teacher they can. Workshops can also be a fun social experience with your fellow students.

What do I take to a workshop?

What is proper workshop etiquette?

How do I find out about workshops in my area?

Ask your teacher or local club whether they are on any mailing lists for places who tend to sponsor workshops, and sign up for local email groups that send out news.

Why should I bother with workshops?

Bellydance is a dance form of infinite variety and personal interpretation. Expanding your knowledge of it will improve your dance, and you might have a lot of fun while you're at it.