Student Feature: Rachel
What did you think of classes when you first started?
I was excited and quite nervous. I had taken dance classes as a child, and this felt very much like putting myself out there, while feeling like an uncoordinated adult (as much as I can claim to be an adult). The one thing I noticed, and appreciated, from the beginning, was everything was explained not just from a “this is the move” perspective, but from a perspective of learning about the dance, the people, and the culture. It wasn’t just a one-dimensional learning experience about dance, but several lessons in everything surrounding the dance, the people, and the culture, making it more real to me, and making me want to continue learning and growing. I’m a person who loves to learn the “why” and background of something, as it makes more sense to me that way.
What made/makes you want to continue?
Number one is probably the other dancers. From the instructors to my fellow dancers, everyone is supportive, and encouraging, and not just specifically to the dances. Through the classes I’ve taken, I’ve met an incredible group of women who I probably would never have gotten to know outside of the walls of the studio, who are friendly, supportive, and incredibly encouraging, both inside the studio and outside of it. I consider myself lucky meet, know, and dance with these wonderful ladies. With regards to the classes, there’s an incredible excitement to learn and grow. And while we may groan about “one more time” or not being where we want to be personally, there’s fun atmosphere in the studio that encourages your to try your best, learn, and improve. Also, I get to dance. That may sound simple, but I didn’t think that as an adult, I would be able to pursue fun activities like that; it somehow didn’t cross my mind. Growing up, becoming an “adult” started to look boring, and a continuation of going to work, and coming home. However, I get to dance and express myself in a safe and encouraging environment, and it’s sooooooo much fun!
What would you tell someone who wanted to try it? You should do it! Come for the experience; come for the learning. Come to dance. Don’t be discouraged by not knowing all the moves or names. Or for being a shy person (this is definitely who I am when you first meet me). Everyone is learning at all times; no one knows everything. I feel like I will always be a beginner, because there is so much to learn and practice. But that means that there’s so much more that I get to experience, and so many ways I can improve and grow. Also, then I’d get to dance with you, too!
What do you like best about belly dance? Being able to express myself. As stated above, when you first meet me, I’m a shy, introverted person (it doesn’t last too long, once I get to know people). Part of that is due to anxiety and depression I deal with every day. Belly dance is both an intimate and a public performance. Through dancing, I get to explore, learn, and just “be” myself, and learn to like who I am as a person a little more each day. I feel more confident each time I perform, even though I do get nervous before every performance; and (I cannot stress this enough), it’s fun. From learning the moves, to learning the culture and world surrounding the dance we’re learning, it’s so much fun!
Has belly dance had any affect on you outside class?
I feel that I’ve grown, and added to my confidence in my daily life. I also have these wonderful women that I meet up with outside of the studio, who I consider to be wonderful friends. I’ve also gotten to explore my career dreams further. Through these women, I was able to design and build costumes for a production by the Brazen Faced Varlets, and will be designing and building a further production coming up. This is an opportunity I would not have without the influence of the studio and the wonderful people inside.
Why did you want to start belly dancing?
So, I’ve always been fascinated with belly dancing from a young age (mostly with seeing women being able to roll their bellies...I always wanted to know how on earth they did that). I never looked for classes, however, as I didn’t want to be that “adult” trying to join in classes. I continued to be fascinated, though, at trying to figure out how these women were able to move their bodies in the ways they did (I did not think that my body would ever move that way). Once year, I decided I was going to push myself to get outside of my comfort zone/routine, and I randomly found a faerie festival that I could attend, several miles away, where I would not only not know a single sole person, but I would be tent camping on my own for the very first time; but I got to create costumes (and even if they judged me, no one there knew me, so I could be me). At the festival, there were belly dancers there (they were tribal dancers, not Egyptian-style, which I know due to the classes, and the continued learning), but they were also adults, and having fun. I decided on a whim that I was able to push myself outside of my comfort zone this far (strange festival on my own), that I could push myself further, and actually take classes to learn about this dance that I had been fascinated with for such a long time. It was sort of an eye-opening experience for me, that I didn’t need to be a “boring adult”, but could still be me, and pursue an activity that I wanted to, just because I wanted to learn. Once I got home, I looked up what options I had around me, and found the Oasis Studio. That choice to decide to follow through with the beginner classes may have been a small step (it felt quite large at the time), but it’s propelled me so much farther.